Title: Soul in Darkness
Author: Wendy Higgins
Genre: New Adult/Romance/Fantasy
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Notable Notables: Greek mythology retelling
Recommended Readers: Hmm… I cannot do this.
Oh, beautiful cover that matches my tastes, oh, Wendy Higgins, how did we go so wrong here?
First, the details. Soul in Darkness is a retelling of the Cupid/Psyche myth. Y’know, the one where Venus gets super jealous of this mortal princess, Psyche, because the people are worshiping her and praising her beauty over Venus? The one where Venus punishes Psyche by marrying her to a monster that she cannot see and is forbidden to touch, unaware that it’s Cupid, Venus’ son, in disguise? The one where Psyche breaks the rules and has to undergo a series of grueling tasks to prove to Venus that she truly loves Cupid, before she knew he was a beautiful god?
Okay, great, you’re caught up because the book follows the myth less like a retelling and more like a checklist.
This might have been a two-star review, might, if I hadn’t had to endure Psyche being maybe five days pregnant and suddenly acting like she’s in her third trimester. I get it, I get it, it’s “in the myth,” but could Higgins have at least tried to make it bearable to read? Or better yet, shown a hint of originality and done away with it altogether like she did with other elements of the myth she chose to ignore?
Really, the over-glorification and glamorization of pregnancy and motherhood taking place here are sickening enough, but what I really can’t stand are these romances that can’t seem to go without throwing a damn baby in the mix like it’s the only One True Happy Ending that women could ever have or ever strive for. Heaven forbid a couple have time to get to know each other before the bouncing baby brat arrives—especially an immortal couple. They’ve got the time to wait.
If I sound bitter, it was because this was the final nail in a coffin already chock full of nails. I can’t believe someone could take the Cupid/Psyche myth—could take a mortal/immortal relationship and a seemingly monster romance—and make it utterly boring. Psyche spends the majority of her time with pretty much nothing to do except sulk, pine, and worry. Even when Cupid was there, their interactions added nothing to the page, with the god being reduced only to his insta-love for Psyche.
Aside from being boring, the prose was utterly childish. Reading from Psyche’s POV was like reading from a hysterical 12-year-old rather than an adult princess who’s fearful of her situation but mature enough to handle it. That last part kind of matters to me since this book also deals with the mature topics of, y’know, explicit sex. (And yes, the sex was bad and immature, too… Not even the god of desire and erotic love could bring any amount of sizzle to the page.)
No, instead of a potentially dark, mature romance, I had to suffer through an already flaccid, whipped god pinning pathetically after a shrieking girl, whose “purity” and “innocence” could only be shown by making her as childlike as possible. Talking to and giggling with trees. Swimming with dolphins. Being gifted with a puppy and kitten because she’s so afraid and lonely. Reading this was sickening. I seriously need people to understand that showing purity and naiveté in a character—especially if they’re female—goes beyond liking animals and having them act like they’re 12.
In fact, there was barely anything about this Psyche that made her interesting. (I probably should’ve known that by having to endure the author’s in-text pronunciation guide for how to say her name that we would be off to a bad start.) I can’t tell you why Cupid fell in love with her other than her “bright soul” because there was nothing to her except being beautiful and “pure,” whatever that actually means.
As for Cupid himself, here is a case of an author creating a character with a “bad boy persona,” except the reader never actually sees him do anything bad. We hear about the bad things he’s done “in the past,” like weaponizing love on unworthy mortals and making them fall for the wrong people, but that’s it. Other than his insta-love for his romantic interest, there’s nothing else there. Nothing but the sad, frail illusion of danger that has absolutely no substance.
Also, what time period is this actually taking place in? What tone does this book want to have? I can’t tell you, because in between trying to have Pretentious Old World Ways of Speaking, the prose and dialogue throw anachronistic speech all over the place. My head whiplashed at Psyche telling Cupid to “have a good day at work” when she still thought he was a winged serpent (despite the fact that she constantly noted hearing his footsteps, and what kind of serpent has feet???) and then again when Venus said that killing humans “wasn’t her style.” I’m sorry, is this Ancient Rome or the 1950s in the U.S.? Where am I?
To be honest, though, the author choosing to actually plant this story during Ancient Rome, when it would’ve already been a myth, instead of much earlier in human history struck such a wrong chord with me. This would be like if the Hades/Persephone myth was set in Ancient Greece when seasonal change from spring, summer, fall, and winter was already a thing. It was just Not Right, fam.
But anyway, maybe there’s people out there who’ll dig this, and if so, good for you. I, on the other hand, need so much more, and I’ve been told I’m honestly not hard to please—my bar is so low.
So when it’s time to bury me, I want the romance genre to carry my coffin and lower me into my grave so it can let me down one last time.