Initial reaction: Highly engaging and original story. Probably one of my favorite vampire stories. 4.5 stars overall.
I remember back in 2016 when I first read Silvia Moreno-Garcia's "Certain Dark Things" that I was blown away by how rich the writing, worldbuilding, and characterization were in this action-packed novel. Even as I revisit the novel today in a different format (audiobook, which was very well narrated by Dan Bittner), I'm still left feeling with a sense of wonder and wanting to dive more into this universe while following the characters and the vision of Mexico and Mexico City depicted here. I wish that this story (now out of print) would be brought back into circulation so that more people could have the chance to experience this for themselves. It's one of the most original and fascinating vampire novels I've read in a long time.
To build a bit of background, in this universe vampires are real and they have been discovered since the 1970s, living and thriving in different parts of Mexico. There are many different types of vampire groups, many of whom you do not want to cross in the wrong path whether you're human or vampire, especially since they are in rival gangs with their own motivations and alliances. Domingo, a sweet, naive, but well meaning protagonist, is a clumsy human who happens to cross paths one fateful night with Atl in Mexico City. Atl is descended from Aztec vampires and walks her own path with her dog Cualli, only really seeing Domingo as a means to an end at first, but she keeps him around. Technically, vampires are banned inside Mexico City, so Atl keeps a low profile, but the two of them meeting sets off an unlikely camaraderie which leads the two into a whirlwind of trouble while crossing paths with rival vampire gangs. Atl's journey is especially heavy as she's on the run from those who want to capture or kill her. She persistently seeks aid after a tragedy befalling her family and left not knowing whom she can trust. Domingo follows her and her dog willingly, fascinated by her intrigue and wanting to know more about her, but ends up learning more than he thought he would about the underground workings of the narco-vampire gangs.
This book is written in third person, and follows a colorful cast of characters which I enjoyed watching. Ana was another character I enjoyed following, a cop who endures a lot of difficult circumstances in the pursuit of several crimes committed by the vampire gangs and her determination to discover the truth of things. Nick, one of the antagonists of the novel, is truly sinister and hell bent on capturing/killing Atl for his own reasons, yet I also found myself following his perspective to see how events would unfold through the novel.
One caveat of "Certain Dark Things" I found overall was the open nature of the ending, which made me think there could be more stories down the line in this universe given the fate of some of the characters (others...not so much considering they meet some pretty brutal ends). If there's a chance of that happening, I would love to follow it, since the action scenes were strong, the characterizations were solid, the building of the different groups of vampires, their lore and history were very well drawn, and it felt like a solid entry in urban fantasy that I wanted to revisit long after I put the book down.
Definitely glad to have this as a part of my library and I look forward to reading more of Moreno-Garcia in the future. For me, it was a wonderful introduction to her work.
Overall score: 4.5/5 stars.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher. I also purchased a copy of the book in audio.