Review: Dark Souls by Paula Morris

 

Title: Dark Souls

Author:  Paula Morris

Publisher:  Point

ISBN: 978-0545251327

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Welcome to York, England.

Mist lingers in the streets.

Narrow buildings cast long shadows.

This is the most haunted city in the world. . . .

Miranda Tennant arrives in York with a terrible, tragic secret. She is eager to lose herself amid the quaint cobblestones, hoping she won’t run into the countless ghosts who supposedly roam the city. . . .

Then she meets Nick, an intense, dark-eyed boy who knows all of York’s hidden places and histories. Miranda wonders if Nick is falling for her, but she is distracted by another boy — one even more handsome and mysterious than Nick. He lives in the house across from Miranda and seems desperate to send her some sort of message. Could this boy be one of York’s haunted souls?

Soon, Miranda realizes that something dangerous — and deadly — is being planned. And she may have to face the darkest part of herself in order to unravel the mystery — and find redemption.

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dark Souls.  I seem to be saying that a lot recently about books I’ve just finished, and that’s a good thing.  I like to be surprised, and I like when a story veers off the well-beaten path and travels into new territory.  The same cookie-cutter paranormal romances quickly burn me out on the genre, so it was a pleasant change to read a story with ghosts, a romance interest who differed from the norm, and a mystery that is slowly pieced together, one seemingly unrelated event after another, until it snowballs into a night of dread and disaster.  Paula Morris made all of her protagonists face their biggest fears in a heart-racing run to the conclusion of the novel.  The last one hundred pages held my attention, and I found it difficult to put the book down. 

Miranda is grieving the loss of her best friend, Jenna, who died in a car accident.  The prologue recounts the horrible crash that almost robs Miranda of both Jenna and her brother, Rob.  After freeing herself from the smashed car, Miranda, in shock, learns that Rob will be fine once the firemen can cut him out of the crushed car, but that Jenna didn’t make it.  As she sits huddled in a ball of misery, she sees Jenna leave the car and walk towards her, running her fingers through Miranda’s hair.  After the night that changed everything for both Miranda and Rob, Miranda discovers that she can see ghosts.  I thought this was a great setup for Miranda’s unwanted ability to catch glimpses of spirits, and it reeled me into the story.  Those opening pages were so compelling that it took a while for me to get involved in the rest of the book, which chugs along like a freight train, slowly gathering momentum and building suspense. 

With Rob suffering from anxiety attacks and severe claustrophobia, and Miranda still in a daze, their worried parents drag them to England on a working vacation.  Once Miranda steps onto the streets of York, she sees one ghost after another in the ancient city.  Once a Roman outpost, the village has a long and, occasionally, violent history.  So not the place to be if you can see ghosts!

I thought the setting was intriguing, and that the historical details of the village gave the story more depth.  As Miranda learns more about the history and the local ghosts haunting various sites in York, she begins to wonder if there’s a way she can help some of the ghosts.  After she meets Nick, a mysterious boy with a past as tragic as her own, Miranda thinks that she’s met a kindred spirit.  Only Nick can understand her, because Nick shares her unwanted ability to see ghosts.

While there are romantic elements to Dark Souls, I wouldn’t consider the story a romance.  The relationship between Nick and Miranda is built on their shared unhappiness more than their attraction to each other.  To Miranda, Nick is exotic and aloof, and she longs to understand him.   She longs to save him from the self-destructive path he’s set on.  She couldn’t save Jenna, so she is determined to save this strange, sad boy she can’t help but be drawn to.   Nick is dangerous and dark and unapproachable, yet oddly vulnerable at the same time. 

As the mystery behind the coldly handsome ghost in the window across the street from Miranda’s room is slowly revealed, all of the pieces of the mystery behind Nick and his brother are neatly fitted together.  The mystery is compelling and had me on the edge of my seat as the conclusion thundered ever closer.  Fans of Clarity by Kim Harrington will find a lot to like here.  As the novel draws to a close, I also felt that Miranda and Rob, both suffering from that awful moment when both of their lives changed forever, will finally be able to move beyond that tragedy, and will be able to look toward the future.  The accident will always be a part of their past, but now they will be able to move beyond it and live for themselves, freed from the guilt that threatened to suffocate them before their eventful trip to York.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by {Teen} Book Scene