Read the complete and original review at Word Spelunking Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars Andy Gavin’s The Darkening Dream is not your cookie cutter vampire novel, and thank [insert your deity of choice here] for that! A wonderfully refreshing and enticingly twisted read, The Darkening Dream certainly does have bite (and claws!) and a delightfully dark allure. MY BRIEF SUMMARYIn 1913 Salem, Massachusetts, Sarah Engelmann leads a pretty ordinary life with her mother and rabbi father…until she has a frightening vision that becomes reality and she finds herself immersed in a dark and dangerous battle between an eclectic mix of supernatural beings-a vampire, warlock, Egyptian gods, angels, oh my!-all out to find Archangel Gabriel’s holy horn. Along with her friends, twins Anne and Sam, and Alex, a hunky Greek immigrant, Sarah sets out to stop the end of days, and along the way she discovers unexpected secrets, an even more unexpected romance, and finds herself in some unexpected places. STORYAndy Gavin has taken a bevy of supernatural elements, compelling characters, and an intricate and superbly developed storyline, and expertly weaved them together to create an original and enthralling book. Full of the unexpected, thrilling action, a wicked dose of creepy, and with a Dare-To-Be-Bold-And-Provocative Attitude, The Darkening Dream takes readers on one helluva ride!The story starts off a bit slow in the first few chapters, but quickly finds its flow and becomes fast paced, but this quick pacing never feels rushed and reflects the content perfectly. Gavin’s story development and world building is excellent and realistic; both 1913 Salem and the dark supernatural world Sarah and her friends uncover easily come alive.The supernatural elements are awesome! Gavin takes well known supernatural/paranormal beings and ideas (vampires, demons, warlocks, gods, etc) and infuses them with an intriguing mix of religious imagery, creating a unique and innovative story…a story that reminds me of the ingenious show Supernatural (which, if you know me, is a BIG compliment).I really love how bold, provocative and unafraid to Go There (and beyond) this story is. This isn’t a lighthearted read, nor should it be. Its intense, and at times relentless (in the best way), darkness is absolutely addicting and riveting. And I love that Gavin’s monsters are blood-thirsty, depraved, spine-tingling, won’t think twice about ripping your heart out or eating your face kind of monsters. Gavin’s vampires aren’t sparkly or swoon-worthy, but they are devilishly enthralling and impossible to ignore. The story takes readers on an edge-of-your seat, gasp-worthy, didn’t-see-that-coming, thrill ride right up until the very last sentence! And the ending leaves room for a sequel, which would be awesome *wink wink nudge nudge* CHARACTERSSarah is an awesome heroine. She’s intelligent, brave and witty, but incredibly relatable and realistic as a young, lustful, sometimes reckless teenage girl. Alex has oodles of charm and makes for a swoon-worthy male lead. Sam and Anne add a good deal of humor and gung-ho attitude. Together, the four friends make an eclectic and entertaining group.The baddies and monsters are all compelling as well. Al-Nasir, the 900 year old vampire, is captivatingly repulsive (how often do you see that description?!). ROMANCEYes, even badass vampire hunters need a little romance, and Sarah and Alex offer readers a fun, steamy, full of teenage angst and hormones romance. I really enjoyed these two characters together; they have a lot of chemistry and a tangible spark. But I also liked the fact that the romance wasn’t an overwhelming or dominate element in the story.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: This book kept me up late at night, eagerly turning pages and excited to see just what would happen next…and something unexpected would always happen next. Full of mystery, twists and turns, awesome supernatural elements, a hot romance, and intelligent writing, The Darkening Dream is a spellbinding read and impressive debut.