Dance With the Devil

Kiss of the Night

Man of My Dreams

Naughty or Nice?

Night Embrace

Night Play

Night Pleasures

Unleash the Night

Dark Side of the Moon
by Sherrilyn Kenyon
(St Martin's Press, $19.95, R) ISBN 0-312-35743-5
I'm not sure it's worth reviewing Dark Side of the Moon. Sherrilyn Kenyon's loyal fans -- and from what I hear, she has a lot of them - will buy her book anyway. Who am I to urge her less-than-loyal ones to return to the fold? I've only read one other book in her “Dark Hunter” series and can't remember much. Hardly puts me in the best place to make convincing comparisons. As for newbies, given my frustrations with this book, they are probably better off reading the series in the correct order. But here goes anyway.

When Susan Michaels's best friends suggest something strange is going on in Seattle, the disgraced investigative reporter agrees to meet them at an animal shelter. To protect her sources, she fakes interest in felines, ignores her allergies and takes a cat home. Back in her apartment, the cat changes into a man.

Need I spell it out? The leopard-like cat is actually Ravyn Kontis, an Arcadian Were-Hunter (humans who can shape shift into animals) and a Dark Hunter to boot. That is, he is one of a legion of gorgeous, valiant but emotionally tortured men who have bargained their souls with Artemis to avenge their wrongful death. Once their personal quest is accomplished, they are automatically enlisted into fighting vampires. The goddess recruited Ravyn after his chosen mate betrayed him three hundred years ago, causing the death of many of his clansmen, including his mother and sister-in-law. His own brother killed him, and his remaining family has severed all contact with him, leaving him to grieve and survive on his own.

Faced with the odd scene in her apartment, skeptical Susan thinks her friends are playing a practical joke. But before she can call them on it, she finds herself on the run with Ravyn and accused of killing the two people she loves most. Once she gets a handle on the strange sequence of events, she convinces Ravyn and his friends to look into her friends' death, which can only be connected to the attacks against Seattle Dark Hunters. What follows next is pretty much non- stop action, although Ravyn and Susan do occasionally pause to get to know each other biblically and otherwise.

With so many dealings and double-dealings and a fair number of twists, it wasn't always easy to follow the story. It was probably even harder for a greenhorn like me because many of the plots and counterplots involved the world and the characters set in place in previous books. More than once, I had to reread and/or stop to think before I could make out who was who and what was going on.

Which doesn't mean Kenyon fails at keeping readers up to date. She avoids info-dumping, doling out details at just the right moment. Still, the excessive attention given to a couple of characters had me baffled, and I couldn't figure out what was going on with one in particular, Nick Gautier. I suspect this is deliberate. Too many questions remain unanswered, and there is more than one hint of bad things to come. Kenyon is obviously setting up the groundwork for new stories. Unfortunately, as a result, this book suffers.

The strength of this novel lies with its main characters. Susan is snarky and funny. She is also a good friend who knows when and how to defend her own. Ravyn does do a bit of that annoying I've-been-really- bad-there-can't-be-any-love-for-me thing, but he does have his moments. For one, he's not a Neanderthal and gives Susan all the space and credit she deserves.

Kenyon's snappy writing matches the quick pacing of this book and contributed to my overall positive assessment. Frankly, this isn't enough to have me hunt down her backlist or join the count down to the next publication I'm just not interested in the fate of these hunky heroes. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Dark Side of the Moon and would recommend it to anyone looking for that one-off experience were it not for the $19.95 price. Wait for the paperback -- that excessive amount is only for diehards.

--Mary Benn

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