TRUTH IN THE DARK by Amy Lane
Truth in the Dark by Amy Lane
Reviewed by Cassie
Naef, known as Knife, is ugly in both body and spirit. Twisted by constant cruel treatment by others, he begins to revel in his outcast state, going out of his way to scare others into leaving him alone. The only thing that brings him any pleasure at all is his woodcarving, a skill in which he is unmatched. Then a handsome sailor comes to town and falls in love with Naef’s sister, Gwen, and everything changes.
In order for Gwen to consent to marry, Naef agrees to be companion to the suitor’s strange cousin, Aerie-Smith, for one year, and to perform one “regrettable task” at the end of that time. Although Aerie-Smith has been cursed to look like a lion that walks like a man, he is kind and generous to Naef. Naef begins to think maybe the year won’t be so bad—until the curse on Aerie-Smith’s island affects him too. His body suddenly perfect, Naef learns that sometimes the truth can only be found in the dark.
Truth in the Dark is a dark, emotional fairy tale for grown-ups, and I absolutely loved it. Naef, who narrates the story, is the most bitter, hateful, and angry narrator I’ve ever encountered. Life has beaten him down to such an extent that he constantly lashes out at others before they can hurt him. Even so, he adores his mother and sister so much that he puts them ahead of himself. He’s confused and horrified when his body is changed by the curse, because at least when he was ugly he knew his place in the world. Despite Naef’s abrasive personality and constant anger, I adored him. How could I not like someone so sarcastic and damaged, and yet with such a yearning for love? Aerie-Smith, who Naef regards as a lion-god, is a good man who made a mistake years ago. Since then, he’s been trying to find a way to save his people from the curse. He truly cares for Naef, whether he’s handsome or hideous, but he is keeping a terrible secret.
Truth in the Dark takes fairy tale tropes and turns them on their head. This is no “Beauty and the Beast” tale. Both Naef and Aerie-Smith are beautiful, and both are beastly, in their own ways. The elements of curses and magic are combined with internal conflict to create an enthralling story. I found myself chuckling at times, and tearing up at others, while reading Truth in the Dark. As the end approached, I wondered if there could be a truly happy ending, and if so, what form would it take? I won’t spoil the ending here, but I will say that it’s highly satisfying. Truth in the Dark is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I am happy to Joyfully Recommend it. Anyone who wants to reclaim a bit of fairy tale magic will be sure to love Truth in the Dark, as I did.