Upon my first reading of Bree Despain’s The Dark Divine
, I found myself enjoying her paranormal spin of the prodigal son story. Grace Divine has been leading a somewhat normal lifestyle as a daughter of a minister, until she enters her AP studio art class and runs into Daniel, her former next door neighbor who ran away three years earlier—the same night Grace’s older brother was found injured, lying in a pool of blood in their yard. Daniel’s return churns up bad memories and causes major rifts in the Divine household. Remembering her past with Daniel, Grace wants to believe his innocence, but her brother Jude refuses to trust him and warns her to stay away. However, Grace’s strong convictions cause her to seek Daniel out, to discover the mysteries regarding his disappearance and sudden return.
As I was reading, I was really drawn into the story by Despain’s portrayal of Daniel. Daniel’s certainly a complex character, hidden behind layers of self-hatred and guilt about his true nature and what may have happened on that fateful night three years earlier. However, I had a sneaking suspicion from the start that there was more to Daniel than just the outward bad boy persona. I suspected a “golden halo” underneath that shaggy mane of black hair. ;) And that it would be up to Grace to try to break away Daniel’s hard exterior, face those demons from the past, and help him find his true inner self.
I had liked how Despain provided a back-story for her folkloric creatures, instead of just having them exist on paper without providing them with a history, like many authors do. In this way, she reminded me of what Melissa de la Cruz did with her Blue Blood
series (vampires as fallen angels) and Cassandra Clare with City of Bones
(vampires and werewolves existing as a result of a demon virus attack on the human system, and the concept behind the presence of the Shadowhunters).
However, upon my second reading of the book, I wasn’t as enthralled by her story. I found myself wondering if it was entirely necessary for her to make The Dark Divine
a paranormal romance? And the answer, really, is no. I tried to picture the story as a film, and I think it could’ve easily been a feature on the Hallmark Channel: The bad boy that returned home, the jealous former friend, and the girlfriend who could redeem him.
I also noticed that Despain’s paranormal lore isn’t entirely new and I’m surprised I didn’t notice before, as I had mentioned it in my old review. It’s rather reminiscent of the Shadowhunter concept from Clare’s City of Bones novels, though Despain does modify it for her own story. There were even some Doctor Who themes floating around as well, i.e. the two hearts concept.
As for the characters, I still rather enjoyed reading about Daniel. I think Despain had a lot of fun writing about him, though I believe her other characters lack in comparison. I didn’t like Grace as much as I did in my first perusal. She’s kind of dopey and can’t seem to add two and two together when the facts are there right in front of her (e.g. in regards to Jude and Pete). Also, something I’d noticed when I first read the book, and tried to ignore it, but I can’t this time: It’s about Charity, Grace and Jude’s sister. At the beginning of the novel, Charity’s age is never mentioned, but her voice is rather mature, even more than Grace’s. However, it’s only at the end of the book that Despain mentions that Charity’s in middle school. I’m surprised the editors never noticed or addressed this in the final edits.
Regardless of the flaws, I still liked the book. I loved Daniel and I enjoyed some of the scenes he and Grace shared, for instance when Daniel helped Grace with her art assignment in the old walnut tree, though I do wish there were more scenes like them.