THE DARK GAME
I was really excited by the premise of ‘The Dark Game’ – horror mixed with my favourite subject – books! Ironically however, I found the writing to be a let down! My first problem was how predictable it all was – the reader and the characters can easily guess what is going on by chapter 3 and there is no big twist or reveal which deviates from that in any way throughout the book. I feel like the whole thing needed more setup – we needed the illusion of a normal, if slightly odd competition to start with which would have then added an element of tension, mystery and suspense as the book went forward.
There are also way too many characters – some of which are not developed at all. Trying to sort out 10 competitors, their backstories and the characters in their stories as well as Wells and his staff was confusing and difficult to do without writing it all down as you went. The fact that occasionally they were referred to by their surnames also didn’t help! Perhaps with a competition pool of 5 or 6 characters we would have gotten to know them a little more and their fates would have actually meant something to us as a reader. Wells himself was underdeveloped as well, we didn’t really get much of an introduction to him or the books he had written to make him a famous author so the references to his books near the end didn’t have half the impact it should have done.
The stories themselves were interesting but again felt underdeveloped, we only got a little hint of them in text form and then they were fully referenced to later on which made me feel like I’d missed a few chapters. I felt like we knew more about the characters backstories than the books they had written about. I did enjoy the backstories though and thought they were interesting and a nice way to bring the horror into the story.
My next problem was actually outlined as a bad writing technique a few times throughout the book -to quote: ‘This is titillation… you hoped the subject matter would conceal your lack of skill.’ It seems everything in the book links back to sex in some way and it actually makes for some really cringey scenes. I found myself crying with laughter at the phrase ‘he diddled himself expertly’ – not really what you want from a horror! Although sometimes it is needed for the story it is telling, I can’t help but feel that if most of the terrible sex references were edited down the words could be used to better tell the horror story most of the readers were expecting to read.
Overall The Dark Game is a missed potential, and it’s ironic that a story that features a competition on good writing could make so many writing mistakes. Thank you to NetGalley & Flame Tree Press for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for a (very!) honest review.