In 2016 Miami, twins Defli and Lela have been followed by malicious magic and a love curse their entire lives, leading to them trying to suppress the magic that lives within them. But when they start having visions of murders that have yet to happen, they realize that it’s time to embrace their magic in order to help save innocent lives. Alongside their best friend Ethan and detective-in-training Andres, the sisters set out to figure out how to control their magic and stop their visions from coming true.

In 1980 Cuba, Anita is also struggling with her magic in a different way. She was raised by her mother, the head of a secret magical cult, and uses her abilities to whisper to spirits - not to save herself, but to help those who her mother’s cult have injured. As the days tick toward Anita’s initiation, she makes secret plans to find her way out of Cuba and away from her mother’s clutches.

I don’t think I have the words to explain how much I loved this book. It was a bit slow going at the beginning as I got to know the characters and get into the groove of the different POVs and the jump between timelines, but once it got going, it never stopped. Montalban brings to life a story that on its surface is a bit of a fantasy murder mystery, but also weaves in the beauty of sisterhood and familial love with a bit of magic and romance tossed in.

The way each of the girls (Delfi, Lela, and Anita) grow into their own and learn the power of their inner strength and magic develops slowly throughout and is one of the things that ties the two timelines together so seamlessly. They have each struggled to come to terms with what has happened in their lives and what they can and cannot control. But each is able to move forward and find something that feels better for them with the help of the people and relationships around them. As the story progresses and more and more is revealed in both timelines, we are taken on a journey that feels incredibly grounded despite the fantasy elements weaved in.

It is clear that Montalban put a lot of love and care into creating this story and weaving in bits of the very real struggle of growing up multicultural with the fantasy elements. Real life can be hard to swallow and by providing a contemporary fantasy space to present some historical events, Montalban teaches the reader in a way that makes us want to learn more rather than run and hide from the ugly truths.

A TALL DARK TROUBLE is a sparkling debut from Vanessa Montalban and I cannot wait to see what comes next from her. In the meantime, this book hits shelves on August 29, 2023 and you can preorder your copy here.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."