Book review: Dark Reflections by Kelsey Ketch
Title: Dark Reflections
Author: Kelsey Ketch
I was drawn to the opportunity to read this book based on it's unique premise. I love urban fantasy so I'm no stranger to vampires, ghosts/spirits, werewolves (and other were animals) and witches but this idea was one I hadn't see before. As excited as I was, though, I knew it would be a book I'd either love or hate with very little room to land in between.
What is it about?
Alana was a pretty average teen. She was barely eighteen, an artist finishing high school in a whirlwind of changes. Her biggest complaint was her parent's preoccupation with Alana's unborn sister as their attention shifted from Alana to Alana and the soon-to-be-born new addition. Perhaps that was what made Alana the perfect vessel for Charissa, the not so dead vampire whose spirit is trapped in the new, gorgeous and intriguing mirror Alana brought home from an estate sale. Now Alana leads a double life, a prisoner on the deserted island Charissa dumped her on, cleaning up Charissa's messes and ensuring her "doners" survive to provide another feeding. By night she's Charissa, trapped in Alana clothing...and skin, wrecking havoc and draining blood along the way in her sadistic ways. While Alana has succeeded in keeping her distance from Charissa's previous victims (sixteen dead....a fact her conscious can not forget) Charissa's newest donor may prove to be just the person to cause Alana to end the streak and maybe even fight back to take her body back from Charissa. Being a vampire may have it's perks, but being possessed by one sucks!
What did I think?
As I said before, I was pulled in by the premise. I mean, who's ever heard of a vampire possessing an average, everyday girl? This was either going to be a story I loved or hated. I was not disappointed.
As soon as I picked up the book, I noticed that there were some factors that I was confident would work against it in my review. The first one was that the story is written in first person form Alana's perspective. While I don't condemn a book for being written in first person, I usually don't love it. That combined with the fact that we never get into Charissa's head made me skeptical. How wrong I was! By the end of the book, it was clear to me that these were carefully made choice. While there were times I would have loved to be in Charissa's head, not knowing what she was doing at night when Alana was sleeping and not really getting to know her intimately worked well! It allowed for an air of mystery to hang over the story and the events. You never knew what Charissa was going to do, or even what she did do. Often times you were left guessing, some questions never really being answered at all. While normally the lack of answers would bother me, this time they didn't. And, by not being with Charissa at night, we avoided the sadistic, brutal and bloody murders as well as the somewhat pointless overly sexualized games Charissa enjoyed, getting just enough information to know that these things were going on and that she enjoyed them, but not so much that we had to actually live them. While some may say this was a bold choice, I would say it was the perfect choice! It allowed the story to shine, leaving the one sex scene in the book to have more meaning and effect as well.
I also found myself enjoying Ms. Ketch's rouge approach to the traditional vampire lore. She addressed the lore, respects it and honors it without gluing herself to it, creating a hard to find recipe for vampire lovers, a recipe that allows you to have an idea what to expect while, at the same time, forget that she's going against the grain, jumping out of the bloody vampire box and building her own, fresh, less bloody box to reside in and, thankfully, she's built it big enough for us to reside there, too! She accounts for conflicts between her fresh born lore and the lore we've come to depend on, addressing the differences and, at some points, even questioning them, yet still, she refuses to conform.
I even appreciated Alana's suspicions that none of what she was experiencing was real, but, rather, a delusions produced by a mental illness she had developed with out realizing it, unable to truly accept her new reality until she finds confirmation through others. Can we also appreciate how the questions of her mental health were valid? I mean she didn't just think she were crazy, she had valid, real arguments to back up her theory and, as a psych major I appreciated it. In fact, there was a time when I thought maybe it was a mental illness and that Charissa was a symptom or manifestation of an diagnosed illness.
I'd be lying if I said that the story held no predictable points, as it was pretty predictable at times, however the reveals were on point. She made reveals at the last second, giving you time and reason to second guess what you thought you know and digging for information to back it up before offering your answers in a fun and satisfying way. She doesn't take away form the excitement of the answers or even doing so in the "i know you figured it out" way that some authors I've read have. You find the answers organically at the perfect moment and just feel...satisfied. And, in the end, though some of it was, admittedly, predictable, the freshness of the story intertwined with the artful and beautiful way the story was woven together overshadowed the predictive nature.
Now, let's be clear. This story is not filled with epic battles or violent death scenes. In fact, there is very little "action" within these pages, yet I didn't want to put the book down! I found myself excited to curl up with this fresh vampire story every night. I never felt as if the story was slow moving or boring, instead the emotional journey and search for answers seemed to move the story forward at a fun, validating pace that drew me in and kept me hooked.
However, the book isn't perfect. There were some grammatical and formatting issues, though those may have been because I had to download an app on my phone to read this digital copy and, admittedly, these were mild mistakes and not very obvious. They certainly didn't disrupt my reading flow.
I also would have like to get to know the ghosts haunting Alana more. Yes, I said ghosts, as the ghosts of Charissa's 16 donors she's murdered since taking over Alana's body continue to haunt Alana. She talks about them. She gives information to help you get to know them more, but I never felt like I really knew them as well as I would have liked. I also feel like there were transitions that occurred without warning or understanding (yes. I'm being vague, but I'm doing so to avoid spoilers). The visual changes in personality and behavior don't make as much sense as they may have with more information and more interactions.
Yet, upon closing this book for the last time in my first read through, the good overpowered the "could be better" for me. I was inspired and impressed with Ms. Ketch's ability to blatantly go against accepted lore in such an almost flawless way. I was happy with the ending and loved the reveals it brought, but wanted more. No, really, Ms. Ketch I. Want. More. I feel like there is still so much growth and story just waiting to be seen for Alana, Cole (the boy), Charissa and the other characters I met. I feel like in so many ways, this was just the beginning and I will be eagerly waiting for a review copy of the next installment of these new found friends' of mine lives to share my thoughts on that with all of you, too! *giggles* Just kidding...mostly.
What I rate this:
I give this a....
4 out of