In Darkness – Nick Lake

I finished this book several days ago and it still lingers with me and will for some time. More than lingers, it haunts me.   In Darkness weaves together two time periods in Haiti’s tumultuous history and is told through two voices.  The story opens with the Haitian earthquake of 2010. Shorty is a young gang member living in the Cite’ Soleil, a shanty town/refugee town under the control of the United Nations, but ruled by rival gangs.  He is hospitalized with a gunshot wound when the earthquake reduces the hospital to rubble.  As he clings to life, he recounts his life’s events and as his mind wanders, the story shifts to Haiti’s past.  The second voice is that of Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the successful slave rebellion of 1790 against the French.  The time shift writing mechanism succeeds – brilliantly.  The writing is intense, the pacing fast, and the characters are very complex and genuine.  Both time periods are violent, bleak, gritty and horrific.  Because of the language and many acts of violence, the best audience is high school and adult.   Also, background knowledge of not just Haitian history but of the many revolutions during the 1700s helps the reader to better absorb the story.  My background knowledge of Haitian history is sparse.  When I finished the novel, I immediately read several articles about Haiti and Toussaint L’Ouverture.  I went about this backwards.  I recommend reading a quick encyclopedia article about Haiti’s history and then start the book.  The story of Toussaint L’Ouverture could be told by itself and be as engrossing and dynamic alone as it is when entwined with Shorty’s. It is a story that needs to be told and Nick Lake has done an outstanding job. After telling the story of hundreds of years of oppression and violence, the author ends it on a note of hope.

 As a fan of the author’s Blood Ninja books, I was eager to read In Darkness because it is quite different from vampire ninjas and I wanted to see what else the author can produce.  I am in awe and will eagerly read whatever he writes next – Somali pirates?  This will be after the third in the Blood Ninja trilogy.

 NetGalley review    Publication date 01.17.12

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