Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin Book Review

Scent of DarknessScent of Darkness is moody, dark and mysterious and the type of book I like to read from time to time. The premise instantly reminded me of the novel Perfume, another book about the dangerous power of scent. In this story, a made-for-her fragrance changes a character’s life and makes her dangerously alluring to everyone in her path. Scent of Darkness drew me in, and I got lost in its magical spell. The New Orleans setting is an enchanting backdrop to the story.

Evangeline (Eva) is 18 and spends her summers with her grandmother Louise in New York. Her grandmother believes in magic and is a powerful perfumer. When she dies, she leaves Eva a bottle of custom scented perfume with a note of caution not to open it unless you want everything in your life to change. It would take a very strong person not to open that vial, and Eva is not that person. The fragrance has the essence of leather, rose and jasmine and becomes a part of her from the moment it touches her skin. Every person (or animal) near her becomes obsessed with her scent and wants to be closer to her. It’s like an extreme love potion.

Of course, Eva’s love life improves and her object of affection, Gabriel, a medical student, becomes infatuated with her. But things get complicated when another man, the artist Michael, enters her life. Once things get a little out of control, she needs help solving the mystery of the scent’s powers and discovering what her grandmother’s intent was with the magical perfume. Helping her is her tarot card reading teenage neighbor Levon, one of my favorite characters in the book.

This is not going to be a book for everyone- it has that dreamy, seductive quality of books such as Imaginary Girls, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and Perfume, and other books with magical realism. It also has a horror-esque, unsettling feeling to it. Most of the characters are cryptic and I felt somewhat detached, though the mystery of the plot kept me reading.

This book is technically in the Fiction category, however with it’s eighteen year old protagonist it has New Adult appeal. The writing is accessible, with short chapters, and a quick read at only 220 pages. The twisty plot unfolds like a horror movie and had me on edge. It’s the first book I’ve read by Margot Berwin (Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire) and it’s haunting, consuming and creative.

If Scent of Darkness sounds like your kind of book, let me know in the comments and I’ll send you my hardcover copy (US readers please). (UPDATE: Book has been claimed)

Thanks to Pantheon for the review copy. Scent of Darkness is available now in hardcover, e-book, or audiobook formats. Read more about it on Goodreads.

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8 thoughts on “Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin Book Review

  1. Caroline says:

    Thanks for the link, Lucy.
    I didn’t really see this as part horror novel but that’s spot on. Like you, I liked it but I felt it was a bit rushed, I didn’t have such a good feeling for the charcatres. Still, overall, it was enjoyable.

  2. Tammy Sparks says:

    I have not heard of this book, but it sounds pretty good. I remember reading Perfume quite a long time ago, and loved it. Great review, Lucy! (P.s. you don’t need to include me in the giveaway, I just wanted to comment:) I’m already behind with my reading LOL!

  3. This does sound good and like my kind of book (a mix of horror and gothic intrigue). If no one else wants it, I’ll take it!

    1. Lucy says:

      It’s yours, Rory! Drop me an email with your address. Can’t wait to hear what you think of it 🙂

  4. squee1313 says:

    Have you ever heard of “The Lantern”? When you said the story has a lot to do with scents and perfumes, I immediately thought of this book I read last year. The Lantern is not YA, but it is also a very rich and seductive book centered around an old mystery that the main character is compelled to solve. The main character is American, but the majority of the book takes place in France. I think I’ll check Scent of Dark, but here’s a link to The Lantern on Amazon if you’re curious.
    http://www.amazon.com/Lantern-Novel-Deborah-Lawrenson/dp/B007MXCETI

    1. Lucy says:

      The Lantern does look good, and sounds like it has a similar gothic vibe to Scent of Darkness. I do like books set in France too. Thanks for the rec!

  5. Omg, how have I not heard of this book? Moody, dark, mysterious, and comparisons to IMAGINARY GIRLS?! Sold. Thanks Lucy, I am adding this to my TBR now.

  6. squee1313 says:

    Honestly, I had to throw in the towel on this book about half way through. I don’t think it was supposed to be YA, but it felt like one, like the worst kind of one, meaning all the angst and emo of overdone teenage emotions. And not all the characters were teenagers, so what’s the excuse? I understand the point of the story was that the perfume was so magical that it made Evangeline irresistible to men, and maybe the author was trying to really highlight this point by making Evangeline a Total Mary Sue. It was like she was saying, “Look how boring this girl is, but just add a drop of this magic perfume and she becomes amazing” Only, she didn’t become amazing. She was still boring with no personality (except moping). There was no reason for anyone to like her other than the perfume. I’ve read that before and in that book her name was Bella.

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