A few years ago, I began logging my book collection on LibraryThing. I had to keep track of all my books somehow. It wasn’t long before I discovered the early reviewer program, which allows members to request advance copies of new books. I’ve been fortunate to win a few such books (including Minky Klasky’s Single Witch’s Survival Guide, which made my Literary Discoveries of 2013 list). I also won a digital copy of Doranna Durgin’s A Feral Darkness.
I had never read any of Durgin’s books before, though I had seen her name pop up on various recommendation lists for fantasy lovers. The premise of A Feral Darkness sounded interesting, so I figured “what the heck?” and clicked the Request button.
It sat on my nook for a few months before I finally got around to reading it.
Bad me — ’cause I totally loved this book, and I can’t wait to read the rest of Durgin’s stories.
A Feral Darkness can be loosely classified as urban fantasy or paranormal romance.* Bare synopsis: nine year-old Brenna Fallon makes an offering at a spring on her farm to Mars Nodens** — a God she only knows about through a magazine article — to save her old, dying, beloved hound. He answers her prayer and a place of power is born. Years later, a group of drunken frat boys desecrate the holy site, tossing beer and killing any wild animals they can lay their hands on — and a terrible darkness finds its way through that place of power and into the world.
Piqued your interest yet?
Good, because it gets better. A grown-up Brenna has managed to hang on to her family’s farm, but is stuck in a dead end job as a dog groomer. And when trainer Gil Masera shows up, they take an instant dislike to one another. Until the darkness attacks Brenna, and a dog no one can identify comes bounding out of her spring, and a mutated strain of rabies begins to spread, and Brenna begins to have strange visions of a devastating future.
I have to say, this is the only book I have ever read which mixes Celtic mythology, a love of dogs, a (potential) rabies pandemic, horror, romance, strong female friendships, socio-economic commentary, and a touch of Basque magic. Plus, Druid the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is totally adorable.
Durgin has a real gift for slowly building tension. While the paranormal elements are there from the beginning, they slowly grow in importance over the course of the book, as the darkness becomes more powerful and ever more threatening. The final confrontation (involving heirloom silverware, no less) is frightening and exhilarating and, yes, I admit that I cried.
So, take thee off to a used bookstore and find an old paperback edition of A Feral Darkness, or download it immediately to your ereader. Then find a comfy blanket and curl up for a good read — just do it with the lights on.
*Originally published by Baen back in 2001, it was apparently ahead of its time, since it quickly fell out of print. Durgin has now re-released it in ebook format herself.
** Also known as Nuadha, which Brenna and Gil eventually figure out.
[Originally published here.]