Review: In Darkness by Nick Lake

In darkness I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One: I am alive. Two: there is no two. 

In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake a boy is trapped beneath the rubble of a ruined hospital: thirsty, terrified and alone. 'Shorty' is a child of the slums, a teenage boy who has seen enough violence to last a lifetime, and who has been inexorably drawn into the world of the gangsters who rule Site Soleil: men who dole out money with one hand and death with the other. But Shorty has a secret: a flame of revenge that blazes inside him and a burning wish to find the twin sister he lost five years ago. And he is marked. Marked in a way that links him with Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Haitian rebel who two-hundred years ago led the slave revolt and faced down Napoleon to force the French out of Haiti. 

As he grows weaker, Shorty relives the journey that took him to the hospital, a bullet wound in his arm. In his visions and memories he hopes to find the strength to survive, and perhaps then Toussaint can find a way to be free ...

I will admit that when I first got this book through I wasn't sure if I would like it, it's a big departure from my comfort zone and I was scared  that it would maybe be a bit too... emotionally heavy. This book has a lot of deep messages, it also has a lot of heartbreaking and harrowing parts, but the book is written in the way that it doesn't overload you with emotion and feeling, and by the end of it you go away feeling refreshed and hopeful.

I think what makes this book is that, in a way not dissimilar to Revolution by Jennifer Donnely, this book ties together the past and the present, there is a touch of the supernatural to this book but mostly, this book is a tale about breaking free, making the right decisions and doing what has to be done to get by in life. I found that I was so absorbed in Shorty's tale that i didn't care about the parts set in the past as much, which was both good and bad: Good because it proved that the present part of the story was fantastically written but bad because it detracted from the story slightly, for me it the parts set in the past just kind of disrupted.

What did make the past and present very interesting was the supernatural aspects, I was very interested in the religion and the way that it is described and integrated, I took you away from this gritty tale a little and for me I found myself wondering whether the supernatural was actually true or just a false belief... in a good way, it added a level of intrigue and originality to the book.

I loved how honest this book was, I have never been to Haiti but from the descriptions (mixed in with what i know about slums from my college course in Geography yes, I counted reading this as revision) I could totally imagine Site Soley, I could envision the gang culture and I loved a book whether the gangs are the good guys as well as the bad guys, where they can be related to and developed and I think that's what I liked.

Even though we're simply reading Shorty's memories, I loved the way we could see his view on life changing from having lows and highs to this level of hope at the end. It wasn't my type of book, but I completely and utterly loved it.

Overall, heartbreaking and heartwarming. This was a book that looked deep into basic survival in a totally new way. Based off real events with fictional characters, this is a book that is both relevant and totally original.

Overall rating: B

To be released January 5th by Bloomsbury.
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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