The New Dark
by Lorraine Thomson
“I admire your passion and convictions, Sorrel, but you are naive”
The New Dark is about a girl, Sorrel, who lives in a apocalyptic forest society that is attacked by mutants. Her people are slaughtered and she is the only one who makes it out alive and well. Other young members of her village are taken by the mutants, including David, the boy she loves, and Eli, her younger brother. She is then thrust on a journey to find them and save them. Presumably…
I received an advanced copy of The New Dark through Netgalley for an honest review of this book.
I am going to start off by saying that I wanted to stop reading this book as soon as I started. Everything about this book confused me and jarred me. The concept for this book hooked me at once, mutants and post apocalyptic elements sound great. The world itself was underdeveloped (which I look at below) and not explaining to the reader how the world came to be as it was created confusion. We begin the book with a possible romantic interest story and within moments the entire village is dead without warning. After this jarring moment I was skeptical to continue. This could have been done better by letting the reader know more about the world and its possible threats beforehand so there was a sense of loss and kinship with the main character when this happens. The rest of the novel dragged by in several different places, and with a few intertwining plots. I will examine below some of the elements of the story:
Sorrel: Sorrel, Sorrel, sweet Sorrel. My good gracious, the amount of times her name was said in this novel was insane. I felt like I was being assaulted by her name alone. She is suppose to come off as a bad-ass female heroine but I found her to be a childish and naive character through her actions. I felt that her “strength” was supposed to be gathered through her ruthlessness and bravado, but that only made her seem more underdeveloped. In the beginning, she survived the mutants my killing them and getting away, but then later on, with the Free, she refused to fight for herself. She spends a great deal of the book whining and seems to have very little emotion and reaction to the things that are going on around her. She has little to no reaction about her mother being killed in front of her and is constantly whining after David. Now, she is supposedly, “in love” with David, but we get about two seconds of them together in which he is skinning bats and she is checking him out, this doesn’t seem like a realistic basis for the love they are suppose to have through the novel. Sorrel is also very unintelligent in many of her decisions and quick judgements, lashing out and making decisions with no backing. Overall, I felt Sorrel was an underdeveloped and childish figure.
David: I had a little bit of hope for David at the beginning, as he seemed to have a little bit more personality and emotion than Sorrel for the loss of his village. However, he tried to escape from the mutants in the same way three times, and ended up getting beaten every time. Though, was he effected by his constant beatings, of course not. He was suppose to be portrayed as strong, but instead, came off as unrealistic. His pining for Sorrel made him seem pathetic, as wishing for her wasn’t going to help his situation at all. Overall, I thought that David’s character was static, but less annoying than Sorrel and their love unrealistic.
Mara: I know that Mara was suppose to be villainous but I honestly was rooting for her more than the main characters. She seemed to be somewhat affected by what was happening to her and tried to blend in so she wouldn’t get hurt. I thought she was an interesting character and wished to know more about her, until she betrayed Sorrel. This moment was a low for Mara, not because I cared that she betrayed Sorrel, but because she was doing it so David would stay with her. Girls pitted against each other over a boy is childish and not really enough realistic motivation to be needlessly cruel. I would have liked to know more about Mara’s motivations.
Martin: This character was gross. The author wanted me to hate him and she did a good job making him about as disgusting as possible. I didn’t really understand his motivation in being cruel but understood enough about his character to root against him, and in that moment, for Sorrel, which was done well.
Einstein: If you are thinking about reading this book, do it for Einstein. This was the only character I really cared about long-term. First, a mutant whom Sorrel is fighting against, turning into a friend who she treats horribly. We find out half-way through the book that the mutant has a name and can speak, and is actually really intelligent. Something I wished I had more clarification with Einstein was his appearance as I couldn’t get a good enough feel for him which may have helped me fit together his place in society and in the book. He makes the decision to trust Sorrel to get them both away from the Free after she treats him in a decent manner. He seems to see something redeemable in Sorrel, his major flaw in my opinion, and they journey to find David and Eli together. I don’t really understand why he is helping her, as it isn’t really explained, since she treats him poorly a lot of the time. He is a very confusing character, but comparatively is the most realistic one in the book.
The world is so confusingly crafted I never had any idea where anyone was or how much time had passed. The three main places the story takes place are: Sorrel’s village, Ulbroom (the Free), and around Dinawl, the mutant city. These places are all night and day to each other and switching between them seems like the story had changed to a completely different world. Despite the fact that all of these places are so close, none of them have any knowledge of the others. The readers are given no back story on how the world got to be where it is at and therefore, much of what is happening is confusing and jarring. These places may not interact with one another but they share the same general language and movements, which made me think that the world must be recently apocalyptic, but nothing was explained, so I couldn’t really infer why the members of each society did what they did.
Time was the most confusing element in the entire book. There was so many ‘fade to black’ and ‘days passed’ moments that I never had any sense of how long it had been. Without the solid standing stone of time, the actions of the characters made less sense. It doesn’t explain how long Sorrel is trapped with the Free before she is suppose to marry Martin. We are given a sense that it is a long time, but it does not show in her internal monologue. The inconsistency with travel time bugged me as well. It takes the mutants a supposedly long time to get from the village to Dinawl, but then takes Sorrel and Einstein only a day. The most jarring moment was when Sorrel meets Mara again and refers to her as “her childhood enemy”, as if she has grown up so much, so much time has passed, and she still isn’t a whiny child. I felt jostled through the entire thing, never knowing how much time had passed.
Connected to the characters, the world didn’t explain the existence of the mutants, what their mutations were and why the society began throwing these types of beings out of their village or killing them. The readers little information on the world building meant that it was difficult to get to know the world and care about where the story was going.
Despite the fact that the story was thrown around, too much was going on, and the characters were flat, the writing wasn’t terrible. The conversations and scenes had a good style of progression and the descriptors weren’t horrible. I would say that the author has huge potential but needs a bit more guidance in the story building process.
I had a very difficult time reading this book and thought it could have been handled a lot better. The characters were not ones I thought were strong or dynamic and the world was not explained very well. This book was lost potential and what ever the author decides to follow up to this series I hope these holes will be filled as there is plenty of possibility.