Review: A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay SmithA Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith
Published by Roaring Brook Press on October 25, 2016
Genres: Historical, Fantasy, Contemporary, Time Travel, Thriller
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository
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four-stars

A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.

No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.

All of Lindsay Smith’s books have sounded really good to me, but A Darkly Beating Heart is the first one I’ve actually managed to make it through. Her concepts thrill me, but the writing has, heretofore, left me a bit cold. A Darkly Beating Heart captured me immediately and didn’t let go. This book is dark, beautiful, and soaked in rage. It was the most perfect book I could have picked up in the wake of the election, distracting, decidedly about something else, but allowing me to indulge in all the anger I feel. So yeah, if you’re pissed about how things have gone in the US, and you want to read a book as angry and dark as your heart right now, you cannot go wrong with A Darkly Beating Heart.

The best comparison I have for A Darkly Beating Heart is Leah Raeder/Elliott Wake’s Black Iris. Both feature rage-fueled bisexual, female protagonists who have been betrayed by people around them. Their motives and circumstances are massively different, but there’s an undercurrent to both books that’s quite similar. Smith doesn’t quite have Raeder’s poetic prose, but there’s much more dark poetry to her prose in this book than was present in her prior books. There are a number of really gorgeous lines and perfect metaphors for Reiko’s madness (and I mean this word both ways).

Though I know that I’m not a mood reader anymore (I read by a very strict schedule and rarely deviate), I highly urge you to pick up this book when you’re in the mood for something angry. A Darkly Beating Heart is the book equivalent of turning on your angry playlist, full of songs that you scream along to when someone or something has pissed you off. It’s cathartic in the same way too, ultimately, letting you get those dark feelings out without actually doing anything terrible. If you’re not in the mood for that, I can imagine this book being a real struggle.

Reiko’s fucking angry. She’s enraged. She hates absolutely everyone and everything. That’s a hard narrator to take. There are reasons why she’s this way, but she’s going to be like this for basically all of the book, though there is a character arc because obviously. But seriously, expect Reiko to hate everyone and everything around her, to hate them with a fiery, burning passion. This book is dark, bloody, gruesome, even when nothing’s happening at all. You really can feel that dark heartbeat running through the pages, which is a masterful effect.

Rei’s living in Japan during her “gap year” of sorts, though mostly she just had to get away from her life in America. It’s not like she’s any more interested in her parents’ home country of Japan. Even though she’s been there for a couple of months, Rei barely speaks any Japanese, which earns her a special loathing. She loathes the fake politeness, and her cousin’s attempt to become an idol, which she grudgingly helps out on. In pursuit of Aki’s goal to become famous, her crew (aka coworkers paid to help her), including Rei, head to the small, historic village of Kuromagi. I really don’t feel qualified to comment on the portrayal of Japan and the Japanese. The book’s definitely soaked in hatred, but that’s Rei’s, and the one thing I can say for certain is that A Darkly Beating Heart isn’t full of stereotypes.

The plot’s probably what I’m least into, because it doesn’t quite have the majesty of the rest of the book. I’d have liked to see Rei figure out a way through this without the time traveling intervention of Miyu, quite honestly. The way everything resolves felt a bit rushed and easy for someone as fucked up as Rei. That said, I was totally sucked in to both the historical and modern timelines, and I totally didn’t see some of the twistier things coming.

Though I hate running behind on my ARCs, I’m so glad I got to A Darkly Beating Heart when I did. I really needed it. This book is awesome, and I’m super glad I kept trying Lindsay Smith books until I found the one for me.

Favorite Quote:

She showed me that all the tangled-up feelings I had for other humans didn’t have to stay inside my head. That I could trail love on her skin and smear hate on the canvas in a vicious dance, hot and cold.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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