I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
I've mentally divided this book up into the first two thirds or so, which I loved, and the last third, which was a bit of a disappointment.
I'll begin by writing about the first two thirds. That part of Hold the Dark was really good, and, I think, played a big part in helping to break the mild case of reader's block that had been weighing me down. As usual, I enjoyed Tuttle's sense of humor and Markhat's “voice.” The mystery was interesting, and I wanted to see if Markhat could manage to find Martha in time to save her from being killed. For once, Mama Hog was hobbled, unable to even drop cryptic-but-helpful hints. Markhat was pretty much on his own, and it made for some fun reading.
So did the introduction of a couple new characters. I'm not sure if the Corpsemaster will ever pop up again in this series, but I thought he was wonderfully horrifying to read about. And also nauseating. I kind of liked how much he freaked Markhat out. Darla, too, was a lot of fun, although for different reasons. I laughed a good bit when she took advantage her workplace's magical mojo to mess with Markhat's head a little. She was very sharp and reminded me of Terry Pratchett's Adora Belle Dearheart (Going Postal). The bit in the prologue, which stated that she had died, intrigued me, because I knew from reading descriptions of some of the later Markhat stories that she was going to be a recurring character. How was that going to work out? Was she going to be transformed into a vampire? I desperately wanted to know.
Unfortunately, what had started off as (so far) one of the strongest works in the Markhat series sort of fell apart when Markhat and Darla began dating. Darla had struck me as the sort of woman who'd make Markhat work for every bit of her time and attention. I figured it would take them until at least the next book before they started dating, and, in the meantime, I could look forward to lots of fantastic, clever, flirty conversation. Instead, they fell into a lovey dovey relationship incredibly quickly.
This, I soon learned, was meant to help the story along – it gave Markhat a reason to wallow in manpain after Darla died, thereby pushing him to do stupid things he might not have done if he and Darla had still been in the “attracted to each other, but still feeling things out” stage of their relationship. While I, the reader, felt like I was only just starting to get to know Darla, Markhat was so grief-filled that he was willing to plunge into the depths of magical darkness. I was not impressed, and the way Darla “saved” Markhat was another annoyance.
I really loved the first two thirds of this book, so my disappointment when the relationship between Markhat and Darla was fumbled so badly was pretty huge. I would definitely still recommend this series overall – Markhat is so much fun – but I hope that his and Darla's relationship becomes less gag-worthy later in the series. Darn it, I want Darla to be as awesome as it seemed like she was going to be when she was first introduced.
(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)