ARC Review: A Darkly Beating Heart

A Darkly Beating Heart


This is the story of an extremely trouble teenage girl, Reiko, who leaves the States to live with her relatives in Japan. While in Japan she accidentally finds a way to slip backwards in time to Japan 1862. She is so angry and full of hatred. This is not normal teen angst, this is full on murderous anger.

First and foremost, this book is extremely well written. Smith did an amazing job writing time travel into a story. It did not feel sci-fi or cheesy, but fluid and natural. The whole thing was full of brilliant characters. The one character that stood out to me was the protagonist, Reiko. Her constant hatred felt over the top. This wasn’t the normal type of “I hate my parents” type of teenage anger, this was so much more than that. It honestly made me uncomfortable at times. Reiko is hellbent on making her ex-girlfriend pay for the hurt she caused by dumping her. I can understand being upset that someone broke up with you, but wanting to cause them bodily harm is something entirely different. The amount of rage Reiko carries with her throughout the entire book almost caused me to put the book down. There was no real need for that in this story. Thankfully Smith did an outstanding job of developing Reiko as the story continued. This was not an overnight fix, rather a slow burn realization and growth for Reiko. That was refreshing to read.

Reiko and her anger issues aside, the other characters in this story were really good. Jiro, a samurai from the alternate 1862 Japan, was very well developed. Jiro is the one that helps Reiko learn to let go of the hate she has been carrying with her for so long. Miyu is also from alternate 1862 Japan. She is the person Reiko takes over while in the past. Miyu is also set on revenge but her hate is not as strong. Together the make one heck of a team.

The plot of this story is what really stood out the most to me. The plot was so well developed that it kept me entertained the entire time. The story line of present Japan with past Japan blended together seamlessly. The time travel portion of the story is explained in a way that didn’t leave me scratching my head. This book truly was written flawlessly. The writing style was beautiful, the settings were rich and descriptive, and the characters were though out. However, I can only give this book 3 stars for two reasons:

  • Reiko’s unnecessary constant rage, anger, and hatred. Again, it made me uncomfortable and I struggled to get past it.
  • Triggers of suicide and self-harm. Those are two extreme topics that not everyone will like. The way Reiko casually talked about them left a sour taste in my mouth.

If you do give this book a chance, do it with the knowledge of the above two main take away points. I can see how this book will not be welcomed with open arms by all readers, but I urge you to give it a chance. The second half of the book gets better, I promise.





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