Series: CARPATHIAN/DARK SERIES
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4-5; Sensuality—4; Humor—2
Dark Storm (Danutdaxton ["Dax"] & Riley Parker)
Dark Lycan (Fenris Dalka & Tatijana Dragonseeker)
Dark Wolf (1/2014)(Dmitri Tirunul & Skylar Rose Daratrazanoff)
"Dark Crime) in Edge of Darkness anthology (8/2015)(Maksim Volkov & Blaze McGuire)
Dark Ghost (9/2015) (Teagan Joanes & Andre Boire)
Dark Carousel (2016)
This ongoing post was revised and updated on 9/24/15 to include a review of Dark Ghost, the 27th novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of novels 22 through 26.
Now they are bound by destiny, but is it enough to keep them safe from a stalking, relentless darkness that threatens to swallow them alive?
The full title of this novel should be Dark Ghost: A Tale of Sex and Angst, because that's basically all one finds in the entire 312 pages. Oh, sure…there are a few minor diversions—a rape attempt, a few brief vampire battles, and a really brief run-in with a quartet of not-too-smart human males who make a BIG mistake when they threaten the heroine.
That heroine is Teagan Joanes, a young woman from California who is back-packing in the Carpathian Mountains in search of a particular crystal that she hopes will save her Grandma Trixie's sanity. You see, Trixie believes that vampires exist and that she is a vampire hunter, so she must be crazy. Right? (Note: Trixie is a former friend of Gary Jansen—a recurring character in the series and hero of the next book—and she believes that Gary has become a vampire sympathizer.) Teagan's three older half-sisters want to put Trixie in a home, but Teagan is determined to save her.
When Teagan's mountain guide—an old friend from her college days—goes rogue and tries to rape her, she escapes up the mountain and hides in a cave. Also hiding in the cave is a tall, dark, and muscularly handsome man named Andre Boire, an ancient Carpathian who is well on his way to either losing his sanity or walking into the sun.
Of course, it's lust at first sight, particularly since Andre immediately realizes that Teagan is his lifemate—the woman who will save his life and his soul. Like all über-alpha Carpathian males, Andre doesn't stop to ask permission. Immediately, he gets all seductive on poor Teagan, speaking the words that will bind them together for all eternity and making the first blood exchange. From that point on, for hundreds and hundreds of pages, the narrative alternates between detailed descriptions of their sexual adventures and their monotonous interior monologues and dialogues—all filled with agitated angst and tediously repetitious clichés.
Teagan is not only a virgin, but she has never been kissed by a man in her entire life. This is hard to believe because she tells us that all of her friends are men because she spends so much time in "masculine" activities such as martial arts, wrestling, and mountain climbing. I couldn't believe how badly this story dragged on and on and on, with the characters constantly repeating the same words and the same observations. We hear the story of Teagan's childhood over and over again: her three much more beautiful sisters, the "crazy" grandmother, the absent father, the male friends who treat her like a sister, etc., etc., etc.
The simplistic action plot involves Andre's determination to eliminate a dangerous master vampire. They injured each other in their last battle, and now both have gone to ground to heal. That entire plot line is resolved in a handful of scenes as Andre wipes out the master vamp's pitiful minions and then takes down the master himself. The other slender story line involving the rapist and his friends is also dealt with in just a few pages. That leaves about 300 pages of angst, angst, and more angst. I found myself paging quickly past the sex and the angst because of the CONSTANT repetition. If Teagan had "melted into" Andre just one more time, I believe that I would have thrown the book across the room!
The only reason to read this book is that Grandma Trixie will be featured in the next book when she hightails it to the Carpathian Mountains in an attempt to stop Teagan from marrying Andre. Also, Teagan believes that she can save the lives of some ancient Carpathian hunters who live in an isolated monastery on a Carpathian mountaintop where they slowly lose what is left of their sanity. With no hope of finding their lifemates, they are just waiting for the day when their only choice is to walk into the sun.
This series has gone on for so long that Feehan may not have an original plot line in her any more. Certainly, this book provides evidence for that possibility. I have read every book in this series, and the early ones did have interesting and suspenseful plots. But not any more. Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from Dark Ghost on the book's Amazon.com page. Just click on either the cover art of the "Audible Narration" icon.
NOVEL 22: Dark Predator
As the story opens, the De La Cruz brothers have just won a battle against a Malinov army, but the eldest De La Cruz brother, Zacarias, has been badly wounded. Zacarias is one of the oldest living Carpathians, and he is very close to making his choice between becoming a vampire or meeting the dawn. After the battle, the wounded Zacarias decides to end his life, so he heads off to one of family farms in Peru to do the scorching deed. To Zacarias' amazement and horror, one of his employees at the farm refuses to allow him to die. Marguarita, Zacarias' hapless savior, is a beautiful virginal young woman whose life Zacarias once saved during a vampire attack (in a previous book). Marguarita is mute, her vocal cords having been irreparably damaged during that vampire attack. Instead of being grateful to Marguarita for saving him, Zacarias is enraged, and he attacks her in a horribly painful blood-lust scene (see quotation below), one of many in the book. Marguarita's psychic gift is the ability to communicate with animals, calming them with mental "pushes." She attempts to pacify Zacarias' violent streak by sending him peaceful thoughts, but, unfortunately for her, her gift doesn't seem to work with him. As is true in many of the CARPARTHIAN books, the romance consumes about 90% of the plot, with endless angst-filled interior monologues (and hardly any dialogue). Two brief secondary plot threads involve a drugged-out human vampire hunter and the obligatory attack by the Malinovs. Mostly, though, Zacarias spends his time taking out his fears and aggressions on poor Marguarita, and she forgives him—again and again and again.
Here are a few quotations from the book to give you a sense of the horrific "romance" between Zacarias and Marguarita:
This is how Zacarias repays Marguarita for saving him from the sun: "He jerked her to her feet...She struggled wildly and he pinned her with one arm and caught her thick rope of hair with the other, crushing the silken strands in his fist as he jerked her head back....He didn't try to calm her mind or in any way control her knowledge of what was happening. He wanted her to know. He wanted her fear. He intended to hurt her so she would never forget why she should obey....Zacarias sank his teeth deep into that soft, defenseless flesh. He bit hard, without a numbing agent, puncturing her neck deliberately close to her throat. She should have remembered the vampire attacking her. She shouldn't have been so careless as to disobey. She needed another lesson in just what a dangerous, uncaring vile creature could do....There was no way for her to get free and no one could enter the house—his house—without his consent or knowledge. She was completely at his mercy—and he had none." (pp. 36-37)
"He wanted obedience from her, not stark, raw fear. Well...he'd wanted her to be afraid—to learn her lesson. Fear was simply a tool to him, one he wielded easily." (p. 41)
NOVEL 23: Dark Storm
This is another angst-filled, melodramatic tale with a hero and heroine who spend much of their time either having sex on comfortable beds conjured up in the middle of the jungle and thinking and talking about each other's perfection. Those tender tableaux are occasionally interrupted by graphically violent scenes in which they must extricate themselves from dangerous traps set by the villain. This, by the way, is a very bloody and violent book, with lots of gory massacre scenes.
In this book the showdown scene with the villain is anticlimactic and way too effortless. The mystical magic that Riley practices is filled with nonsensical spells and lots of Carpathian language—in fact, there are two lengthy appendices with more information than you really want to know about Carpathian healing chants and Carpathian language. And let's not even get into the whole rain forest venue, which adds even more to the repetitive nature of this book (and the previous few) with its endless descriptions of the plant life and the humidity. The tie-in with the De La Cruz family has a tacked-on feel to it, as if it were pulled out of thin air just to manipulate the plot. All in all, this is an unsatisfying book. It seems to me that Feehan's books are getting weaker and weaker. They overflow with repetitive angst-filled monologues, thinly drawn characters, totally predictable plots.
NOVEL 24: Dark Lycan
As the story begins, Fenris Dalka has returned to the Carpathians to check in with his brother, Dmitri. Centuries ago, Fenris partnered with a Lycan hunter to track down vampires and rogue werewolves, and both became Lycan/Carpathian hybrids after routinely exchanging blood as they healed their many battle injuries. Unfortunately, the Lycans believe that a hybrid of this type—which they call a Sang rau—is a monster, and they capture and kill them without question, no matter what the circumstances of the change were. This prejudice is deeply woven into the Lycan cultural tradition. When Fenris' partner is captured and killed by the Lycans, Fenris continues to hunt rogues as a lone Lycan, living as a Lycan and hiding his Carpathian characteristics from everyone but his brother.
Part of the reason that Fenris has returned to the Carpathians is that he has been tracking a huge pack of rogue werewolves who are being led by a Sang rau. The elite hunters of the Lycans are also tracking the pack, and they are led by Zev, a hunter who is nearly as skilled and experienced as Fenris. Fenris and Zev unite with Mikhail's Carpathians to battle the pack, but their efforts are stymied when they are met by not just one, but two, Sang rau.
In the meantime, Tatijana and her sister, Bronnie, are awakening from their underground healing sleep after being rescued from centuries of torture at the hands of their father, the psychotic mage Xavier. Tatijana emerges first, going off to a local tavern and meeting up with Fenris, who immediately recognizes her as his lifemate. Even though Tatijana is determined to make her own decisions and live independently after her centuries-long imprisonment, she falls for Fenris instantly, and their relationship has no courting process, just a smooth move into a fully developed companionship—no misunderstandings, no arguments, no temper tantrums, no clashes of will...and no spark to catch the reader's interest. In between battles, they engage in one saccharine, sappy, lovey-dovey scene after another. We are told that both Fenris and Tatijana are fiercely independent, but those traits show up only on the battlefield, never in their relationship scenes. That relationship lacks any type of development; it is portrayed as being in full bloom as soon as they meet. Tatijana's desire for independence is never a part of the romance process. She makes one or two comments about not wanting to be claimed just yet, but it's immediately obvious to Fenris (and to the reader) that she won't hold back her consent very long…and she doesn't.
The story is an endlessly repetitive cycle of long, drawn-out battles followed by shorter, romance scenes between Fenris and Tatijana. The battle scenes are long and drawn out—filled with needless slash-by-slash detail and with the same repetitive phrases. The author explains to the reader time and time again that the wolves always eviscerate their victims first, gouging out huge bites from the gut and then moving on to the head and extremities. We get hundreds of sentences almost exactly like this one: "The wolves leapt on Zev, tearing at him, biting great chunks of flesh from him." We get hundreds more sentences describing each and every time a good guy plunges a silver stake into a wolf's chest, back, shoulder, eye, etc. In every single battle scene we are treated to detailed descriptions as one good guy after another gets gutted, gouged, and gashed. In each battle, Tatijana flies too low and is slashed or grabbed by a wolf—and those descriptions are nearly identical. I found myself just paging past the battle scenes after I read the first one. I would guess that about half the book consists of these tedious, blow-by-blow descriptions.
I had a problem with Fenris from the book's beginning. Fenris was born a pure-blood Carpathian, so why was he named Fenris, which is derived from the name of a mythological wolf monster? The Fenris Wolf is also one of the bad guys in several story lines in Marvel Comics. The Marvel version of the character is based on Norse legends in which Fenris (aka Fenrir) is the catalyst for Ragnarok—the end of the world. I can't imagine why any Carpathian mother would name her child after this wolfy fiend. It is obviously his original name because all of his Carpathian boyhood friends use it. I realize that Feehan has concocted a story in which (ironically?) Fenris has now become part-wolf, but why choose that name for him when no one (except Feehan) could have possibly known that this would happen to him?
On her web site, Feehan explains that this is the first book in a DARK SERIES trilogy, each with a Lycan or Carpathian/Lycan hero: Dark Lycan, Dark Wolf, and Dark Blood. In the next book, the lifemates are Dmitri and Skylar. In Dark Wolf, the lifemates are Zev and Bronnie. So…it's a family affair trilogy. You can be sure that there will be lots of angst because each of the men will be inflicted with the Sang rau condition, and they, like Fenris, will be extremely worried about passing it on to their lifemates. You'll need to refer to the Carpathian family trees that Feehan includes at the beginning of each book so that you can see exactly where each lifemate fits into the scheme of things.
Click HERE to read an excerpt from Dark Lycan. The hardback and trade paperback editions of this book were published in September 2013; the mass market paperback publishing date is May 2014.
NOVEL 25: Dark Wolf
Unfortunately, the Lycans have different beliefs than the Carpathians on the subject of mixed blood. "The Lycans referred to any mix between Lycan and Carpathian as Sange rau—bad blood. They believed anyone who had such a mixture must be hunted down and killed." (p. 137) This difference of opinions has kept the Lycans and Carpathians apart for centuries. At the end of the previous novel, a group of Lycans carried Dmitri off to be tortured and killed because of his mixed blood, while his brother, Fen, was left behind, on the brink of death from serious battle injuries. As the story opens, members of the Lycan Council have arrived at the Carpathian compound to meet with the Carpathian leaders in an attempt to work out an agreement concerning cross-breeds.
In the previous novel, we learned the lifemate situation for each of the three warriors who star in this trilogy. In Dark Lycan, Fen found his lifemate, Tatijana, daughter of the infamous mage, Xavier, while Zev began to fall for Tatijana's sister, Branislava ("Bronnie"). Dmitri, who has known the identity of his lifemate, Skyler, for many years, continued to wait for her to grow from a girl to a woman. Dark Wolf tells the love story of Dmitri and Skyler against a violent backdrop of deceit, betrayal, and warfare. In Dark Blood, we'll get the full love story for Zev and Bronnie.
Skyler is the nineteen-year-old adopted daughter of Gabriel and Francesca. Her biological father is Razvan, son of the hated mage Xavier, who possessed Razvan against his will and impregnated a series of human women. (Xavier was an evil villain in several earlier books.) Skyler's mother was a psychic, her father is a mage, and her adopted parents have shared their Carpathian blood with her. At one point, she muses, "What kind of a concoction am I? Psychic. Mage. Partly Carpathian. Daughter of the earth. Dragon seeker. I see things I'm not meant to see. I feel things I shouldn't." (p. 12) She is also a healer with a powerful connection to Mother Earth. Skyler had a horrific childhood, first kept in a cell with her mother until Xavier came to believe that she had no magical abilities. At that point, Xavier sold her and her mother as sex slaves. Eventually, she was rescued by Gabriel and Francesca and raised as their daughter. She still has nightmares about her childhood experiences, and she dreads the time when she and Dmitri will begin the physical part of their relationship because she fears that nightmares from her past will keep her from fulfilling his needs.
Although Skyler and Dmitri exchange a few telepathic love messages, they spend most of the book planning and carrying out a safe get-away. Even after they and their friends return to the Carpathian compound, no one is really safe, because a rebellious Lycan group is plotting the deaths of Dmitri and Skyler as well as some of their own Lycan council members. Although everyone knows that there are traitors among the Lycans, neither the Carpathians nor the Lycans knows which Lycans are loyal and which are rebels.
This book has a much better story line and more complex plot development than the previous few novels. Skyler and her two friends are great characters as they make their plans and carry them out in an intelligent, but humorous, manner. Dmitri—who has lived for centuries—is a patient and loving mate for Skyler, but he comes across as being so much more mature and knowledgeable than Skyler that it's hard to believe that he could ever build an eternal relationship with this teenage girl. Throughout the series, Feehan's characterizations of her heroes have varied widely (and wildly)—from the aloof but gentlemanly alphas of the earliest books to the cold, brutal Zacarias De La Cruz of Dark Predator. Dmitri is more like the early heroes, with his restrained passion and patient treatment for his centuries-younger lifemate.
I'm guessing that the Lycan warfare plot will be resolved in the next novel as Zev and Bronnie become lifemates and achieve their HEA. All thee of these couples are extremely worried about their futures because as the women take blood from their lifemates, they, too, will become Han käu pesäk kaiak. Will they be able to have children? If so, what species will their children be? Can the Lycans and Carpathians resolve their differences, or will mixed-bloods continue to live in constant danger from the Lycans? All (or most) of these questions will no doubt be answered in the next novel.
Click HERE to read chapter 1 of Dark Wolf. The hardback, trade book, e-book, and audiobook editions of this book were published in January 2014; the mass market paperback publishing date is August 2014.
NOVELLA 25.5: "Dark Crime"
This is the third book in a trilogy within the CARPATHIAN series that tells the story of three cross-breed Hunters (Fenris, Dmitri, and Zev) and their dragonseeker lifemates (Skyler, Tatijana, and Branislava—nicknamed "Bronnie"). Fenris and Dmitri are brothers, and Tatijana and Bronnie are sisters as well as being the daughters of the villainous mage, Xavier, who impregnated their Carpathian mother as part of his quest for immortality. The men are all experienced, skilled Hunters, while the women are relatively new to battle. Just weeks ago, Tatijana and Bronnie were freed from life-long imprisonment in Xavier's ice cave, and young Skyler has just joined the group. The three men have both Lycan and Carpathian blood, the result of sharing blood with one another over centuries to heal battle injuries. The Lycans view them as abominations and want them dead, but the Carpathians call them Guardians, and revere their strength and morality.
The story opens in the aftermath of the attack on the Council that marked the climax of the previous book (Dark Wolf). Zev was mortally wounded in the fighting, but Bronnie managed to save him by binding her soul and spirit to his and remaining by his side. As Zev awakens, he finds himself in the sacred cave of warriors, where he and two others are received as brothers by the council of warriors. The first part of the book follows Zev through some intensive healing rituals to get him back on his feet. After that, the book falls into a pattern of repetitiously detailed battle scenes and erotic love scenes, with each and every stroke, thrust, and bite described at length (in both combat and coitus).
Eventually, Zev and his team discover that a mage is involved with the rogue Lycans who are trying to kill the Council members—a mage with connections to the evil Xavier. Although most of the conflict is resolved in the big showdown battle at the end, problems remain unresolved with some of the Lycan leaders (who continue to hate all mixed-bloods), and there is still one more villain to catch.
This book was a disappointment for me, mostly because there are too many nearly identical hand-to-hand/claw/teeth battle scenes. The good guys and gals were always being ambushed and never went on the offensive. In between the fights, Zev and Bronnie (or "Branka" as he calls her), found time to run off into the woods to release their sexual tension in some of Feehan's familiarly sensual love scenes, with Zev forcing submission on Branka and Branka begging for more. "It was a claiming….She understood his need to have her submit to him….She could see the marks on her body from his hands, his mouth and teeth and she delighted in every one….His face...was stamped with lust, a pure dominant bent on teaching his woman a lesson. She reveled in the way he chose to teach her." (p. 154) Once again, a CARPATHIAN hero hovers very close to the line between rough sex and abusive sex.
Feehan also throws in a few dancing scenes just to break the tension, but those just didn't work for me. Although I have enjoyed this series over the years, I have to admit that I liked the earlier novels better—before all of the chanting and woo-woo elements were added, and especially before Feehan got so carried away with the Carpathian language. If you are still a fan of the series, you'll want to read this book because it resolves some major issues and answers a lot of questions (e.g., the identity of Zev's mother and the importance of Zev's genetic heritage).
Click HERE to read chapter 1 of Dark Blood. The hardback, e-book, and audiobook editions of this book were published in September 2014; the mass market paperback publishing date is September 2015.