Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Forever Yours
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: New Adult | Urban Fantasy
Mala LaCroix has spent her whole life trying to escape her destiny. As the last in a long line of "witch women," she rejects the notion of spirits and hoodoo and instead does her best to blend in. But when she finds a dead body floating in the bayou behind her house, Mala taps into powers she never knew she had. She's haunted by visions of the dead girl, demanding justice and vengeance.
Landry Prince has always had a crush on Mala, but when Mala discovers his sister, murdered and marked in some sort of Satanic ritual, he wonders if all the rumors about the LaCroix family are true. Yet after Mala uses her connection to the spirit world to identify his sister's killer, he starts to form his own bond to her . . . a very physical one. As they move closer to each other and closer to the truth, Mala and Landry must risk everything—their families, their love, and even their lives.
Isn't the cover art simply gorgeous?! Wouldn't you pick up the book just so you can look at it? I bet the print version is even better than the digital art, I hope the details are embossed too so it really pops out. Not only that, the rose against the dark and rustic background is expressive of how beautiful, dark, and creepy DARK PARADISE is, Angie Sandro's debut novel.
Set in the swamps of Louisiana, DARK PARADISE is more of a thriller than an action packed urban fantasy novel. Though Mala LaCroix is labelled as a witch, her abilities are more of the I-see-dead-people variety than serious hoodoo. Mala came from a line of women who have special abilities, they can see the dead, talk to the dead, call the dead, make a juju bag and some other tricks but nothing extraordinary. So don't expect spell casting or psychopomps, expect lots of haunting and goosebump inducing scenarios courtesy of Lainey Price though, the murder victim and sister of Landry Price. I love the creep factor of DARK PARADISE and combined with the murky and foreboding swamps of Louisiana, I could easily scare myself if I think about it too much.
The plot, conflict and resolution are great, I can't nitpick anything about it. From the start I was drawn to the story and furiously swiping at the pages because I want to get to the bottom of the mystery. Until the end, I have no idea who the culprit is, was it really a Satanic ritual? Why was Lainey Price murdered? Is Mala involved in the murder? I have no clue what's happening in the background as I was too engrossed with Mala and her coming to terms with her crift. That or my investigative skills and eye for detail are shot. I think it's a toss-up. Anyway, ASandro really wrote creeptastic scenarios where illusion/imagination and reality are blurred at the moment.
Overall, the characters are well crafted, except for Landry Price but I'll get to him later. Mala has this vulnerability about her that made her quite an endearing character. Her mother can hear and see the dead too but it got too overwhelming that it drove her to seek solace from a bottle and random men who'd pay for her service. They love each other though but it's heartbreaking to see Mala taking care of her mom when it should be the other way around. Then there's the usual judgmental neighbors and friends who are quick to believe that Mala's a witch and is up to no good.
Landry Price. He's gorgeous, a jock, and a champion of sorts. He should be the quintessential new adult hero who's got everything except his parents are messed up and all that tortured hero stuff. Yeah, I didn't care much for him and his character development is almost nil. Sure there's some posturing and chest puffing here and there, but nothing spectacular stood out that had my 21yo self weak-kneed and googly eyed. He's a good supporting character, I'll give him that.
Good thing the romance wasn't essential to the story so my feelings towards Landry didn't affect my DARK PARADISE experience. I love the darkness and mystery of the story although I hoped that the hoodoo went deeper than a juju packet, maybe I'll get that in the next installment. DARK PARADISE gave quite the impression, ASandro wrote a captivating dark world and I want more of it. Dark Sacrifice should be an interesting follow up, Mala embracing her crift (curse/gift) should make for a good read and I do hope Landry develops an interesting personality in book 2 if he's going to be her love interest.