has also reviewed:

Knight of a Trillion Stars


Tonight or Never

Mine to Take by Dara Joy
(Leisure, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8439-4446-3
OK, I'll admit to a bit of trepidation about reviewing Mine to Take, largely because I am not an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy literature. Thus, I am a bit uncomfortable about evaluating the sci-fi elements in Dara Joy's latest book. I thought of asking for help from my 15 year-old son who reads this genre all the time. He could tell me whether Joy has successfully met the criteria for good fantasy writing. Then I remembered that this is a book by Dara Joy. Since I'd like to maintain my illusions about my kid's innocence, I guess I'll have to solo on this review.

It seems to me that Dara Joy might single handedly revive the now dormant subgenre of fantasy romance. I have read all three of her "Matrix of Destiny" books, and I am getting more and more caught up in the world she has created. Mine to Take, while centering on the requisite romance, nonetheless advances the overarching storyline of the threat to the wellbeing of this alternative universe.

The hero is a Familiar, one of those cat-like creatures whose sensual nature promises erotic delights of unimagined intensity. Gian Ren is not an ordinary Familiar. He is Guardian of the Mist and taj of the Familiars. His powers are great and yet he has been captured by the evil Karpon. Karpon has used a new drug to dull the familiar's incredibly acute senses. Now, Gian Ren is manacled to the wall of Karpon's prison, waiting to play his role in the villain's plot to gain control of the world of Ganakari, a remote outpost far from the center of the Alliance world.

Standing in Karpon's way is the beauteous Jenise. Adopted daughter of his brother, she should rule the world. But Jenise, a daughter of the free-spirited Frensi, has no desire to rule. Karpon desires not only Jenise's inheritance, but also her person. If he marries her in her virgin state, then he will become merely her consort. But if she is first despoiled, well then he can be king. Hence the Familiar, whose task it will be to mate with Jenise and whose fate will be death for debauching the princess.

Jenise wants nothing to do with this plan. She wants only to leave Ganakari and to be free to set her own course. She devises a plan to foil Karpon's scheme. If she can induce the familiar to take her virginity as she chooses, if she frees the familiar, and if she can induce him to help her flee Ganakari, then she will be free.

Familiar's, although the most sensual and promiscuous of creatures, have a most interesting characteristic. Male Familiars can "sense" their proper mate, and once the mating is completed, remain completely faithful for the rest of their lives. When Jenise enters his prison cell, Gian Ren "senses" that she is his mate. And so he performs the traditional mating ritual on the woman who has come to free him, and they flee the prison. He must warn his people about the danger this new drug poses to their existence

The remainder of the book contains two threads. First, there are the many adventures and dangers that Gian Ren and Jenise face as the make their way through to Tunnels toward the center of the Alliance worlds. And these adventures seem to me to be just the kind that any hero and heroine in a good fantasy novel would experience. They encounter all sorts of imaginative creatures, both good and bad, visit strange and wonderful worlds, and survive all sorts of dangers.

Perhaps of more interest to romance readers is the second thread, as Gian slowly immeshes Jenise in his sensual web as he seeks to tie her to him. Jenise is unaware that Gian has "mated" with her. She maintains her dream of freedom. It is Gian's task to show her that there can be freedom in sharing one's life with one's true mate. And let me say that with his technique, he could have convinced me real fast. Jenise is a bit more strong-minded. In fact, Jenise is the best heroine Joy has created yet.

In addition to these two threads, Joy continues to embroider on the story she created in Knight of a Trillion Stars and Rejar. We meet again Yaniff the Wizard and Lorgin ta'al Krue. We see Rejar as he comes to terms with his dual nature, both Charl and Familiar. We meet the wives of Lorgin and Rejar, the two women transported from our world, one from the 20th century and one from Ree Gen Cee Ing Lind. We meet Traed, the warrior of the house of Krue whose lineage was denied him and who is unsure of his place in his world. In short, we reenter the fantasy world Joy has created. I cannot judge how this world compares with those of other fantasy authors like Robert Jordan or Melanie Rawn, but it sure works for me.

Joy, in her postscript, notes that "While these books are designed to be read on their own for the individual love story contained within, there are continuing underlying elements which connect all these books." It is hard for me to assess the accuracy of this statement, but I am sure that while reading Mine to Take as a stand alone book may be enjoyable, reading it as part of an ongoing series will enhance one's appreciation for the story.

And yes, Joy promises us that there are more installments of the Matrix of Destiny series to come. I am enjoying my excursion into the fantastical world Joy has created and look forward to discovering what happens to Traed, how Rejar will use his new powers, what will become of the poor, wounded Familiar left on Ganakari, who is the evil Observer, how will the Familiars be saved, what will . . . . Well, I could go on, but you get the picture. Dara Joy has me hooked and I think she'll hook you, too.

--Jean Mason

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