When I saw that Anna DeStefano used dream research theories at the center of the plot of Dark Legacy, I was intrigued. Someone in my family works in this field, and I have always found the subject interesting as a result of hearing about the research. However, even though some of the theory underlying the story is fascinating and is sometimes used very effectively, the overall execution needed a lot of polishing, making for an overall very ordinary reading experience.
Maddie Temple essentially lost her twin ten years ago when an accident left her father dead and her sister in a coma. Maddie went on to medical school and believes the psychic link between her and her twin sister has been broken. Then the dreams start. Over and over Maddie hears her sister’s voice shrieking, “Die!”
The dreams disrupt Maddie’s life and she begins behaving more like her sister and having lapses that endanger her job. She finds herself faced with having to see Dr. Jarred Keith, chief of psychiatry, and the doctor who would have the final say on allowing her to keep her job. The two have a casual dating history and things start to heat up again when Maddie is referred to him. (Ethical issue, much?) Maddie’s desire to figure out what is happening and Jarred’s attempts to help Maddie lead them into a world of very old secrets and very modern research that endangers Maddie as well as others.
While I did find the ideas behind this story unique and interesting, the execution needed refinement. For instance, the author’s use of her research on dreams throughout the book makes the premise and backdrop very engaging. However, her too-frequent repetition of the “die!” sequence in the dreams ends up more unintentionally amusing than effective. (The fact that people just cannot live without exclamation points in this book does a lot to cause this.) Toward the end of the book, pieces seemed to fall into place and the story flowed a little better. However, the reader must trudge through an often wooden first half in order to get there. I found myself putting this book down and taking breaks way too frequently.
Another issue lies in the author’s failure to follow hints through to their end. For example, we learn early on that Maddie’s mother deceived her and that she did so out of fear. We also learn that there is some old curse haunting the family. So, what happened to make her so afraid? What is she hiding? In short, what makes this woman who she is? We get some answers, but not anything that completely satisfies. More importantly, the reader also doesn’t get enough insight into who Maddie is, something that left me feeling almost maddeningly distanced from the main action of the story. Maddie seems like a trembling victim for much of the book and it’s hard to see the woman beneath the deer-in-headlights exterior.
Jarred has a little more character to him and he is obviously devoted to Maddie. Since Maddie is in a rather weak position for much of the story, I had trouble figuring out why he finds her so fascinating. In addition, since we’re told that Jarred has the hots for Maddie without really seeing the feeling between the two, the romance lacks a certain depth. The action sequences involving the main characters and the gradual revelation of at least some of the secrets in Maddie’s life hold some appeal, but the reading experience of jumping between the unraveling of yet another twist in the dream plot and the rather hurried romance jolted me a bit.
Though I did like the premise of the story and the action/suspense sections of the plot have some good moments, the romance simply didn’t spring to life. The sometimes clumsy quality of the writing, particularly in the exclamation point-ridden first half or so of the book, did not help. Dark Legacy shows promise at its best moments, but it just doesn’t pull together well enough to be more than an average read.