I haven't read very many steam punk novels, but after I finished the debut book from author Suzanne Lazear, I can definitely say that I will be making an effort to read more! Innocent Darkness is equal parts delightful, enchanting, sinister, and curious, and definitely put me in a mood to delve deeper into the steam punk genre. I loved the clever way Lazear mixed fey mythos - both traditional, and her own flair - in with the notion of an alternate 1901 Los Angeles, with air ships, hover-crafts, and other technology that even our modern world doesn't know yet, but we've all dreamed about. Lazear blended all the elements at her disposal in a highly creative way, that, coupled with an irresistibly spirited heroine made me love Innocent Darkness.
Magnolia "Noli" Braddock won me over instantly, reminding me of the few times I was mischievous when I was younger. Though Noli has a bad reputation for being a "hoyden," (a willful, trouble-making woman who doesn't fit in with the times or society), it's just that part of her personality that made me adore her so. Noli's mannerisms are ingrained within her and are as much of the story as is anything. She a fighter and yet she also has a soft, wistful side that made me want to protect her, especially once she's sent to a reform school that makes prison look like a vacation. There, Noli's beautiful spirit is trampled by a horrible headmistress and other truly evil characters, to the point that she wishes to escape - and does.
Suzanne Lazear whisks Noli - and readers - away to the Otherworld, where we meet an entirely new, entirely devious and seductive cast of characters in the Fey: as untrustworthy as they are beautiful, as quick to twist their words as they are to offer Noli sanctuary. I was entranced with this strange world, and, like Noli, I found myself unable to remember why I wanted to leave. The setting is lush and beautiful, wild and mysterious, and turns Innocent Darkness into a haunting story.
The pacing of Innocent Darkness slows some as Noli falls under the spell of both the Otherworld, and Kevighn, her mysterious benefactor. We get a few glimpses into his thoughts and point of view, as well as that of Noli's best friend, Steven "V" Darrow. I will freely admit to having swooned over V on multiple occasions, as well as over his younger brother, James. Both Kevign and V are playing their hands close to the vest with Noli...but each for very different reasons. The two characters were night and day, fantastic foils to one another. Of the two, I loved both their interactions with Noli, but given a boy-next-dooor character like V, I think we can all guess which one I fell the hardest for! There's a sweet love story that blooms between Noli and one of the boys, but who, I won't say. I'm hoping y'all will read this one for yourself!
Suzanne Lazear has written a gorgeous story with Innocent Darkness. By the time I finished, I didn't want the adventure to be over. I needed more time with the characters and setting and the atmosphere of Lazear's novel. Luckily, there is a sequel due out in 2013 that continues Noli's story, which is good for me, because I'm quite desperate to find out what happens next. In the Otherworld, nothing is ever quite what it seems, and Innocent Darkness definitely left me hungry for more!