As I noted in both my Secret Circle review, as well as the Teaser Tuesday for Dark Visions, L.J. Smith’s work from the 90s dates very well, and that is what has made them a very good choice for re-releasing, as the publishers have been doing (also, they are very good themselves). Apart from tiny little things, like a lack of cellphones and in the case of Dark Visions a mention of MTV, it’s very easy to forget that these books were written in the early nineties – back when MTV actually played music. It’s a feeling that I found was quite a relief, after seeing more and more stories dating themselves so incessantly with the constant name-dropping. Dark Visions, like many others, shows that teenagers will be teenagers while other people and brands have dropped off the planet.
One thing I liked about Dark Visions was the absence of the “silver cord” and other related terms which have featured in L.J. Smith books – those who have read other LJS books like The Secret Circle and Night World will instantly know what I mean by this. I normally like the idea of the “soulmate principle”, to use the Night World term, but when one encounters it too often you can start to feel strangled by the red string. It was a refreshing change to see love not being a matter selected by some force on high and instead just the emotions of the heart. L.J. Smith has used love triangles in her stories before, and Dark Visions is another one in which the main female character torn between the good boy and the bad boy. But unlike in another of Smith’s work, The Forbidden Game, throughout the book I felt just as torn and confused about which boy Kaitlyn would and should pick as she did. Does she go for the good boy, full of sweetness and light, or does she go for the bad boy who’s conflicted about who he is and what he feels for her?
Speaking of the bad boy conflicted by emotions, Gabriel is one heck of a compelling character. The tagline says “not all vampires are out for blood” and Gabriel goes out and proves it with a vengeance. When he first appears it would be so easy to slot him into “that role” – the bad boy fresh out of juvie and ready to get his hate on – L.J. Smith lets him grow and develop as a character, even allowing us little glimpses into his head and slowly revealing the horrifying truth as to why he is “that guy”. And, unfortunately, it only gets worse for him and everyone else, and it becomes a powerful thrust behind plot and character development.
I’ve always loved the young men L.J. Smith creates in her stories, and Gabriel is no exception.
But Dark Visions is not just about the hot boys (although that is a wonderful part of it). It’s a story about being young and feeling out of place. I’m sure we can all understand Kaitlyn’s desire to be normal, quite possibly from having been in that position (just sans psychic abilities) at some point in our lives. And we also want to be important, a part of something bigger. L.J. Smith takes this idea and runs with it, taking these base ideas and turning them into a story first focusing on the small-range, personal threats and then expanding it to a grand threat which only our heroes can stand against. In the hands of a less capable author, some aspects here might easily become ridiculous, but L.J. Smith’s authorial hand is deft and it is a stronger and more enjoyable story because of it.
It’s difficult to write a review for a story when all you want to do is gush at how much you love it, so I suppose I will leave that as the last bit of a review. The most difficult reviews, I have found, are for the books you absolutely adored: Dark Visions is one of those.