Picture this a runaway vampire with roots tracing as far back as the Aztec empire and a teenage trash collector are on the run in a futuristic Mexico City. This is the world Sylvia Moreno Garcia creates in Certain Dark Things and it’s as entertaining as you think it is.
After a rival vampire cartel murders Atl’s entire family, she flees to Mexico city, whose outlawed vampires within its borders. Domingo’s a trash collector who learned to survive on the streets, and when he meets Atl he’s fascinated by her. Atl aims to keep Domingo as her living blood bag but quickly realizes she needs Domingo’s street smarts when a brutal murder links the killer to vampires.
Together, Domingo and Atl must rely on each other if they want to make it out of Mexico city in one piece.
I’ve read many vampire novels this past year (as detailed in my previous post, “What I’ve learned from reading vampire novels” while many vampire novels put their own twist on the genre, Certain Dark things was one of the novels that stood out to me.
This novel contains many species of vampires, some gorgeous, some terrifying, and each with their own vivid personality. The vampires in this novel also have their own special abilities: mind control, mind reading, flying. Our protagonist Atl sprouts wings and can transform at will; she also resembles a hummingbird when she feeds. They can also reproduce, Atl’s very young in this novel (I guess somewhere in her 20s) when she makes it to Mexico city.
All these things make Certain Dark Things a unique vampire novel that transforms Mexico city into a cyberpunk landscape with the same charm as the modern city full of street vendors and pyramid ruins.
Certain Dark Things jumps from Pov to Pov while aiming to draw the reader into all the crevices of the story. I was not a fan of all the POVs in this Noir, but it certainly made the novel more atmospheric.
What I found super fascinating about this novel and why it jumped out from all the previous vampire novels I read was that it addresses neocolonialism and the drug trade and links the two. Atl’s family served Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war, who was symbolized as a hummingbird until the conquistadors arrived. Afterward, Atl’s family got into the drug trade, but according to Atl, a new set of colonizers have taken over.
One of the descendants is a vampire named Nick, who is young and foolish. The only reason he’s arrived in Mexico City is to murder Atl, who turned down his advances shortly before he murdered her family. He’s the picture of a toxic man who can’t let things go. But he’s also trying to conquer Atl because he’s overwhelmed by her beauty, the tan skin that links her to her indigenous origins, and he can’t stand that she’s rejected him.
I believe that Nick serves as this new kind of colonizer in this story. Not only by inserting himself in the drug trade but by forcing out the families who have lived there for centuries. Additionally, Nick can bend humans and vampires to his will!
I certainly did not expect this from a vampire novel, but it was a brilliant surprise.
One of my favorite plot points follows Domingo and Atl. Atl grew up sheltered and showered by love, but after her entire family murdered, she has to learn to survive on her own. And she’s managing, but when she meets Domingo, he realizes just how skittish she is.
Through Domingo, readers learn that Atl is not the arrogant and confident vampire she tells herself she is. Atl’s thoughts begin to reflect just how unprepared she was to take on the world on her own.
Domingo, fled an abusive home and learned to survive on the streets. Without Domingo, Atl would not have learned all the secrets to stay hidden in Mexico City. But in turn, Domingo’s introduced into the world of vampires and adventure. Stuff he only read about in comic books.
They learn a lot from each other and become so quickly engulfed into each other’s lives. Which makes the ending bittersweet goodness.
Overall I enjoyed Certain Dark Things, and I think it’s a vampire novel wrote reading if you want some diversity in that genre. But now that I’ve read three of Silvia Moreno Garcia’s novels, I am now thinking what my next read will be.
Currently on my mind are The beautiful ones and Prime Meridian.
CW: Gore, violence, murder, sexual assualt
until next time I’ll be living in libros,
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