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Book Review: Draw the Dark

Draw the Dark
by Ilsa J. Bick

Strange things are happening in Winter, Wisconsin, and all of them seem to be connected to Christian Cage. Christian is no stranger to trouble; people in his life have died or disappeared before in mysterious ways. But this time Christian is accused of vandalizing a barn, and the image that was graffiti-painted onto the barn is in Christian’s style, although he has no memory of doing it.

The same night that the barn is vandalized, Christian begins having nightmares. The nightmares become more vivid as Christian begins working a community service sentence in the local nursing home. Then a body is found in an old house, and Christian begins to suspect that all the strange happenings are connected together, and tied in with Winter’s past. Together with Sarah, who is the closest thing to a friend that he has, he begins researching Winter’s history looking for clues.

Draw the Dark is an unputdownable story wrapped in vivid imagery and a strong sense of history. Although Draw the Dark is technically a fantasy, it should appeal to mystery and history fans as well. The mystery is a strong element of the story, as Christian and Sarah try to put together the clues to figure out what’s going on and what happened in the past. There’s also an interesting tie-in to World War II era history.

One complaint I have is the cover: it makes the book look like a horror book, which I think sets up false expectations that will turn off some teens who would enjoy the book, and cause others to be disappointed when the start reading it and find out that it isn’t horror.

Another problem with the book is that the various elements aren’t always well-integrated. In particular, there’s a framing story about a door that Christian paints which may lead to an alternate world where he thinks his parents are, a world he calls the “sideways world.” Although the sideways world does play a role in the climax, in general I thought that the sideways world wasn’t well explained, and seemed grafted on, and I think it would have been a stronger story without it. The ending of the book may be setting things up for a sequel which has more to do with the sideways world, or it may be just leaving things open for the reader’s imagination.

Overall, though, Draw the Dark is a unique and fascinating story that you won’t want to put down.

The Wager is a 2010 Cybils nominee in the Fantasy/Science Fiction: Teen category.

Book reviewed from library copy. FTC required disclosure: The Amazon.com links above are Amazon Associate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links.

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