In her best-selling debut, Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire, Margot Berwin brought us to the rain forests of Mexico—to a land of shamans, spirit animals, and snake charmers—in the search for nine rare and valuable plants. Now, with her hotly anticipated second novel, Berwin takes us somewhere darker: deep into the bayous of Louisiana, to a world of fortune-tellers, soothsayers, and potent elixirs. Scent of Darkness is a magical, seductive story about the power of scent, and about what happens when a perfume renders a young woman irresistible.
Evangeline grows up understanding the extraordinary effects of fragrance. Her grandmother Louise is a gifted aromata, a master of scent-making and perfume. When Eva was a girl, Louise carefully explained that lavender under her pillow would make her dream of the man she would marry; eucalyptus would make her taller; almandine, fatter; and jasmine, Louise promised, would wrap her life in a mystery. When Eva is eighteen, Louise leaves her the ultimate gift—a scent created just for her. The small perfume vial is accompanied by a note in Louise’s slanted script: “Do not remove the stopper, Evangeline, unless you want everything in your life to change.”
From the moment Eva places a drop—the essence of fire, leather, rose, and jasmine—on her neck, men dance closer to her, women bury their noses deep into her hair, even the cats outside her bedroom cry to be near her. After a lifetime spent blending into the background, Eva is suddenly the object of intense desire to everyone around her. Strangers follow her down the street; a young boy appears at her door asking for a favor; and two men, one kind and good, the other dark and seductive, fall deeply, madly in love with her. As her greatest gift becomes an unbearable curse, Eva must uncover the secret of her scent and the message her grandmother, the woman who loved her most, wanted to tell her.
A bewitching tale of love, blood, power, and magic, Scent of Darkness is a wildly inventive novel that will seduce the reader’s every sense.
Review: A very unique story, Scent of Darkness is told in an abstract sort of way that almost leaves the interpretation of the story and its characters to the reader, allowing different readers to take away different ideas. This is how I felt as I read and finished the story in any case. The writing style that Margot Berwin uses in Scent of Darkness flows rather beautifully, almost like a novel in prose. Both of these aspects are what truly stand out for me and made the story unique and unlike anything else that I have read before. Was this a positive or a negative? Honestly, a bit of both. Let me explain. Overall, I enjoyed the story very much and found it to be entertaining. It was also a very quick read for me, grabbing from the beginning and intriguing me until the end. I also enjoyed the prose-like style. An example of the abstract type of prose is as follows: “Human beings are defenseless against scent. They can’t hide from it because they can’t see it, or touch it, or hold it. All by itself it crawls into their brains, and by the time they’re in love with it, or the person it’s coming from, it’s too late. They’re tied to it forever, through the long, tight leash of memory.” This is taken from the first page and sets a fairly representative tone of the entire story, I feel.
Imagine a scent that is created just for you; a scent that takes over your body, your life and changes each and every aspect forever. Scent of Darkness is Eva’s story; the story of how a few drops of scent, created just for her, by her Grandmother, creeps through every pore, every vein, and every milliliter of her body. The effect not only changes her, but all of those around her – strangers, lovers, and friends, humans and animals are captivated and obsessed by Eva. Scent of Darkness is the story of how passion blinds and can create or destroy lives.
I truly loved the way that the author uses scent and the craft of creating scent to weave her story. I found this rather fascinating to be honest. The character development was interesting and I found myself really liking Gabriel, the friend turned lover of Eva. Michael, the passionate and rather greedy artist I found to be both on the likeable side as well as the distasteful side. Eva, I simply could not attach myself to. I actually found myself wanting to smack her a few times because, to me, she seemed incredibly self-centered. Keep in mind, this is completely my own personal opinion and thoughts and others may find themselves intrigued and like Eva. I do want to say that I loved the ending and commend the author on the excellence of it.
Overall, the story was very well crafted and enjoyable. I would recommend Scent of Darkness to anyone who enjoys paranormal/mystical types of stories and is looking for something unique. Would I read this author again? Yes, I would love to compare her writing style with this work with her other works.
Favorite Quote: So, my name is Eva, from the longer and more beautiful Evangeline. And for me, the scent I found held my past, present, and future in its ethereal little hand.