Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Length: 4 hours, 40 minutes
Knife’s life has been shaped by his physical appearance. With his club foot, twisted spine, pocked face, and thin hair, he grew up constantly taunted by cruel voices in his small town. He has suffered abuse, both physical and emotional, since he was a child. Over time, Knife turned inward, protecting himself by making himself bitter and twisted inside to match his outer appearance.
The only light in Knife’s life is his sister and mother who love and care for him despite his disposition. When his sister Gwen falls in love and has an opportunity to marry, Knife knows her refusal is because of her desire to stay and look out for him. So when Knife is offered the chance to be a companion to Aerie-Smith for a year, with a “regrettable task” at the end, he agrees, knowing it will give Gwen the freedom to live her own life.
Aerie-Smith is like no one Knife has ever met. He accepts Knife completely, both his appearance and his hardened soul. Aerie-Smith faces his own issues. He and the people of his island have been struck with a curse, one that has turned them into beasts and Aerie-Smith himself into part man, part lion. He knows well that what lies inside a person is often different than his appearance.
When Knife arrives at the island, he finds his body changes as well, but in his case it is for the better. With a renewed spirit and the support and friendship of Aerie-Smith, Knife begins to change emotionally as well. He befriends the villagers, he begins to soften his hard insides, and he and Aerie-Smith fall in love. Knife knows happiness like he has never known before. However, the regrettable task still awaits Knife at the end of the year, one that could change their lives, and end the relationship that has grown between them.
I read Truth in the Dark many years ago, prior to starting the blog. When I saw that it had been released in audio with one of my favorite narrators, Nick J. Russo, I decided to pick it up again. I will say that while I liked the book the first time around, I enjoyed it even more this time. I am not sure if it is the passage of time, listening to it in audio, or if simply knowing how it ends made the story more poignant, but I found it even better this time around.
The story has a fairy tale feel to it, with Knife as this dark, broken hero and Aerie-Smith the gorgeous lion-god. Yet both men have appearances that belie the men they are inside. The magic of the island changes both of them, and even more, gives them the chance to see the real person the other is deep inside. I loved Knife’s journey here, as he moves from someone not particularly likable at the start, to a man who can open his heart, who begins to believe with Aerie-Smith’s love that there is something worthwhile inside of him. I really liked these guys together. They bicker and banter and challenge one another, but the love between them is also clear, even when Knife is still afraid to see it.
Russo does a nice job with the narration. Knife has an accent, what I would call the “fantasy, middle ages” kind of accent. Mostly it works, though it does go in and out at times. It took me a bit to get settled into the voice, especially at the beginning when it was more rocky, but as the book went on I found it worked. Strangely, Aerie-Smith doesn’t have a similar accent, which I found kind of jarring. He is from a similar area, and it seemed weird that Knife and his sister spoke with one, but Aerie-Smith did not, especially since he had kind of a low “dude” voice. I know, my descriptions probably don’t make sense, but I am not sure how else to describe it. It just seemed kind of discordant with the story. All that said, I found the audio generally very good. Russo delivers a great pace, well-developed characters, and a smooth, engaging voice that kept me drawn into the audio. I find him to be one of my favorite narrators and he delivers another really nice performance here.
Overall I found this story been more enjoyable this second time around. If you like fantasy/fairy tale stories with a sweet message about beauty both inside and out, Truth in the Dark is worth a try.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.