Author: Patrick Carman
Genre: YA, paranormal, thriller
Publication Date: April 24, 2012 (Paperback – HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided finished copy
Summary: When Will Besting approaches Fort Eden for the first time, he knows something isn’t right. With more terrifying secrets at every turn, he discovers a hidden fear deep inside himself, a dark mystery a thousand years in the making, and the unexpected girl of his dreams. But can he save everyone from the dangers of Fort Eden before it’s too late?
☆: 2/5 stars – interesting concept, poorly executed.
Review: I had pretty high hopes for this one, guys, not gonna lie there. “Dark Eden” promised a paranormal thriller, and while the paranormal was in there, the thriller really just wasn’t. I did give it the old college try, though. I even tried coming back to it a year after I initally read it, willing to give it another try. But while the plot was interesting (though not entirely original), its execution was so poor that it just wasn’t enough to keep me reading.
My biggest issue was the narration, and thus, how we connected to the main cast and the world. We see the world and characters through the eyes of Will, a kid whose fear has to do with other people, so basically most of the book is him literally watching the other kids overcoming their fears through a camera. I feel like he really kind of told more than he showed, and that was unfortunately enabled by his lack of action/tension. We were, essentially, just watching through his eyes. And waiting. Lots of waiting. And because of that, there was only enough tension a camera could create as he didn’t really interact with anyone until very, very late into the book.
Basically, I expect more from YA at this point when it comes to characters, worldbuilding, and the like, and I just feel like Carman phoned this one in a bit – mostly from the character angle. The rest of the characters didn’t even really feel like real people, due to the fact that we were observing them with Will through the camera most of the book. Their depth was about as deep as a cookie sheet, and that’s always incredibly disappointing seeing as the main cast is pretty important to the plot as a whole. Because of their lack of depth, I couldn’t connect with them. Even though using fear is usually a pretty powerful motivator for tension-building in a story, it felt just wasted here because we didn’t get to really interact with everyone directly.
The world was probably the strongest part of the book – that, and the sensory imagery and language when Carman chose to use it. The world was very lushly furnished with a very interesting backstory – but that all-important backstory (the thing which made Fort Eden important to us) just came too late into things for me to connect with. However, Carman does know how to build a world very well, it’s just his timing that was really off. The times he did choose to use his sensory imagery skills were some of the best parts of the book – they were the creepiest, most realistic parts of it, even when fantastic. I loved Fort Eden and how very dark it was, and in that area, Carman did very well. I just wish we’d gotten to experience more of it sensorily instead of just sitting and watching it all.
Final verdict? If you’re looking for a creepy paranormal thriller, you might want to look elsewhere. While the idea was great and the plot was interesting, the execution just kind of sank the whole thing for me. But this is just my take on things. “Dark Eden”, and its sequel, “Dark Eden: Eve of Destruction” are both on sale now in North America though HarperTeen, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance, and come to your own conclusion about things.