A Drop of Night
Author: Stefan Bachmann
Release: March 15th 2016
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Historical, YA
Seventeen-year-old Anouk has finally caught the break she’s been looking for—she's been selected out of hundreds of other candidates to fly to France and help with the excavation of a vast, underground palace buried a hundred feet below the suburbs of Paris. Built in the 1780's to hide an aristocratic family and a mad duke during the French Revolution, the palace has lain hidden and forgotten ever since. Anouk, along with several other gifted teenagers, will be the first to set foot in it in over two centuries.
Or so she thought.
But nothing is as it seems, and the teens soon find themselves embroiled in a game far more sinister, and dangerous, than they could possibly have imagined. An evil spanning centuries is waiting for them in the depths. . .
A genre-bending thriller from Stefan Bachmann for fans of The Maze Runner and Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods.
I'm sorry, but what was this supposed to be? Horror? Thriller? Because I didn't feel either of them. This is a book about five teenagers who go through hell, yet the reader stays as emotionally detached as possible. I didn't care one bit about these characters and their fate.
And you know what? I think horror movies need to pull you in in some way, even if it's only a need to find out who the sadistic bad guys are in the end, or because you sympathize with the characters and want them to get out safely. Neither was the case here. And it wasn't very thrilling either, because nothing ever made sense, I mean it, nothing. Some few things are revealed way towards the end, but at that point, I was already too far gone to care at all.
All this even though I hate high hopes for the novel. I read the premise, immediately liked it and bought it, and as I read the first few chapters, I was hooked. I really liked the story, the main characters Anouk and Aurélie, but as soon as the real action starts, there was a distance. And I blame that on the fact that everything went down so blasé and underwhelmingly. Anouk and the other four teenagers are whisked to France, have dinner and then are drugged right away. They wake up and escape into the torture chamber/underground dungeon. All of this happened in the first 10-15% and it just happened too suddenly. Usually, I complain about expositions that take too long, but this one wasn't fleshed out at all. I need some time to get a grip on the storytelling, get a feel for the characters, get used to the story, but nope. The pacing was jerky and jarring and it remains that way all throughout the novel.
At this point, it all starts to become pretty repetitive, too. Okay, so there are trap rooms scattered all throughout this hidden underground palace, and all the characters ever do is try to find an exit in which they traverse through this suicidal landscape and try not to die. It was a bit exciting for the first two rooms maybe, but after that, the poison gas or mirror labyrinths just weren't fun anymore and got boring instead. There are some connections that you make really early on, at least if you have half a functioning brain, such as that Anouk looks like a carbon copy of Aurélie from 1790 and thus, is either her reincarnated or a direct descendant from her, or what Perdu's identity is, as well as Dorf's. It's really not that big of a mystery and then Bachmann pulls this out at the very end like it's a huge, shocking reveal. It's not. And yet, then there are other questions that are either never answered at all or answered really vaguely and not satisfyingly. Such as, what role did Miss Sei play in this whole ordeal? (falls under the first category) or what are these tracker things, and also, what is l'homme papillon? (category two). The reason for why these teenagers were kidnapped was also very far-fetched as well, because no actual scientific explanations were given. Normally, I just roll with it, but since the rest of the novel made so little sense as well, it was really hard to do that.
The characters, oh, the characters. They were very two-dimensional and not even very interesting at that, even though almost all of these kids are geniuses (I think?) and have already graduated college at, like, 17. Yet there's not a lot of characterization, there are these sequences throughout the book where the characters tell each other a bit about themselves in case they die, so they won't be forgotten, but it just came across as some lazy excuse to add at least a little bit of depth to the otherwise shallow characters, and even though the main, POV character makes bitter remarks about her parents and childhood the whole fucking novelit's not revealed until 73% through why that even is, and by then, I was just really annoyed by her hateful attitude towards everyone and everything, even if her past was indeed shitty. And yeah, as I already said, I didn't care about any of them and it would have left me very cold if any of them would have died. Which is kind of a problem for a horror novel, because you're supposed to want the characters to make it out alive, you're supposed to root for them! And I didn't.
And then there's the historical aspect, the chapters that are told from Aurélie's point of view, who is the daughter of a marquis during the French revolution and kept prisoner in the underground palace for her own safety. Her chapters had some interesting peaks here and there, but all in all, it wasn't too exciting reading about her being locked up for ages. Literally, that's all her chapters are about. I thought maybe we would get a nice historical side story and setting as a bonus, but no. There's nothing about the French revolution, nothing about the setting revealed because Aurélie is only sitting around in her one room. Yeah ... wow, I know. Sounds thrilling, doesn't it?
All in all, this was a novel that seemed to be full of potential at first, but it quickly brushes all of it off and creeps along at a boring snail pace. It's not scary, it's not suspenseful, it does nothing. Nothing, I tell you.