"The things I draw: They tend to die."Draw the Dark had a much slower beginning than Ashes and it took me awhile to get my head around the story. For instance, somehow I missed that he was 17 and thought he was 12 until page 134, which was pretty confusing when I realised he was much older than I was picturing. That being said, by about the midway point my interest was peaked and I was starting to have a hard time putting the book down.
There are things the people of Winter, Wisconsin, would rather forget. The year the Nazis came to town, for one. That fire, for another. But what they'd really like to forget is Christian Cage.
Seventeen-year-old Christian's parents disappeared when he was a little boy. Ever since, he's drawn obsessively: his mother's face...her eyes...and what he calls "the sideways place," where he says his parents are trapped. Christian figures if he can just see through his mother's eyes, maybe he can get there somehow and save them.
But Christian also draws other things. Ugly things. Evil things. Dark things. Things like other people's fears and nightmares. Their pasts. Their destiny.
There's one more thing the people of Winter would like to forget: murder.
But Winter won't be able to forget the truth, no matter how hard it tries. Not as long as Christian draws the dark...
My one iffy point on the story was how everyone so easily accepted what Christian was able to do. If it's not the whole town condemning him as evil, over some very loose reasons, then it's a doctor/psychologist who's immediately convinced he can draw people to death. Though, just like Ashes, Bick makes a strong effort to explain the whole thing in scientific and medical ways, I just didn't feel she was as successful or that her characters would believe it as easily as they did. Also I felt like a more thorough description of the death of his teacher was needed earlier on to both explain the towns loathing of him and to up the mystery/horror aspect sooner.
The historical aspects of Draw the Dark were fascinating though. Ilsa explores how Prisoners of War were brought to the States for labor after WWII, and the kinds of problems that created in communities where the PW's were German and the town had a large Jewish community. She also talks a fair amount about the histories of Unions and a lot of the strife that caused both in towns and between religious groups. I had no idea PW's were so common across the rural United States as labor forces and it opened up some really intriguing bits of history for me.
In the end I didn't love Draw the Dark as much as Ashes, it had some engrossing moments, a lot of intriguing history and some characters that grew on me but I felt like the story just didn't sell me on Christian's paranormal drawing skills. Also I felt a bit confused by his relationship with Sarah (she blew really hot and cold for no apparent reason), and by his age which might have been a total lapse on my part early on but really screwed the story up for me.
Love the cover though!
Draw the Dark, by Ilsa J. Bick
Published by Carolrhoda Books, September 2010
Buy Draw the Dark on Amazon