Truth in the Dark by Amy Lane

Title: Truth in the Dark
Author: Amy Lane
Buy link: Amazon.com
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Paranormal M/M Romance
Length: Novel / 200 pages
Rating: 5+ out of 5


A guest review by Kassa


THE BLURB:

“I am not beautiful…”

Knife’s entire existence has been as twisted as his flesh and his face. The only thing beautiful in his life is his sister. When Gwennie is obliged to turn a suitor down because she fears to leave her brother to the brutality of their village, Knife is desperate for anything to ensure her happiness.

Her suitor’s cousin offers him a way out, but it won’t be easy. Aerie-Smith has been cursed to walk upright in the form of a beast, and his beloved village suffers from the same spell. Aerie-Smith offers Gwen a trousseau and some hope, if only Knife will keep him company on his island for the span of a year and perform one “regrettable task” at year’s end.

Knife is unprepared for the form the island’s curse takes on his own misshapen body. In one moment of magic, he is given the body of his dreams—and he discovers that where flesh meets spirit and appearance meet reality, sometimes the only place to find truth is in the darkness of a lover’s arms.

THE REVIEW:

Truth in the Dark is one of my favorite stories of the year. Lane takes the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast and makes a story that is moving, emotional, funny, raunchy, and filled with all the expected life lessons. It’s also terribly romantic, which suits the soft spot in my heart for these types of stories. While the story likely never would have worked as a contemporary, keeping the magical atmosphere lets readers suspend all disbelief and sink into the core of why everyone loves fairy tales. If you’re the type that devours “love conquers all” romance stories, you’ll simply adore this one.

The story is told in first person from Knife’s point of view. Knife, or Naef, is a classic Quasimodo type character. He is hunchbacked with a clubbed foot, pock marked face so scarred it tugs his mouth to the side. He’s an angry, unhappy man that’s grown bitter and fearful towards the world. When his devoted, beautiful sister Gwen rejects her chance at happiness due to her loyalty towards Knife, he is determined to do something to free her. His chance comes from a cousin of Gwen’s suitor. The cousin, Aerie-Smith, offers Knife the opportunity to be a companion for a year. This affords Gwen and their mother the chance to leave their small seaside port and let Gwen marry her love. Yet there is an unknown deed Knife is expected to perform at the end of the year, one that may change his life forever.

The story is rather predictable and the dastardly deed is actually obvious within the early pages. Yet for all the obvious clues and directions, I can’t say I minded at all. The plot follows Knife as he and Aerie-Smith return to A-S’s enchanted island. Once there, the human subjects are actually enchanted animals. Where once humans roamed and did business, there are now goats, lions, leopards, pigs, monkeys, and so on. Aerie-Smith is desperately trying to save his people’s humanity by reminding them of what they truly are while hoping to find a way to break the curse. I love this fairy tale inclusion and the story offers numerous clever and amusing details that help create a fully descriptive and engaging world.

The characters are well defined and developed from the supporting cast to the main players. Aerie-Smith is arguably the typical hero with his lion-god good looks. His curse has exposed his arrogance and he’s now the epitome of a lion. His paws and fur are lushly described so it’s clear that Knife is taken by the lion looks but soon he learns to care for the man himself. A-S is a bit too good to be true, which follows the fairy tale. It’s somewhat over the top and if anything, A-S is the least nuanced of characters but not by much. His gentle care and unending patience with Knife really shine. The opposite side of this is the truly fascinating character of Knife. Knife is without a doubt an ugly, scarred, deformed man. He’s no hero and he’s allowed himself to become bitter and scared so his “inside matches his outside.”

The story is really Knife’s redemption as he’s given his greatest desire and learns to become a different man. His unabashed love for Aerie-Smith doesn’t make life easier in many ways and the way he clings to his barbed comments no matter what create a brittle but entertaining man. He’s such an exaggeration in a story pushing the limits that I couldn’t help but appreciate his complexity. He’s not a hero you want to root for but he’s one that you end up liking almost despite him. Like Aerie-Smith, the reader falls a little in love with Knife and his deformed, twisted self so when the only possible ending happens, well it brought a tear to my eye. In the airport no less!

Here the writing is what stands out the most, beyond the great romance and fascinating characters. The story is absorbing and enjoyable on its own but I couldn’t help but think what a great writer Lane is. The prose and ability to blend raunchy, raw language with classic romance and quirky magical details, such as the parrot major domo, never failed to capture my delight and interest. This is close to a feast for all the senses. The quick pace and even hand keeps the tone seamless from light hearted and laughter to dark and sinister and even wringing a few emotional tears. It doesn’t really matter that the ending and plot are easily predictable since the journey is so worthwhile and enchanting. The writing sucks you in immediately and never lets go. The story also shows that just because you fall in love, life is not always easy and happy ever after. I liked that the characters, Knife in particular, continue to struggle and doubt but ultimately decides to take a chance.

While the story follows the outlines of the well loved fairy tale, it also establishes itself as something new and just as wonderful. Truth in the Dark is about loving the person within despite great obstacles and believing in yourself. While these may be slightly corny and well used life lessons, Lane offers them in an entertaining and totally absorbing manner.

38 comments

  • Ok, I’m stepping out of my comfort (i.e. lurker)zone and commenting b/c a) Wave’s Friday post and more importantly b) this book was AMAZING. I was interested and your review validated that interest. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but blurbs can be misleading, LOL! I actually bought this way back in July and finally read it yesterday. Your review was spot on. The whole book I did ‘know’ what was coming but it was soooo beautifully written that I didn’t care. I was swept up in Knife’s unhappy beginning so much that I was in tears a few pages in. I loved the sweet romance and was bawling like a baby near the end. After ‘the regrettable task’ I expected that to be the end but it wasn’t and Amy Lane did a fantastic job continuing to a very satisfying ending. So thank you for the review and thank you Amy Lane for an incredible book.

    Reply
  • I’m late for the party, as usual, but just had to comment on this book for two reasons: 1) I was lucky enough to win the free copy [Thanks Wave, Dreamspinner Press & Amy Lane!], and 2) the story was wonderful on so many levels. It was just beautifully done.

    I am not one who reads fantasies, shifters, vampires, etc, so for me to not only get into the book, but to love it says something about the quality of the writing. I may not have shed physical tears, but rest assured my heart wept in a few places. This passage in particular gutted me:

    I was terrified of my weakness, of my sharp tongue, of my every flaw. I was terrified that this moment, my chance to live in happiness for however short a time we may have had, would be ruined because I was simply not carved out of the same wood as happiness, and that my grain was too twisted to ever take its form.

    I love that Naef (okay, fine–Knife–) fights his personal growth kicking and screaming, but only where his own twisted sense of self is concerned. With the villagers, he’s always kind-hearted. The explanation of Aerie-Smith’s name was a brilliant “Ah-ha!” moment I truly appreciated.

    This is a book I probably never would have picked up on my own, but am so thrilled to have. I know I will read it several times more. So, again, thank you to Wave & DSP for the free copy, and, most especially, to Amy Lane for the gift that is this story.

    Reply
    • You’re very welcome–writing it was a joy. And thank you–it means a lot to me to hear that my work touched someone, and carries emotional weight. Thanks so much for commenting and letting me know that this story moved you–this is one of the reasons I write. (The other reason is that people like Knife just do NOT stop talking in my head! Grumpy bastard–I’m glad he found his HEA!)

      Reply
  • Wow, even the blurb sounds lush and fascinating. I think I’ll have to get this one. It sounds fantastic! Congrats, Amy!

    Reply
    • I’m really pleased with this fairy tale theme of DSP’s… can’t wait to read more. Though I have Lily White in my hot little hands today too .. choices! Hope you enjoy this one.

      Reply

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