Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which is available now where you pick up your books.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau and Mexican Gothic comes a fabulous meld of Mexican horror movies and Nazi occultism: a dark thriller about the curse that haunts a legendary lost film—and awakens one woman’s hidden powers.
Montserrat has always been overlooked. She’s a talented sound editor, but she’s left out of the boys’ club running the film industry in ’90s Mexico City. And she’s all but invisible to her best friend, Tristán, a charming if faded soap opera star, though she’s been in love with him since childhood.
Then Tristán discovers his new neighbor is the cult horror director Abel Urueta, and the legendary auteur claims he can change their lives—even if his tale of a Nazi occultist imbuing magic into highly volatile silver nitrate stock sounds like sheer fantasy. The magic film was never finished, which is why, Urueta swears, his career vanished overnight. He is cursed.
Now the director wants Montserrat and Tristán to help him shoot the missing scene and lift the curse . . . but Montserrat soon notices a dark presence following her, and Tristán begins seeing the ghost of his ex-girlfriend.
As they work together to unravel the mystery of the film and the obscure occultist who once roamed their city, Montserrat and Tristán may find that sorcerers and magic are not only the stuff of movies.
***Thank you to Del Rey for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I’ll be honest. I had my doubts about this one going into it because I don’t read a ton of horror/thriller books. I decided to give it a shot anyway because I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read by Moreno-Garcia in the past, and she didn’t disappoint with this story, either. There’s just something about her writing that makes me get completely lost in her stories, and I always love the experience. The vibe of this book, especially the first half, reminded me a lot of Signal to Noise, which was one of her earlier books I enjoyed. It was heavily character-focused with a spotlight on an established relationship and a sprinkling of magic tied to a particular medium, music in the case of Signal to Noise and film in Silver Nitrate. This book dipped much more into the occult, though, with its inclusion of ghosts, Nazis, and rune magic.
The core of this novel was the characters and their relationship. The first half of the book started out slow and spent a ton of time letting the reader get to know Montserrat and Tristán. They had both fallen on hard times with Montserrat struggling to keep her place as a sound editor and Tristán barely keeping his vices at bay while hoping to revive his acting career. Montserrat coped by shutting everyone out and leaning on anger to mask her disappointment and fear that things would fall apart. Tristán, on the other hand, flitted from one toxic relationship to the next because he couldn’t stand being alone with his thoughts and feelings about his past. He was, in general, a very lovable coward. lol. The friendship between these two was my favorite thing about the book. It was intimate in the way that only a lifelong friendship could be, and their love for one another, despite annoying the shit out of each other, oozed off the page from their interactions.
The world-building was also fantastic. I felt immediately transported to 90’s Mexico City despite never having been there. I loved all the history woven throughout the story, especially the film history and all the fascinating information on film-making. The slow but steady introduction of the occult elements reached a pulse-pounding crescendo, and the characters had to face their faults and flaws to keep a horrible menace at bay, even though it meant losing their access to special power. The magic in this story was written in a way that made it seem like it could truly exist in our world, and I often felt like I was reading about some forbidden knowledge that I shouldn’t have accessed. It made the reading experience surreal in a way I don’t come across very often.
My one minor issue with the book was its ending. So much of the beginning of the story was focused on the day to day lives of Montserrat and Tristán. The end, however, seemed only concerned with the resolution of the occult plot-line, which resulted in quite a few hanging threads. Their access to magic had multiple impacts on their lives, such as Tristán’s job prospects and the health of Montserrat’s sister. No information was given on how the ending changed these day to day aspects of the characters’ lives, which was a bit disappointing after living alongside them worrying about these things for half the book. Despite this hiccup, Silver Nitrate was a brilliant, atmospheric read with characters I loved and a fascinating plot. It was truly cinematic in nature, and I felt like I was watching a thriller while reading it. I cannot wait to pick up another book by this author. Therefore, I rate this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.