Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Dark Between

The Dark Between
by Sonia Gensler
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013
Audience:  Grades 7 to 10
ISBN:  9780375867023
Publication Date: August 27, 2013

Kate Poole finds herself without a situation after the medium she worked for threw her out.  Asher Beale has run from his family and finds himself at the doorstep of a family friend.  Elsie Atherton has been drugged to control a condition that embarrasses her family.  These three unlikely companions find themselves together at Summerfield College in the care of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, members of The Metaphysical Society.  Elsie can go into a type of seizure and commune with ghosts, which Kate believes is possible, while Asher remains a skeptic.  Once people start dying near the college grounds, and more members of the society become suspect, Elsie starts to seek out her abilities to talk with the dead and find out who killed them.  But the truth is especially difficult to hear.  Readers that enjoy historical fiction and romance will find enough to entertain them, while those looking for more paranormal fiction will be disappointed.

It started out well enough, honestly.  Kate was employed by a devious medium.  She was part of a network of detectives and "ghosts".  Her job was ruined by members of the Metaphysical Society who had come to discredit her employer.  Even after that, with Elsie's abilities, this still proved to be a serviceable paranormal story, but there is too much inaction between meetings with the dead to truly make this a shivery book.  Be warned, there are spoilers.

Since the story is told by Kate, Asher, and Elsie, there is not much consistency of voice.  I always prefer that when multiple narrators are used, that they each have their own chapters, but that was not the case here.  They wove in and out of chapters and sections with little warning.  Although this type of device can add greater depth, it can also leave the reader feeling unmoored, which was the case this time.

The plot was bland, which could be in part due to the setting.  Everyone is so worried about propriety that they cannot execute a proper plot to find the killer, not until the very, very end, when the rules suddenly no longer matter.  

Spoilers:  Let's talk about the killer-Simon Wakeham.  (I just saved you several hours of reading)  He is a likable gentleman, driven to madness by the death of his lover, but he also seduced Elsie for her abilities as well.  Granted, Elsie was a very willing participate in the seduction, but still.  Part of what he is doing is actual medical research that most readers will realize became lifesaving technology, but he just wants to contact his old flame.  Elsie, meanwhile, has forged some type of psychic connection to him after the fire that she hides from Asher and Kate, leaving this lackluster book wide open for a sequel.  Please no!  This book put me to sleep on several occasions (that and the world series-GO SOX!) so I cannot imagine what sluggish plot would surround the few remaining loose ends.  

Nope, just skip it.  I know this is commonly listed as a read-a-like for The Diviners, which is exactly why I read it, but it just doesn't live up to the excitement and intensity that fans will require.  It's more historical fiction for historical fiction sake.  And I never sign on for a book that is only historical fiction.  It has to have something else, like paranormal twists, steampunk adventures, wild romances, crazed mysteries, or cake.  Lots of cake.  

If you're a fan of the early 20th century London, then fine, give it a go.  If you want something spooky to keep you up at night, then pass.  The only this scary about this book is that I actually paid for it.  Booo.

Happy Reading!


  1. I felt the exact same way about this book. I'm glad I wasn't the only one. There was way too much focus on world building. I heard the author speak about this book and she said Cambridge was a character in the book. Yeah, it was. Think about all the wasted setting description space that could have been focused on the murder. That would've been more interesting. Kate was the only one I liked too, because she wasn't all about being proper. Sigh. I was really hoping to like this one.

    1. I don't mind when setting becomes a character, and would prefer that some books give more attention to setting (cough-Magnolia League-cough) but you said it, there was too much focus on setting and not enough focus on plot. Thanks for stopping by my blog!