Delicious & divine debut, 4.5 stars
Bree Despain's debut novel, The Dark Divine, stands out in the overcrowded world of young adult paranormal romance. Grace Divine's family is built on solid values like faith, forgiveness, and charity. However, no one talks about the night her brother Jude came home covered in his own blood and when Daniel, childhood friend and temporary brother, left for good. Three years later, Daniel returns without warning and the secrets of the past start to come to the surface, along with dangerous new twists. Grace finds that she must choose between her loyalty to her brother and her growing feelings for Daniel.
I devoured this book in one sitting. Despain's writing style is clear, descriptive, and flowing, without being flowery or purple. The relationships between characters seemed genuine, especially between Grace, Jude, and Daniel. The author's use of flashbacks to pivotal childhood moments deftly illustrated the depth of relationship between Daniel and the Divine family. Because of this history, I found it easy to believe in Grace's attraction to Daniel and her willingness to trust him. It was refreshing to see an attraction based on a shared past and shared interests. Tension still existed, though, because of Daniel's mysterious and potentially dangerous history.
The mythology in the book took a unique spin on a common paranormal character by combining religion with the supernatural. The paranormal reveal was done with subtlety, and the book's conclusion brought in new twists I didn't expect. Compared to other YA books, the novel also did a better job including family relationships as a central plot element. The use of religion as a backdrop for the family's lifestyle and values enhanced character development and plot, and nothing ever came across as preachy.
Even though I really enjoyed this book, it wasn't perfect. When the supernatural reveal was done, Grace was too quick to believe the explanation. There was no questioning or freaking out, which one would expect. The ending also wrapped up too neatly with an obvious opening for a sequel. These are little qualms though, and I'm eagerly looking forward to any future works by Despain. If you're searching for something similar and just as good (or even better, IMHO) to tide you over until then, I recommend Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater.