Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – REVIEW

Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.

Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.

Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?

“Vampires drained you one way or another.” 

In what can sometimes seem like an oversaturated market, Certain Dark Things offers something new to the vampire genre, which is no easy feat. Set in Mexico City, this is a world with different sub-species of vampires. Each sub-species is unique and inspired by the folklore of different countries. Mexico City, however, is a vampire-free zone, run by five human gangs. The city is evocatively described and infused with culture and sensory information. The setting is gritty and dark with drug wars raging, leading to brutal and devastating showdowns.

“Don’t deceive yourself…this is not a love story.”

The two main characters are seventeen-year-old Domingo, who makes his money collecting rubbish for a rag and bone man, and twenty-three-year-old vampire Atl, one of the sub-species of Tlāhuihpoctin. Domingo is enthusiastic and surprisingly naive for a street kid with a desperate longing for friendship. When he meets Atl one night, Domingo is soon infatuated with her, eagerly becoming her Renfield (human companion). In contrast, Atl has grown up thinking of humans as beneath vampires and keeps Domingo at a distance. However, a reluctant bond soon grows between the pair and I loved how their relationship developed.

“She had to be good because she was pretty and young and his friend. Right?”

The main action revolves around Atl and why she’s hiding out in Mexico City. On the run from a rival vampire drug cartel that has slaughtered her family, Atl has only the thought of escape on her mind, leaving little room for Domingo. Vampire Nick of the rival gang makes an awful (or is it brilliant?) antagonist. He’s misogynistic, sadistic and dumb which is a volatile combination. I particularly liked the jaded police officer Ana who gets caught up in their gang war despite just wanting safety for her daughter. The action is fast-paced and is soon hurtling towards an inevitable clash.

“There is a point when a man may swim back to shore, but he was past it. There was nothing left than to be swallowed by the enormity of the sea.”

Certain Dark Things is a brutally gritty tale of rivalries, love, and sacrifice. Some people will be disappointed by the ending but I think it worked perfectly and encapsulated the character growth shown by Atl. I’d love to revisit Domingo and Atl one day via short stories so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Once again, the author has proved how adept she is at writing multiple genres and delivering unique stories that satisfy the reader. I eagerly await her next release.

(Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon UK | Bookshop.org)

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