Dark Challenge

Dark Desires

Dark Fire

Dark Legend

Dark Magic

Dark Melody

Dark Prince

Dark Secret

Dark Symphony

Hot Blooded

Lair of the Lion

Lover Beware

Night Game

Wild Rain

Dark Demon by Christine Feehan
(Jove, $9.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-14088-0
So I’ll start with the disclaimers – I have never read any of Christine Feehan’s Carpathian tales (there seem to be about a dozen), so my perspective is limited. Further, I’m not a big fan of vampire romance, or of paranormal romance in general. If these qualifications don’t match yours, you’re probably not going to find this review helpful.

At the opening of Dark Demon, Natalya Shonski is heading into the Carpathian forest at dusk, unsure why she feels compelled to do so. She’s armed to the teeth, which is apparently quite usual for her. The appearance of a pair of vampires doesn’t alarm her; she’s clearly experienced in this type of encounter and was expecting them. She is shooting and slicing and leaping around ninja-like, even as she realizes that they don’t want to kill her, but want to take her alive.

Not that they’re going to get the chance. Vikirnoff von Shrieder followed her into the woods. In fact, he’s followed her all the way from America. Vikirnoff is Carpathian, a breed of vampire hunters who live forever, can’t take the sun, drink blood, and have a host of mystical powers at their disposal that would seem to make them invincible to all but the meanest, craftiest of vampires. And they pretty much are invincible, except for the ticking time-bomb of nothingness and despair that awaits them unless they find their “lifemate,” the woman to their man, the omega to their (very) alpha, the light to their dark. After centuries of wandering alone, Carpathian males lose the power to feel, to see color, to enjoy. At this point they will either turn vampire, just to feel the momentary thrill that comes with the kill, or greet the dawn full-face, incinerating themselves. Unfortunately, the male/female balance in Carpathia is way out of whack, and there is a host of unmatched males about to go over to the dark side.

Natalya and Vikirnoff can both sense the other telepathically and empathically before they set eyes on each other. Vikirnoff knows what this means – he has found his lifemate, and light, sound, color, explode around him. Natalya, on the other hand, is unaware of the whole “lifemate” concept. She has Carpathian, Mage and human ancestors, but was not raised knowing Carpathian ways. She feels the deep connections, but doesn’t know what it means and finds it scary, annoying, and cumbersome, particularly as she believes that Carpathians are the enemy.

Once they overcome that bit of prejudice, they join forces on a quest that is way too complex to detail here. In fact, everything in the book is complex – when you are a dozen books into an imaginary world, you’re in deep. Surprisingly, you don’t need to have read the previous books to get a line on who’s who and what’s what in this world. It cannot be an easy task to keep track of all these details. The vampires and Carpathians alone, not to mention the Mage, have a complicated assortment of extraordinary powers that appears limitless. This is one problem I have with the book – there appears to be nothing these guys cannot do when battling each other: transforming to look like anything imaginable, turning from solid into vapor, cloning themselves so they appear to be hundreds, etc. This makes the (endless) battles both unpredictable and, somehow, unfair; strategy counts for little when you are limited to one shape-shift when the enemy has unlimited abilities. The extremely graphic (but definitely creative) violence casts a pall for me as well. Sure, the whole tale is about battling evil, but this involves heavy bloodletting, real descriptive gore like you wouldn’t believe. The love scenes are tucked in between the bloodletting in a jarring way. Really, they’re being hunted unto death, but stop for a little nookie in a cave. This strikes me as untidy, uncomfortable and unrealistic.

What I did like were the two main characters. She’s a kick-butt fighter with a seriously complex family history and a limited form of pseudo-amnesia. He’s a good guy who has been edging closer to the dark side and is ashamed that he is unable to summon the strength to face the dawn. This provides a nice contrast in voices. She’s sassy post-modern American who refers to vampires as “Freddie” (as in Krueger); he’s got a several-centuries-past European/otherworldly vibe.

I have to admit I also liked the “otherworldliness” of the story. Paranormals are not what I normally pull off the shelf, but if fantasies/vampires/animals are done well, I don’t have any problem suspending disbelief. In this case I was totally engrossed in the story; as in, lookout behind you, he’s making wolf clones (or whatever). But ultimately it is the fact that this is not human a story, and thus doesn’t have human love, that limits the impact and enjoyment for me. These Carpathian tales are just not very interesting love stories, what with the whole lifemates thing. There is never even an illusion of “will she or won’t she,” and no real reason for either to fall in love, as apparently a Carpathian can just “take” his lifemate, binding her to him for eternity against her will.

By the end of the book every Carpathian and their dog was on the scene. They are clearly massing for the big showdown with evil, probably in the book that follows. I wouldn’t mind reading it if I get it to review, but doubt I will seek out.

--Laura Scott

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