Author: Lindsay Smith
Genre: historical fiction, time travel
Published: expected October 25 2016
Source: ARC from publishers for review
A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.
No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.
I liked this historical/time traveling tale well enough (the premise is perfection, let's not lie here), but it's an often confusing narrative with many clarity issues over the course over its pages. The author undoubtedly has a great imagination and creates a good idea for the basic plots of A Darkly Beating Heart, but the execution of the main story is muddled from the outset and is an issue that never really resolves.
A Darkly Beating Heart has such good bones, but outside of the previously mentioned clarity issues, the story is further hampered by the overall short length of the novel. Coming in at less than 300 pages total, there is a lot of ground to cover and events in the story progress either too quickly or too conveniently for my suspension of disbelief. Reiko's life and situation makes for interesting and compelling reading, but it passes by so quickly that I finished the book still left with questions.
The main character's timeslip into the Edo period is perhaps the best aspect A Darkly Beating Heart has to offer, though these experiences are also abruptly covered and feel rushed. Reiko's initial confusion and disbelief at her surroundings and new situation soon become an evocative and atmospheric escape into a fascinating culture with hidden dangers. The author is careful to tie the past and the present storylines together, but the modern one was less dynamic in comparison.
There's a lot to like about A Darkly Beating Heart - the diversity, the inclusiveness, the creativity -- but it never crossed into "favorite" territory for me. It was an entertaining read but not a particularly memorable one.