Patient 331 - New, confused. His powers unknown.
Patient 289 - No longer viable in the test pool, he remains in isolation.
Patient 77 - Reclassified to staff status. Useful, malleable.
Confined in a sterile research facility and treated like a lab rat, Chris is alone and terrified. His special powers are his only escape, allowing him to psychically connect with other patients.
Alone in his cell for longer than he can remember, Vance is hungry. When newcomer Chris makes a mental connection, Vance is intrigued and soon wants more than just conversation.
Chris and Vance seek comfort with each other, and with Simon-the only staff member who's shown them a hint of compassion. Their relationships develop during stolen moments, and they turn their thoughts to escape. But as Dr. Dalhousie's madness spirals, more than cell walls threaten to keep them apart...
I believe everyone knows of the old saying 'you should never judge a book by it's cover'. Me? Well, I tend to pointedly ignore this little gem of advice. In truth, most of the novels I choose to read come from one of two categories if not both. First, the cover. Beautiful covers tend to win me over quickly and I can't seem to resist the allure they present. Secondly, the synopsis. If a book sounds amazing then the chances are pretty high that I'm going to be reading it. This novel? Well, it fit both criteria and I couldn't help but request to review it and once again my system did not fail me.
In Darkness Bound by Christine Price is a wonderfully creepy novel that often surprised me. Something I really wasn't expecting when I first started reading it. The world Price builds is quite a bit larger then she leads the reader to believe at the beginning of the story and slowly the truths about the other 'patients' at the 4H laboratories are revealed. Truly the atmosphere created within this world was one of my favorite aspects. The labs are wonderfully depicted and extremely creepy. The silence of the compound is overwhelming as is the sterile emptiness that seems to lurk everywhere. This is only emphasized by Dr. Dalhousie who bring to life the concept of the Mad Scientist. With her ever deepening insanity there is a looming tension surrounding the characters. But, the doctor isn't the only character who adds to the ambiance. A patient who is referred to only as 'patient 66' also helps to build the horrific weight that lingers over the laboratory with his daunting whispers into the minds of the other patients pulling forth their fears. Often times these attributes led me to remember scenes from the asylums in horror movies with it's lingering feeling of unease.
However, despite the gruesome and bleak atmosphere the characters have a warmth about them that contrasts to the chilling environment. The main character Chris is somewhat optimistic after coming across Vance, a fellow inmate, and sets a somewhat lighter tone with some fantastically amusing comedic moments. But, it is the relationship between Chris, Vance and Simon that most interested me. As this was my first foray into a novel that focused solely on a same sex relationship I was a little uncertain about what to expect. I mean, when it comes to romance I want to feel the connection between characters and a cast of men, well, lets just say I was worried. Of course this turned out to be unfounded as I relished the relationships they formed, both separately and as a threesome. After reading some other reviews about this novel, however, I was a little confused that others had come to feel the fruition of the ménage relationship didn't work. I couldn't have disagreed more strongly. In fact throughout the novel I sort of felt it was necessary as separately the relationships weren't strong enough. Vance and Chris's relationship was passionate and aggressive while Chris and Simon's relationship was sweet and tender. The relationship between Vance and Simon was more akin to fire and water. While in the different pairings the relationships worked, I always felt that they would crumble after only a short time. Together however, there seemed to be a wonderful balance of passion and tenderness that made it more tempestuous and whole. Somehow the three men seem to complete each other and I really loved this aspect immensely.
Really the only downfall of the novel for me was the sometimes confusing point of view. The novel often shifts view between the three men as well as a team of agents who work for an entity called the Society. It is this entity that is suppose to be in charge of the laboratory, however the experiments of Dr. Dalhousie and the treatment of the men housed there are not known to them. In fact, they stumble upon the situation while investigating Chris's disappearance. While the point of view shifts help to move the novel along, in moments of action or passion it becomes confusing as to which character you are reading. It seems to jump randomly at these times and I found it a bit peculiar. However, this was only minor and the overall merit of the novel far out weighs this niggling detail.
In the end, this turned out to be a highly enjoyable read. The setting was adequately creepy and the novel had a great sense of suspense and romance about it that I loved. While the novel ends on a high note, there are still many threads left dangling which only makes me wonder if there may be a follow up to this story. I would definitely be pleased to return to the world that Price created and look forward to reading more from this author.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Scars
Advisory: Strong sexual content (m/m and m/m/m)