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Friday, January 28, 2011


Author:  Elle Jasper (aka Cindy Miles)
Plot Type:  SMR with a UF flavor
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor2
Publisher and Titles:  Signet Eclipse
      Afterlight (11/2010)
      Everdark (6/2011)
      Eventide (3/2012)
     Black Fallen (12/2012)
      Darklove (12/2013) (FINALprobably)  

     This post was revised and updated on 1/3/14 to include a review of  Darklove, the fifthand probably the FINALnovel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first four novels:    

            NOVEL 5:  Darklove              
     Elle and her allies are still in Scotland, and as the story opens, she and Noah Miles have been sent to Inverness to wipe out some rogue vampires who have been killing humans across the city. Elle is having dreams about Eli in which he has glowing red eyes and tries repeatedly to kill her. On her first night in Inverness, Elle slips away from Noah and travels to another realm to free Eli and Victorian from their horrendous torture at the hands of the Fallen (who are now all dead). She manages to get Victorian to safety, but Eli disappears, later showing up with a beautiful and deadly witchpire (a witch who has been turned into a vampire). 

     The story follows Elle and Noah as they join up with the Ness boys, a band of young, male, mostly human vampire hunters, and try to kill off the murderous vamps and rescue Eli from his captor. Here, Noah introduces Elle to Rhine MacLeod, the leader of the Ness boys: "Besides having the DNA of four vampires, along with newly acquired traits of a fallen angel, she can move faster than any vampie….She can scale a three-story building in under ten seconds. Her fighting skills are unmatched. Lethal. And she can read minds at will. Her fiancé is being controlled by the witchpire, Carrine, who has decided to crawl into her brain and try and drive her crazier than what she already is." (p. 161) And one more thing: "She unexpectedly falls into a narcoleptic coma every few days or so." So…other than staying awake long enough to take down the rogue vamps, Elle's major task is to save Eli. But the problem is that Eli is in deep blood lust, so he may be too far gone to save, and Elle might have to kill him.

     The story consists of a repetitive series of scenes: Elle has a nightmarish dream about Eli. Elle and Noah dispatch some vamps. Elle and various men exchange quips full of light-hearted sexual innuendo. Carrine shows up in person, taunts Elle, and then sends Eli to attack her. These scenes repeat in various sequences.  

     I'm not 100% sure that this is the final book in the series, but it certainly reads that wayparticularly since it ends with a big celebration back in Savannah. Although I was initially disappointed that the author veered away from the Savannah setting of the first two books, this final book is somewhat stronger than the previous one with its less confusing (and smaller) set of characters, an interesting story line, and the resolution of many dangling story threads. 

     Unfortunately, it still has some of the problems that have plagued previous books: grammatical errors, usage errors (e.g., "incoherent" instead of "oblivious" or "unaware" or "heedless," p. 64), awkward first-person voice, and muddy mythology. (For example, what was the mythology of the realm from which Elle rescued Eli and Victorian? And what's with the vampire cats?). There are also a few basic cultural errors. For example, in one scene, Elle claims to have been taught how to drive in the UK, but then says, "I hit the gas and made myself remember to stay to the right." (p. 20) Wrong! She's lucky she survived the trip because in the UK, you drive on the left side of the road. In another scene, Elle mentions walking by a haggis shop in Inverness. Probably not. She might have walked by a butcher shop that sold haggis, but not a haggis-centric shop. 

     Once again in this book, man-magnet Elle is the sole female (except for the villainess), with ALL of the men vying for her affections, even though every one of them knows that she is engaged to Eli. At one point, Rhine, who is one of the love-struck males, asks the question that every reader has been thinking: "Why does everyone love you so much?" Elle responds: "It's the ink." (p. 242) Whatever the improbable cause, the all-consuming love from the males gets to be ridiculous at times.

     I loved the first book of the series and had high hopes that the author would develop that set of Savannah-based characters into a cohesive set of novels. Unfortunately, when the series went off on its European woo-woo track in book 3, it also went straight downhill.  

     Drop a Kat von D clone into the paranormal scene and you come up with Jasper’s DARK INK series, which features a heroine who runs a hip tattoo parlor in Savannah, Georgia. Riley Poe had a typically rough UF childhood (i.e., rebellion, drugs, Goth lifestyle), but now she has reformed and is trying to make a stable home for her teenage brother, Seth.

     In this world, most humans are blissfully unaware that they live among vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures. In Savannah, a family of vampires has allied with the Gullah community to keep the city safe from supernatural predators. 

     The first two and a half books are set in Savannah, but part way through the third, the action moves to Romania. The fourth and fifth books are set in Scotland and add a number of additional supernatural types to the magical mix.

     Riley is a colorful character (both literally and figuratively), with her dragon tattoos, her multicolored hair, her boatload of guilt over her crime-filled past (which resulted in a family tragedy), and her desperate efforts to keep Seth on the high road. The romantic relationship between Riley and the vampire Eligius (Eli) Dupré is equally as important as the UF-flavored plot. Jasper’s descriptions of Savannah—both the touristy day-time world and the dark and seedy night-time scene—are authentic and eloquent, and the scenes involving the Gullah culture add to the realistic atmospheretoo bad the author abandoned Savannah after book 2.

            NOVEL 1: Afterlight             
     As the series begins, Riley is happily running her tattoo parlor and watching over her brother, Seth. One night, Seth and his buddies break into an old mausoleum and then undergo overnight personality changes. Suddenly, they are able to leap from tall buildings and hover in the air. Riley has no idea what's going on so she seeks advice from her mentor, the elderly Gullah practitioner, Preacher man. When Preacher takes Riley to visit the Dupré family (parents, three sons, and one daughterall vampires), she is shocked to learn that the Duprés have worked with the local Gullah population for over a century to protect Savannah from evil supernaturals. 

     Even more shocking is the news that Seth and his friends have apparently been bitten by ancient, evil vampire siblings (Victorian and Valerian Arcos) whom they set free from imprisonment during their cemetery adventure. The eldest Dupré son, Eli, is assigned to guard Riley from the vamps because Riley has a rare blood type that is irresistible to vamps. Naturally enough, Eli and Riley soon fall in lust/love, and together they set out to save Seth and rescue Savannah from the bad guys.

     This is a great beginning to a promising series. The characters are well developed and interesting, and the story line is inventive. Book 1 contains some interesting scenes about the tattooing process. Click HERE if you'd like more information about tattooing.

            NOVEL 2: Everdark              
     As book 2 opens, Riley is recovering from the vampire bites she received in the climactic battle that closed the previous book. In the usual UF-heroine manner, Riley now has some new powers that are attributable to the bites from Victorian and Valerian Arcos, not to mention the fact that Victorian is still in her head, both in nighttime dreams and daytime mind-speak episodes. Eli is determined to find and kill Victorian, right up until the point that Victorian provides a bit of crucial information that saves him from Eli's vengeance. In the meantime, Riley is having another whole set of visions of another vampire as he methodically stalks and kills humans. It's as if she is actually seeing the butchery through the killer's eyes. When hordes of newling vampires target Charleston, the good-guy vamps from Charleston request help from the Dupré family, and Riley and her brother go along as part of the team, despite Eli's strenuous objections. Eventually, they discover that the newlings are all under the control of a single vampire, and that vamp's identity is a shocker. (Sorry, can't tell you!) The ending is a cliffhanger, with Riley in peril and Eli on her trail.

     Although I enjoyed Riley in book 1, I got sick of her in book 2 with her constant whining that she doesn't need anyone's help, that she can take care of herself, that she isn't going to tell anyone about her dreams and visions, etc. And don't get me started on Eli, a raging alpha whose jaw is so tight most of the time it's a wonder he can open it wide enough to speak. Unfortunately, the series has turned into a typical alpha vamp/sassy female cliché. Their relationship seems to be based solely on lust, as most of their very brief conversations are about how crazy they are for each other and how hot the other one is, with each lovey-dovey talk session leading almost immediately to a sex scene. They even do that old familiar hair-washing-in-the-shower-followed-by-sex scene. One other point about Riley: The whole tattooing thing, which is supposedly a huge part of Riley's life, is barely mentioned in book 2.

     I was hoping that we would learn a bit more about Eli's family members, in book 2, but no...all we hear about is their hot good looks and their laid-back attitudes. And don't forget their incessant slang, which is apparently supposed to give them street cred. It's a bit silly for the repartee of centuries-old vampires to be peppered with dated teen-age slang like "bro" and "sick" and "wicked" and "sweet"and they talk like this all the time. And what's with the inconsistent mind reading? Sometimes the vamps can read Riley's mind, but other times it doesn't work, depending on the plot twist going on at the time. That's the problem with introducing mind-reading into a story. You have to be consistent with it because if you don't, it just weakens the plot and annoys the reader.

             NOVEL 3: Eventide             
      The story opens just after the powerful vampire, Victorian, has kidnapped Riley from the scene of the climactic battle that ended the previous book. He is trying to carry her off to his home in Romania so that his father can somehow cure her from the effects of his brother, Valerian's, bite. Before Victorian can do that, however, Eli catches up with them and rescues Riley. Victorian warns them that Riley is changing in very dangerous ways and that they will soon be forced to get help for her. In the next few chapters, Riley has one violent, hallucinatory, out-of-body nightmare after another, and when she wakes up she has lost large chunks of time. Her temper seems to be triggered by everything and everyone in her life. She hates the fact that Eli and her friends are trying to protect her by having someone with her at all times. She can't keep her mind on her worknot in the shop and not on their nightly hunts for newly turned vamps. But does she tell anyone what is happening to her? Does she confide in the man she professes to love? Nope...she tries to pretend that she's fine and, consequently, gets no help. Although she is under observation by her friends most of the time, no one ever realizes what's happening to her. They keep telling her she looks tired, but no one really reaches out to help. Finally, Riley has a huge violent meltdown, and Eli and Victorian haul her off to Romania. The rest of the story follows Riley's adventures there, as she receives her third and fourth vampire bites. She's still human, but now she's human with "tendencies"meaning that she has many vampiric qualities (e.g., strength, speed, endurance, long life) but still has a human heart and soul.

     Just when we think that Riley and her friends will leave Romania and head back to Savannah to continue their lives, a whole new group is dumped into the plot, bringing an immediate interruption in the Riley story line. Worldwide Unexplained Phenomena (aka WUP) is a motley group that includes werewolves, ancient Pict Druthan warriors, and immortal humans. They claim to be peacekeepers who hunt down supernatural bad guys. When Riley is introduced and shakes hands with each WUP member, she is immediately transported into yet another out-of-body experience, this time seeing that person's WUP history. After all the introductions and hallucinations, the Riley plot picks up again. The whole WUP story line is very awkward and poorly managed. Apparently, this is the new direction that the series will travel. Riley will join this group and crisscross the globe hunting down evil supernaturals. My question to the author is this: Instead of totally trashing the mythology and series arc of the DARK INK series, why didn't you start fresh with a new series about a group of global demon hunters who have their own mythology? Will this series continue to be called DARK INK CHRONICLES when Riley is no longer running her tattoo parlor?

     For me, this book is a disappointment. The first half consists of Riley's extremely repetitive hallucinations, and the second half dumps this whole new cast of characters into the mix for unknown reasons and with no noticeable effect on the plot of this book. The WUP members are introduced, and then they just come along for the ride. The one and only strong scene in the book is the climactic confrontation between Riley and Victorian near the end.

     I hate to see what is happening to this series because it started off so well. The author began with a fresh urban setting, plenty of local color, quirky characters, and endless possibilities for story lines. The tattoo shop alone could have been a great source of material. But instead of developing the series along that track, the author has chosen to put all that behind her by adopting an entirely new mythology (the Pict Druthans, who seem to be connected in some way with the ancient Celts). Instead of fleshing out the back stories of the supporting cast of the first three books, she leaves them unexamined and turns to this new group. In all honesty, I don't have much hope that this change in direction is going to improve the series. In the next book, Riley and Eli head to Scotland with the WUP group to hunt down some Black Fallen (angels). Farewell Savannah, we'll miss you.

            NOVEL 4:  Black Fallen             
     Savannah is just a sun-kissed memory as Kat, Eli, Victorian, Noah and their Worldwide Unexplained Phenomena (aka WUP) allies land in Edinburgh, Scotland, to take on the Black Fallenangels who have gone over to the dark side. Here is one character's description of these bad guys: "The Black Fallen are angels engulfed in the darkest of magic. They're obsessed, powerful, and completely undetectable. They've zero conscience. They move among humans as one of them, and only another fallen one can recognize them straight away. They're from an ancient realm of holy and unholy....and they'll not stop until they have what they desire." (p. 24) What both the good guys and the bad guys desire is an ancient, magical book that was stolen from the Dark Fallen centuries ago and has been hidden somewhere in Edinburgh ever since. The book is filled with powerful evil spells that the Dark Fallen want to use for their own nefarious purposes. The WUP team wants to find the book first so that they can destroy it and save the world. In the meantime, the Dark Fallen are sending their vicious demon minionsthe Jodísto rip out the hearts of unlucky humans. The story line follows Kat and her friends as they become expert swordsmen with just a day or two of lessons and then go out each night to hunt down the Jodís and their Dark Fallen masters.

     Soon, strange things begin happening to Kat. First, she is visited by a ghostly little girl in the creepy WUP headquarters building where they are staying. Then a sexy male voice starts crooning erotic words in her head. Finally, she hears a buzzing in her ears that gets louder and louder and never goes away. Does Kat tell anyone about these alarming occurrences when they happen? Of course not. She passes off the buzzing sound as an ear infection or a head cold, keeps forgetting to mention the ghost, and waits way, way too long to mention the mind-speak. Here is a typical example of her improbably off-handed behavior: After Kat sees the ghost girl for the second or third time, she thinks to herself, "I have to remember to ask Gabriel [their Edinburgh WUP contact] about her later" (p. 163), but then never follows through. This is typical behavior for Kat. Even though she has joined the WUP team, she has never been a team player, and being a WUP member doesn't change her self-centered ways.

     The strangest part of this book is the insertion of numerous biographical flashback scenes (always italicized) that jump into Kat's head when she touches people. For example, we get extensive personal information about the two ancient Pict warriors who teach her how to use a sword. Kat is so interested in their personal lives that she makes it a point to touch them almost every time she sees them. Unfortunately, these scenes have absolutely nothing to do with the main plot; they're just dropped in for no apparent reason, and they always bring the momentum of the actual story line to a screeching halt. (Oddly, one of the men's wives is named Ellie, and it turns out that she is Eleanor of Acquitaine, who in real life lived in the 1100s and was married first to King Louis VII of France and then to King Henry II of England—centuries after the height of the Pict civilization. Why use historical figures if you don't make their biographies historically accurate?) At one point, one of the men gives Kat a special ancient Pict prayer and a weapon that shoots glass capsules filled with holy water. In a lengthy scene, he shows her how to use them and tells her that they will kill the demonic Jodís. He makes a big deal of the presentation to Kat, but she never uses the weapon or the prayerjust stores them away in her room. Perhaps she will use them in the next book, but why interrupt the flow of this plot for a major scene involving a device that has no connection with this book's plot?

     I have to be careful how I phrase this next part. Let me just say that a little more than halfway through the book, something terrible happens in the Eli-Kat relationship. This event is loudly telegraphed and entirely predictable because throughout the first part of the book, they (uncharacteristically) keep pledging eternal love to one another every chance they get, constantly emoting about how they are going to be together forever. Tempting fate in that manner in urban fantasyland ALWAYS signals a catastrophe of epic proportions, so be prepared. Although Kat is obviously grief-stricken for a day or so, she  pulls herself together much too easily and too quickly and engages in flirtatious teasing within days when some of her male friends actually begin hitting on her. (Shame on you, Noah and Victorian!) There is an Eli-related cliff-hanger at the end that leads into the next book, which will take Kat and company into the Scottish highlandswerewolf country. 

     Kat tells the story in the first-person voice, a point of view that is powerful if handled well, but agonizing (as in this case) when it's not. It's difficult for me to understand why all of the handsome, sexy men (and that description fits all of Kat's male team members) go gaga over her. She doesn't demonstrate much of a personality, and her stubbornness and lack of team spirit continually drive them to distraction, but they keep telling her how beautiful, talented, brave, etc., she is. The other two female team members might as well be coat racks or wallpaper because Kat rarely mentions them and never has a conversation with either one, and they remain mostly in the background. 

     This series began so strongly that I hate to see what it has become. The book-one Kat was terrific, with her gothic look, her colorful tattoo shop, her quirky friends, and the atmosphere provided by the Savannah setting. Now, she has become just another conceited and arrogant UF heroine of the worst kind as she schleps around the world on an endless monster hunt. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your review of Eventide; thought it was disjointed and not nearly as enjoyable as the first two books. Have taken the series off my "must read" list.