Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent by Lara Parker is based upon the old Dark Shadows TV series, and details the history of witch Angelique, and her relationship with vampire Barnabas.
Having never seen the Dark Shadows TV series, or the recent Dark Shadows movie starring Johnny Depp, I was a little confused when starting this book, as it seemed as if background knowledge of the characters was needed in order to fully connect with the story. There is very little introduction to the character of Barnabas or Angelique, with the book delving straight into the complex plot.
It begins with Barnabas in his present time, apparently having been recently cured of his vampirism and learning to adjust to life as a human once more. He is reminiscent about the past, thinking of Angelique and her influence over his life despite the fact that as a new reader I hadn’t been introduced to her character at this stage.
When he spots a shadowy figure in the grounds of his estate, he enters the uninhabited old house which he hasn’t entered for many years. Here he is overcome with emotion and burns the house to the ground, returning to his own mansion. The morning after, when the ruins are examined, he finds a diary which belonged to Angelique, and it is here that our story really starts.
We are thrown straight into Angelique’s history, which begins when she is taken from her mother at the age of nine and forced to follow her father to a sugar plantation. Here she is dressed as a goddess, where the African slaves pray to her whilst her father keeps her locked away in a tower. She is violently mistreated during her time at the plantation, making many escape attempts in a bid to flee her father.
Her story is interrupted with flashes to the present, with Barnabas reading the diary, but there are details mentioned in this present time that aren’t at all explored. The story is all Angelique’s, but I found myself not caring for her story, and would have liked to see more of Barnabas.
The book did pick up slightly after Angelique’s escape from the plantation, as she then meets Barnabas and we discover how he became a vampire, but I still wasn’t drawn into her story. She has the qualities of a sorceress, being able to cast spells similar to voodoo, with her magic using more dark qualities than light. It is often used to hurt others, and yet still I wasn’t interested in her character, despite this emotional drama.
After enduring a slow read to reach the end of the book, I started asking myself why I wasn’t more interested in Angelique, as her story is harrowing and emotional but was missing something. Partly I think this was because I had no prior knowledge of the characters, but there was something else that frustrated me more than that. This was the description used by the writer. It was overly excessive, with every point exaggerated too far. This was good at the beginning of the book for world-building, but then I found myself going several pages and wondering what was actually happening throughout all the detail.
Jasmine twined profusely through the iron enclosure, sweetly perfuming the air, and there was another aroma, of gardenias, tropical and heavy in the mist, blooming waxen on black bushes by the gate.
This is just one example of the description, and as you can see, this is all one overly long sentence. The book is full of descriptions like this, and when looking back at the events I found that they could have been summed up in a couple of sentences rather than pages, and the story wouldn’t have lost any of its value.
Overall the plot of this book didn’t impress me, as I didn’t form a connection to the character of Angelique. If there had been a page or two as a prologue to detail the events of the TV series then I might have fared better, but I feel like this book is better aimed at fans of the show.
I didn’t really enjoy this book as it dragged, making my reading very slow and laboured. The plot was erratic, jumping to different stages of Angelique’s life, and I found that I didn’t particularly care for the character or what was happening to her. Perhaps if you’ve seen the Dark Shadows TV series this book might be more appealing, but as a newcomer to the series I wasn’t impressed.
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