Beyond the Highland Mist

The Dark Highlander

The Highlander's Touch

The Immortal Highlander

Kiss of the Highlander

by Karen Marie Moning
(Delacorte, $20.00, G) ISBN 0-385-33915-1
MacKayla “Mac” Lane is a 22-year-old Southern woman who is in no hurry to grow up. She lives at home with her parents, tends bar at night, and attends just enough community college courses to keep Mom and Dad from nagging her. It’s her older sister, Alina, who has all the ambition. She loves school and is currently studying abroad at Dublin’s Trinity College. When Alina is murdered, Mac’s world begins to spin drunkenly out of control.

With grief slowly destroying her family, and the Dublin police declaring the murder investigation a lost cause, Mac is determined to get to the bottom of her sister’s death. Someone killed her sister, and by God they’re going to pay. So defying her parents, she hops the next plane to Dublin and begins snooping around on her own. What she discovers is a world she never knew existed, and more about herself then she ever cared to know.

With the help of a mysterious man named Jericho Barrons, Mac soon learns that very real monsters are targeting humans. The Fae, or Faery, are crossing over into the realm of the human world. And while there is no such thing as a good Fae, some are decidedly worse than others. Her sister was trying to tell her something before she died, and now Mac knows what it is – she’s a sidhe-seer, a human who can see past the glamour for what the Fae truly are. And the only way to stop them is to find the mythical Sinsar Dubh, a lost, dark book of the Fae realm that several people will stop at nothing to get their hands on.

Let’s state the obvious up front – this is not a romance, nor is it being marketed as one. Darkfever is a hard book to categorize, which ultimately makes it a very interesting read. Mac might be the bubbly young heroine of a chick lit novel if not for her sister’s murder. Jericho Barrons could be a dashing romance hero, if he weren’t so mysterious (can Mac trust him?). The setting is paranormal meets gothic underworld; with a Fae realm so dark it makes those vampire guys look like wimps. It’s also the first book in a projected series about Mac – so readers can expect that not all questions will be answered, and since she’s going to continue to be the heroine, one shouldn’t expect a happily ever after just yet.

Written entirely in first person, this is also a fun, fast read. Mac may be young, but she knows who she is – at least she thinks she does. She fights what she sees with her own eyes, having a hard time believing that monsters are out walking around randomly killing people. Slowly she begins to accept and still desperate to have answers to Alina’s death, she plunges headlong into investigating and fighting back.

The only quibble here is that the entire book is very open-ended. This reads very much like the first book in a series. Doubts are raised, very few questions are answered, all serving to entice the reader into becoming invested and reading the next book in the series. Well it worked on this reviewer. An intriguing gothic world, a plucky heroine, a mysterious hero, creepy villains and an engaging first person narration make Moning’s trek outside of a romance a promising start indeed.

--Wendy Crutcher

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