Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: Dark Passages by Kathyrn Leigh Scott

by Kathyrn Leigh Scott 

Genre: Period/Urban Fantasy
Reading Grade: Adult
Publication Date: August 9, 2011
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Age Rating: 16+

Dark Passages is a coming-of-age story encapsulating the romance and innocence of JFK’s Camelot era and the tumultuous "dark passages" of Meg Harrison, a vampire raised by her mother to resist the temptation of human blood. Meg arrives in New York determined not to use her vampiric gifts to fulfill her dream of becoming an actress. She joins the cast of the cult hit Dark Passages, only to face her nemesis, a beautiful 300-year-old witch bent on destroying her. Their rivalry leads to a final confrontation as the telekinetic vampire and spell-weaving sorceress engage in a spectacular battle for supremacy. It takes all of Meg’s wit and tenacity to defeat the witch and win the affections of a handsome young mortal with a secret life of his own. In the end, Meg realizes that the powers she always denied within herself are not a curse, but a blessing.

My Review

  • Plot: First of all, the author of this novel was on a TV soap opera that ran from 1966 – 1971 called Dark Shadows, so she writes this novel largely from experience. It's about a girl named Meg who leaves 1960's Minnesota to work in New York City as a Playboy Bunny waitress, until she can get an acting job. She gets hired for a small role on a daytime soap opera, which eventually writes in a male vampire character into the script. Meg happens to be a real vampire and nobody knows about their existence, so she keeps her true identity a secret from everyone she knows. This is rather anti-climactic. It would have been better if even Ian, the soap opera vampire, had discovered her secret, but he doesn't. Halfway through, a witch named Camilla is thrown into the story, out of nowhere, to be the main villain character out to make Meg miserable, but I didn't understand Camilla's motivation. She has no reason for her vendetta against Meg and her family.
  • Characters: Meg isn't really a problematic character until she tries to hide her pregnancy from everyone. She constantly lies to everyone that she is fine when she should be saying something. But, I don't understand the point of her pregnancy at all. It means nothing to the plot. Ian, a sort of love-interest, is a nice character, but doesn't really do much to further the plot, either. I was thinking he'd get mixed up in Meg and Camilla's big boss fight at the end, maybe be held hostage by Camilla, but that never happens. Tons of characters are completely pointless. Haddie is a ghost that helps Meg with Camilla, but it's never explained how a dead guy's ghost can do anything supernatural. He just can.
  • Technical Writing: First, I'll have to narrow it down to mentioning sentence structure because that is good. But, the overall writing is not good because most of it is very “telly,” meaning it's like listening to someone blather on about their experience rather than feeling immersed in it. Not a single scene break can be found, other than normal chapter breaks, so it follows Meg every place she goes, no matter how pointless. There are some “showing” scenes, but not nearly enough. I never felt plunged into the story and it made this an arduously slow read for me.
  • Storytelling: My problem is with the world-building. This is fantasy, yet there is hardly any effort to develop it. Vampires are never explained and Meg never questions her mother about anything, which I find strange. Witches are never mentioned outright, and then suddenly one shows up halfway through to be the villain. I never bought it because it isn't set up properly. Also, Meg being a vampire seems moot. Because no one she works with ever finds out about her being a vampire, and it never helps her do anything significant regarding the Club or the TV show, I wonder why the author bothered to make Meg a vampire at all.
  • Overall Quality: Below average for me. I like the premise with the 1960's setting, the Bunny Club, even the soap opera, but 30% of the story could have been cut due to being unimportant. I wanted it to be an escape into a rare time in history that is fascinating, but it felt more like reading autobiographical nonfiction (except for the fantasy elements). I realize this author has an incredibly rare history that begged to be fictionalized, but I have to judge this book based on the standards all fiction is subjected to, and it doesn't hold up well.
  • Favorite Moment/Scene: I don't have one.
  • My Score: 2 out of 5 stars.

*I received this title from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.

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  1. Hmmm...yeah. Nothing about the story appeals to me. Sorry it was such a slow read. I do find the cover very pretty. Very thorough review, great job!

    1. @Andrea: Ugh... It was so slow, but that's the book bloggers life. I couldn't help but be thorough with the review because there were so many things wrong with the book!

  2. Sorry you didn't enjoy this book! The blurb for the book came across as "giving away the farm," so to speak. I agree with your comments about the time period -- not a lot of speculative fiction takes place in that time. Hmmm...

    1. @Camille: Oh, it totally gives away the farm! I'm surprised the blurb spoils so much.

      If only it were written better, it may have been a good read because of the unusual time, place and circumstances. But, it just didn't work.

  3. I love how you break down your reviews to so many elements of a book. The fact that none of these elements were very positive means I think I'll skip it.

    1. @Jenny: Thanks! I do that because it's easier for me to review a book that way. It may sound like the opposite would be true, but it makes my life easier.

      Yeah, I think you should skip this one. Not sure it's right for most readers.

  4. oh, sad. This book sounds really good, but I hate telling writing... it always drags me out of the story (and it was my worst offender when I was a newbie writer. WORST. I have a manuscript that's all telly and it's *shudders* horrible.)

    oh hello ramble...

    great review. I still really like your review format. <3

    1. @Ash: I hate it, too. At least I do in fiction. This author has written quite a few nonfiction books, so I think that is why she wrote the book that way. Fiction needs to be written very differently from nonfiction.


  5. I hope that once day I can write a review as good as this for a book I didn't really enjoy. All my two star equivalent reviews have a heap of ranting in it. I am not a huge hater of telling in writing so that probably won't annoy me so much as the lack of world building and no explanations. Probably a book I would avoid :(

    1. @Lan: Thank you so much! How sweet.... I think I feel like I was writing a critique of this book so it ended up the way it did. I seriously WANTED to rant, but that's unprofessional.


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