Review: Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Would anyone here be interested in a compendium of books about mythic beasts by authors of color? Would that be a resource people would enjoy? Or does it already exist somewhere else and I should consult it myself to get All the Book Recs?

Any case, Certain Dark Things is a vampire story set in Mexico City by a Mexican-Canadian writer. In this world, there exist ten known species of vampires, of which we encounter three. The vampire girl Atl and her Doberman Cualli1 are on the run from the Necros vampires who killed her mother and sister. She doesn’t intend to enlist the aid of a street kid called Domingo, at least not for more than one drink, and she certainly doesn’t intend for him to get tangled up with the cops and gangsters and vampires who are chasing her.

Certain Dark Things

Okay, first up, Certain Dark Things is hella violent. There is a non-zero amount of tooth-ripping and face-shoot-offing. If you are a person who cannot handle tooth-ripping face-shoot-offing (which in retrospect I may be that kind of person but it’s too late to learn that lesson now), I may need to direct you to a less gory vampire story. The main vampire searched for Atl is a gross misogynist who fantasizes about doing violent sex things to Atl, which is also not the most fun to read. He does not, however, do any violent sex things to her in practice.

However, if faces getting shot off and silver shards being dug out of bloody human flesh by an unqualified veterinarian are not deal-breakers for you, there’s gold in these here hills. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s world-building is superb, a take on vampires and vampire rivalries that I’ve never seen before. Her Mexico City has long been a haven from vampires, which is why cop Ana Aguirre transferred there, and she’ll go so far as to ally herself with one of the city’s gangs if it means keeping Atl and other vampires from finding a place for themselves in the city. Meanwhile, Atl tells Domingo about her people’s descent from Aztecs and muses over the possibility of living in Brazil, where the native vampires glow in the dark. I was willing to live with some flesh-tearing in order to keep discovering new pockets of this fantasy world.

And now, a question: Which is scarier, vampires with wings who can fly, or vampires who glow in the dark? Or vampires who can shapeshift?

  1. I know that your immediate question is “Does the dog survive?” SPOILERS HERE: Yes, the dog survives. You will hit a certain point in the book where you think “That rat-fink Jenny, this dog is clearly dead!” but I promise you that no, the dog is not dead. The dog survives. END SPOILERS YOU ARE NOW FREE FROM SPOILERS.
  • Flying vampires are scarier. You would always know where glow in the dark vampires are.
    Thank you for letting me know the dog survives. That isn’t a spoiler. It should be written on the front cover.
    I’m a veterinarian and if the world ever devolves to a point where humans need to rely on me for their health care, ya’ll are screwed. I’m really squeamish about the mildest human injuries. I can put a smashed dog back together but can’t handle cuts on humans.
    I’d like the monster list.

  • Jeanne

    I agree with Heather that flying vampires are scary, but shapeshifters would be the scariest ever, because you’d never know who they were. Could be your brother. Could be your friend. And then you would turn your back. So yes, I have a vivid imagination for this stuff. Faces getting shot off is too much for me.

  • Care

    I didn’t read this whole post. I read the spoiler though and I’m glad the dog is not dead. I have already blocked out the scene in High Dive that I didn’t want to read and if you ask me such a question abt the dogs, I honestly cannot remember how it played out. Which may or may not convince you to not read High Dive? sorry.

  • Totally sounds like my kinda book! I’m a big fan of the vamps, a big fan of urban fantasy, and have read so much fanfiction (and horror novels) by this point that no amount of gore is going to stop me, really, lol! XD

  • I don’t think this book is for me, but I have to say that, aside from the fact that almost all vampires are scary, glow-in-the-dark vampires sound pretty cool to me. Most scariest goes to shapeshifting vampires, because how could you ever really kill them? As soon as you aim the stake or bullet or whatever (it’s been a while since I read Dracula), the vampire could just shapeshift and the heart would be in a different place. (Now I’m off to see if my library has Iron Cast. (I have already borrowed Monstress.))

  • I’ll second the list of books by authors of color featuring mythic creatures!

  • Eecks I want to read this book but also I think I am one of those people that doesn’t do so well with tooth-ripping face-shoot-offing butttt I might give it a try anyway? Glowing vampires seems too blah – like, they might as well just sparkle. Makes them more conspicuous. Which makes the shape-shifting ones seem scariest!

  • Stefanie@SoManyBooks

    I am sensitive to tooth-ripping and face-shoot-offing so I think I will skip this one. My husband, however, seems to be immune, for better or worse. He would probably like this one so I had better let him know.

    I think vampires with wings might be scarier because if they are chasing you then you have less of a chance to escape. Glow in the dark vampires seem like they would be advantage human because you’d know immediately that there is a vampire coming at you.

  • Akilah

    ALL OF THE ABOVE. What kind of question is this???

  • Alley

    Glow in the dark vampires sounds like a Party City trinket so no, that is not scary. Or maybe I’m picturing it wrong but no. Now I’m just thinking raver vampires

  • We really need a “does the dog die” website for books, because I always want to know the same thing! I hate when authors kill off dogs. In part, this is simply because I hate reading about dogs dying, but it’s also because so often is just seems like a plot-irrelevant ploy to try to make the reader feel something.