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Review of Dark Sonata by F.R. Black

See full issue for 2017 06-12
by Katie Rose Guest Pryal

The Rundown

DARK SONATA begins on a stormy night in 1841, the night of a ball at the home of an English Duke. The Duke’s niece, Victoria—the daughter of the prior Duke, who died young—is an unwelcome orphan in the home, and is rumored to be a witch. Mostly, she’s abused by her adoptive family. Shortly after the ball begins, some evil folks overtake the party. It’s hard to feel bad for the partygoers even as bad things happen to them, in part because they’re decadent and wasteful, and in part because they’re so mean to Victoria.

Naturally, Victoria is not who she thought herself to be her whole life, and part of the novel is about figuring out just who and what she is. Another part is about saving the hero—or antihero—from his own worst tendencies. Adventures ensue, and world building happens, and there are demons and other interesting things. All of this would have been fine, but for a few major flaws in the book.

First, there were the sentence-level errors. The book needs a professional edit. More than once I felt disappointed that my enjoyment was squelched because of the relentlessness of errors: the dogs “have gone rouge”; the hero has a “steal gaze”; the hero “knew how to install fear”; and on it went. There were also many anachronisms in both facts and vocabulary that a good editor would catch.

Second, the book (which claims to be a romance novel) handles the heroine’s sexual agency in a troublesome fashion. In scene after scene, Victoria is terrified of the hero. She begs him to leave her alone. Unfailingly, he ignores her words and forces himself on her physically. She continues to be afraid of him—terrified. Sometimes, he physically abuses her, by choking or tossing her around. Yet, somehow, her body’s sexual responses override her fear.

This same scene—woman is afraid, woman says stop, man ignores woman, woman is still afraid, man’s lusty behavior turns woman’s fear into sexy times—replays over and over and over in the book, neither character changing—the hero did not grow less abusive. Victoria did not grow to have more agency.

The Recommendation

Adventures ensue, and world building happens, and there are demons and other interesting things. All of this would have been fine, but for a need for editing and a troubling relationship between the main characters.

The Rating Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars

3 Stars (out of 5): Pretty good. Sure, there were some issues, but it was still worth the read.

The Pros & Cons

Pros: Plot, Strong World-Building
Cons: Typos

The Links

F.R. Black : 2.99
More about Dark Sonata on UBR

The Reviewer

Katie Rose Guest Pryal

Katie Rose Guest Pryal is a novelist, journalist, editor, and lawyer living in Chapel Hill, NC. She is the author of the Hollywood Lights Series from Velvet Morning Press: ENTANGLEMENT, LOVE AND ENTROPY, and CHASING CHAOS. She contributes regularly to national publications such as QUARTZ and the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION.

Visit Katie Rose Guest Pryal‘s website.

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