Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

My Thoughts

A dark and gritty psychological thriller brilliantly woven together
in Raeder’s lyrically striking style. Both chilling and evocative,
Black Iris draws you in and keeps you captivated until the very end.



Black Iris coverThe next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn’t worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She’s not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it’s time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She’s going to show them all.

My Review

“I’m the black iris watered by poison. The wolf that raised its head among sheep and devoured its way, ruthless and bloody, to freedom. I never forgave, never forgot.”

This book is an experience. An immersion in a story that is both vibrant and shadowed. It felt intimate, cathartic—a purging of wild emotions, unrestrained and honest. Leah Raeder’s writing is spectacular. As a voracious reader and lover of poetry and prose, it’s just the kind of writing that calls to me. It’s beautifully evocative and lyrical. A literary undertow that pulls you deeply into a story that’s all dark edges and twisted realities. I felt swept away, and as the story crested and receded, raged and stormed, I was caught up in every word and emotion.

This story seems to be about so many things… love, desire, hate, revenge, forgiveness, addiction, hope and hopelessness. But despite Raeder exploring all these themes in this suspenseful and dark exposition, it almost seemed to distill to a singular, cohesive motif—acceptance. Acceptance of one’s life, one’s self, one’s choices… whether those choices are bad and ugly and violent, or painful and hurtful and scarring.

Laney Keating’s story is dark. It’s one big thorny tangle of emotions and situations that have her living on a razor’s edge. She’s grown up with a mother who suffers from bipolar disorder, who has made it clear that she’s passed on the darkness inside her own self to her. She’s fed and nurtured the poison inside of Laney, who has also struggled with her own desires, her own inability to fit in with the “normal” kids. And when a moment of honesty sparks an endless stream of rumors and brutal taunting, her life begins to spiral, only to crumble on itself when her mother makes a choice that changes Laney’s life forever.

“Most of us can’t even fix ourselves. We’re all saddling horses in the night, trying to outrun the darkness.”

When Laney meets Blythe and Armin, things fit into place in way she couldn’t have imagined. It was perfect. She had found two people that took her in as she was. Who lit her on fire and ignited emotions she’d kept suppressed for too long.  They were inseparable. Euphoric.

“For a moment we were all alive and invincible, immortal.”

But when Laney’s past and present violently collide, the darkness inside of her threatens to consume once again and she’s pulling Blythe and Armin into this dangerous game of retribution and rapture.

What I found really interesting is that I saw Laney’s story almost like a quiet, but violent unraveling. We experienced her extreme highs and lows. We saw her tortured emotions and conflicted actions. We also saw her fall in love. Saw her finally yielding to her innermost desires. There was this sense of freedom, that perhaps was deceptive (perhaps not), even when things were bad and bloodied and hazy in a chemically achieved euphoria.

“I adore you…. I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”

The story twists in so many unexpected ways, adding more dimension to an already rich and edgy storyline. There was a lot of suspense as questions of what was really transpiring plagued me. The book is written in a way that goes back and forth in time, jumping months. Admittedly, the approach confused me at times despite trying hard to keep a straight timeline in my head. The story is slow moving, unraveling every deceptive inch of the plot over time. But as I mentioned above, the real beauty of this novel was not only it’s striking prose, but also the intimacy and rawness of these character’s experiences. I thought Black Iris did an amazing job of showing the dynamic and elastic complexities of human sexuality. And for some of these characters, it was also particularly fascinating to see how mental illness, together with a sort of nurtured depravity, affected their choices. A really stellar job by author Leah Raeder.

“We’re in this together now… No doubts. No regrets. Even the smallest crack will shatter us. We have to be hard. Unbreakable.”

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