You may recall a month ago, I reviewed Christa Wojciechowski’s novella, Popsicle (if you don’t recall, click here to read my thoughts about that wonderful piece of fiction). I adored my time with it, a darkly funny, yet horrific science fiction tale that weaves an intriguing mystery full of great characters, anchored by wonderful prose. After a novella that entertained me as much as it did, I seized the opportunity to read Oblivion Black, to see what the author could accomplish with more space. And I am incredibly pleased that I did: this is a novel that is not only enjoyable in the moment, but one that lingers long after you’ve read it.
Compared to Popsicle’s 98 pages, Oblivion Black is a sizeable 385 pages in paperback (or an estimated 387 pages on Kindle). Like that novella, Oblivion Black casts another story about a drug addict with dark undercurrents, but unlike that book, this novel doesn’t play it for laughs, instead, providing a nuanced look at addiction and how it affects those in its thrall. As the story opens, the reader is immediately introduced to the novel’s protagonist, Ona, in the midst of a heroin overdose. Soon, Ona is trying to move on with her life, including moving in with her aunt, seeking treatment at a methadone clinic, and attending Narcotics Anonymous. These events lead Ona to a new job, where she works as an assistant to world-renowned sculptor, Antoni.
If you’ve read the blurb (included at the top of this review), it covers a considerable portion of Oblivion Black’s plot, as well as events that don’t take place until well into the latter half of the book. The plot moves slowly, unveiled at a methodical pace that introduces the reader to Ona and her world, providing an intimate portrait of the character. Readers also get an intriguing look at Antoni, the secrets he harbours, and the sizeable mental health issues he faces.
Throughout the novel, Wojciechowski builds Ona and Antoni’s tale like a romance, following the tropes of a slowburn love story, while also subverting it through a lingering darkness with shades of a twisted fairy tale. Ona, the princess looking for her happily ever after, Antoni, the dark prince, and Sonia, the evil queen (who also makes use of an apple). As the budding romance blooms, the story is filled with an overarching sense of dread at what’s to come, and it isn’t pretty. This is a story filled with sex (including sexual assault, and the sexual assault of children), violence, mental health issues, and an unflinching look at drug abuse and addiction. If you opt to read Oblivion Black—and it is a rewarding read—its subject matter is heavy, and it refuses to pull its punches.
The dark undercurrent is anchored by its characters. Both Ona and Antoni are sympathetic characters. They both have issues, and their attachment to one another is underpinned by their trauma. Despite their flaws, the reader can’t help but want them to have their happily ever after, even while questioning whether their happily ever after should include each other. Both characters are clearly drawn, and engrossing. Sonia, who sets her sights on Antoni, is a pure villain, but one who is entertaining to follow. A number of supporting characters fill out Oblivion Black’s cast, all of whom are engaging.
Oblivion Black is told in the first person, from Ona’s perspective. The story is seen through her eyes, with her own unique viewpoint colouring the story and its events. Ona is a wonderful character with a great voice that sells the events to the reader. On occasion, the point of view character changes, largely to Antoni, but later, to Sonia. These chapters are written in the third person, but rather than jarring the reader, it provides a different perspective to the events that heightens the experience. The prose is written evocatively, capturing beauty throughout some horrific events.
Likewise, the dialogue works incredibly well. The novel features a vast cast of characters, all of whom sound unique and entirely natural. This helps the world feel lived in, and each character, whether they’re the protagonist, love interest, or even a minor supporting part, feels like a living, breathing, human being.
Though Oblivion Black’s cover doesn’t mention it (although the Amazon listing does), it is the first book in Wojciechowski’s The Sculptor series. Having not done my due diligence before reading the book, I was unaware of this fact, and the ending took me by surprise. The book ends on a cliffhanger. It’s a wonderful cliffhanger that beckons the reader to pick up the second book, Hierarchy of Needs (I’ll have my review in a couple of days); however, it comes at the cost of resolution to the story. This book doesn’t stand alone, meaning Hierarchy of Needs is required to continue the tale.
Oblivion Black is an evocative story that uses literary devices to tell a story about unhealthy people in an unhealthy relationship. Its twists and turns thrill as it provides an engrossing look at damaged people making their way through life. It’s unflinching, yet rewarding in a way that will stick with the reader long after they’ve closed the book. While readers will need to read its sequel for any resolution to the story, it’s well worth starting the tale right here.
That night, I dozed off between rotten dreams and rambling thoughts. My mind kept conjuring fantasy confrontations with Sonia, slapping her in the face and kicking her cosmetically enhanced ass out of the chaise lounge. I snatched the apple from her hand as she floundered in defeat. As I held the apple, I transformed into the divine me, the perfect goddess, Spe Nova. The dark, dingy studio fell away to windy, blue skies and fast-running clouds of the purest and starkest white. I looked down at my left arm where the track marks melted and trickled away. Antoni appeared above me, his face serene, like all of his burdens had been removed. He reached out his hand, and I took it. He helped me up to stand by his side, king and queen of the heavens, but then the clouds churned and turned into horrid music. I fell from my throne and was jolted awake by the obnoxious “Flight of the Bumblebee,” sending me into an instant panic attack. I glanced outside. Sheets of rain glided down the window, but I had to get going.Oblivion Black, Chapter 57: “Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable”
Oblivion Black was provided by BookSirens for the purpose of an honest review.
Oblivion Black is available in physical and Kindle formats, exclusive to Amazon.
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