Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick

Title: Draw the Dark
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Copyright: Oct. 28th, 2010
Pages: 328 (Hardcover)
To Buy:
Obtained From: NetGalley

There are things in Winter, Wisconsin, that people just don't talk about. 17-year-old Christian is one of them. Ever since he was little, he's had the ability to draw other's thoughts and memories, perhaps even influencing their actions. But sometimes, he has no control over his power. Lately, he's been having vivid dreams where he inhabits the body of a child in the 1940s. One night after one of these disturbing visions, he wakes up to find that he's been blamed for painting swastikas on the side of a barn. Punishment for this event leads him to meet Winter's last surviving Jew and uncover one more thing that people just don't talk about: the day the Nazis came to town. Christian' ghostly visions lead him to uncover a forgotten murder from 1945 that could forever change the town of Winter if revealed. Steeped in mystery, Draw the Dark is a dark fantasy that blends elements of a thriller to create a rich story about reclaiming the forgotten past.


The main issue that I had with Draw the Dark was that Ilsa failed to properly explain the supernatural elements of her world. The reader is given snippets of information throughout the story which are enough to piece together the basics, but still, every time there was a scene where some information of significance came up it concluded prematurely with an incomplete thought or a flashback. Even though these flashbacks were entertaining and crucial to the overall storyline, a proper explanation of the rules of the world would have been nice since there is some genre bending that goes on. Things that should have made sense were often confusing, and Christian's abilities were unclear. Yes, he can tap into people's memories and draw the visions of their past, but somehow his power is also connected to the "Sideways Place," an alternate reality that he can tap into with his drawings? I end that sentence with a question because I'm not even sure if that was the case.

There were pieces of this story that I think worked very well. Though Ilsa took some liberty with the research and historical elements of this book, watching Christian try to solve a murder that took place in 1946 was really interesting and I learned a lot about POW camps in the US after WWII. In addition, Christian was a great character, and Ilsa does a good job describing his transition from a boy to a young man. He starts out as an outsider, feared and scorned by the residents of Winter for his odd behavior and artistic talent (he has a thing for drawing creepy eyes). As a result, he's a bit of a Debbie Downer and doesn't do anything to befriend anyone around him (even when they extend a kind hand). This made him hard to relate to at first, but his emotions and thoughts felt so real and dripped with such lonliness that it was hard not to feel bad and cheer for him towards the end when he decides to set aside his depression and take control of his problems and power.

Really, I think the book just needed a tighter editing job. There IS a great story here, but it was a bit hard to find. Elements of a thriller, murder mystery, historical fiction, and paranormal fiction are combined to create a completely new experience for the reader. Seriously, I have no idea how you would categorize this book since it was so unique, but in a sense, Ilsa's innovation got crushed by the weight of everything she tried to accomplish. Will there be a sequel? I hope so. Ilsa certainly left it open for a second book, and I'm very curious to see if she expands on this "Sideways Place," that seems to be connected to Christian's power. Overall, it was bit of a disappointment but an interesting read nonetheless, and one that I'm not soon to forget. (Especially since it takes place in Wisconsin. As a native Sconnie, I love it when my state is mentioned!)



Danna said...

I've been wondering about this book for awhile now. It sounds really good, but now that you mention the gaps in the I guess I'll read it if a second book comes out. Thanks for your review! Happy Holidays!

Kristina Barnes♥ said...

Haha, I read the synopsis and saw it was set in Wisconsin and had to giggle a little bit.

I've admittedly never heard about this book. At all. And I frequent Netgalley quite a lot. o_O This isn't the usual type of book I would read (ghostly visions, mystery, and I do not mix well), but it sounds... interesting. I really loved how you mixed the good with the bad rather in your review! (You always do, but I thought I might as well mention how awesome you did in this one!).

tony bertauski said...

I'll throw this one on the to-read list. One thing about this small publisher, they have kick-ass covers. This one is no exception.

Emi said...

@Danna: Thanks! I'm glad my review could help you make a decision about it. It really did have some cool ideas, but it just tried to do too much and so some things fell apart. I was thinking more about it today and now I really hope a sequel comes out to make sense of some of the lingering questions. Oh, and happy holidays to you too! I hope they're filled with lots of joy and love. <3

@Krissy-kins: Of course you would giggl-- WAIT. WAIT. Pump the breaks. You, not know about a book?! Le gasp! I'm really surprised to hear that. I don't know how long this book was on NetGalley, but I knew that I had to read it once I read the description. Even if it wasn't your kind of book I'm glad you liked the review. I swear, I was staring at my paper for an hour before I knew what I wanted to say. It was a tough one to write, so I'm glad it turned out. xD

@Tony: I figured this was going to be a book you'd want to check out! If you hadn't read my review I was going to message you over GR about it. I totally agree with you--the cover for this book is AWESOME. I'd buy the book just to have it sitting on my shelf as a piece of art.

Julie said...

I was attracted to reading this book because of the WWII and Holocaust angle. I picked it up from NetGalley a while back. I had a hard time getting into the book. Like you, I had a lot of questions. Some things didn't make sense or weren't properly explained. I never ended up finishing it. I'd like to try it again. Great honest review! Glad you enjoyed it over all.

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