Thank you to Del Rey Books for sending me a copy of Silver Nitrate in exchange for an honest review.
Montserrat, a talented sound editor, struggles to make it in the film industry alongside her best friend Tristán, a faded soap opera star. When they befriend the enigmatic horror director Abel Urueta, who claims to possess a cursed film, their lives take a supernatural turn. Together, the three set out to complete the unfinished movie and break the curse. As they do, however, Montserrat faces a haunting presence while Tristán grapples with the ghost of his ex-girlfriend. They soon discover that sorcery and magic may exist as more than just illusions on the silver screen.
Silver Nitrate is blockbuster author Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s newest novel. It’s a slow-burn story set in the film industry of 1990s Mexico that’s perfect for anyone interested in film production or the occult, but especially both.
While it’s described as a horror novel, suspense makes more sense as a descriptor for Silver Nitrate. Moreno-Garcia definitely takes her time with this one, building tension throughout the novel with a depth of historical and industry detail that clearly came from a great deal of research. That said, the sheer amount of background does lead to some info-dumping, especially toward the middle of the book.
Montserrat learns almost everything about the occult from her own research, which means significant passages consist of her reading from another book. Because of Moreno-Garcia’s skill as a writer, however, it mostly still works. I truly believed in the reality of this cultish magic system based on racial purity, greed and coercion.
Because of Silver Nitrate’s slow pace, the resolution feels a bit rushed. I had to reread a few passages at the climax to make sure I understood what was happening. Certain things came together both too easily and not easily enough, and I think the ending will divide readers.
As is often true of Moreno-Garcia’s work, true strength lies in her characters. Neither Montserrat nor Tristán is a perfect or expected protagonist. Montserrat is a competitive loner, and she’s disabled. Tristán is an emotional trainwreck, selfish though still good-hearted. Their relationship, however, is so unique, and it makes them work as heroes. Their shared childhood and reliance on each other to the point of codependency makes them work so well together in spite of their opposing personalities. I love a complicated relationship between protagonists, and this one is certainly well-written.
If you’re looking for some slow-burn, suspenseful horror, Silver Nitrate is perfect for you. Any film geeks and genre buffs, especially those with an interest in the occult, should definitely check this one out.
Silver Nitrate comes out on July 18, 2023, and is available for preorder from your local independent bookstore or Bookshop.org.
TW: ableism, addiction, antisemitism, biphobia, car accident, cultural appropriation, death, drug and alcohol abuse, gore, grief, misogyny, murder, nazis, occultism, racism, suicidal thoughts, violence
This review was originally published on 7/11/23.
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