Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publishing Date: November 2011
Genre: young adult, paranormal, gothic
I was obsessed.
It was as if he called to me, demanding I reach out and touch the brushstrokes of color swirled onto the canvas. It was the most exquisite portrait I’d ever seen–everything about Lord Denbury was unbelievable…utterly breathtaking and eerily lifelike.
There was a reason for that. Because despite what everyone said, Denbury never had committed suicide. He was alive. Trapped within his golden frame.
Natalie Stewart, a mute and social outcast, works with her father in the Manhattan Metropolitan Museum of Art, which recently acquired a beautiful painting of the stunningly handsome Lord Denbury. Natalie is drawn to the painting, and it’s not until she meets Mrs. Northe that she is able to understand why. A series of terrifying dreams, a stream of murders, and the only way to stay sane is to fall into a painting, this twist on Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray is magical to the core.
While I loved this new perspective on Wilde’s classic, seeing what it would be like to be trapped mentally within a painting while the evil and physical portion corrupts in the real world, I found Natalie’s voice lacking. Hieber’s choice to write in a diary form is justified — that form of documentation was common for women in the Victorian era and is a common aspect of gothic literature (all the truth is revealed in a woman’s diary) — it was poorly executed. Who truly remembers every single detail and word said in a conversation? Normally things like this are paraphrased.
The haunting aspects of this book are in Natalie’s dreams. She never witnesses murders, but is able to predict them and sees how they will be murdered while she’s dreaming. Her dreams also transport her to Lord Denbury’s painting, where he is alive and well and hoping to find a way out. This was very intriguing and I liked these dreams. The story was propelled forward then.
Natalie’s attachment to Lord Denbury was quick and odd. There’s intrigue and then there’s extreme obsession. Hieber keeps writing that Natalie is “drawn” to him, that “fate” brought them together. But throughout, I couldn’t help but feel Natalie and Denbury were interested in each other sexually and that was it. There was nothing about his character that seemed interesting or romantic. Natalie was a rather dull protagonist as well.
The heightened bits of this novel were the passion between Natalie and Denbury, and the nightmares that helped Natalie discover the mystery and magic of the painting. The plot was simple but dragged out, the protagonist was a little boring, the love interest lacking in personality. But the idea of the book, and the neat twist to the classic, was neat enough to see where it went.