Only the most recent posts pop up on the HOME page. For searchable lists of titles/series reviewed on this Blog, click on one of the Page Tabs above. On each Page, click on the series name to go directly to my review.

AUTHOR SEARCH lists all authors reviewed on this Blog. CREATURE SEARCH groups all of the titles/series by their creature types. The RATINGS page explains the violence, sensuality, and humor (V-S-H) ratings codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their Ratings. The PLOT TYPES page explains the SMR-UF-CH-HIS codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their plot types. On this Blog, when you see a title, an author's name, or a word or phrase in pink type, this is a link. Just click on the pink to go to more information about that topic.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Author:  Lauren Dane
Publisher and Titles: Berkley Sensation
     Heart of Darkness (2011)
     Chaos Burning (6/2012)
     Going Under (2/2013)
     Wild Darkness (11/2013) (FINAL)

     This post was revised and updated on 12/5/13 to include a review of Wild Darkness, the fourth and FINAL novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of novels 1, 2, and 3:

            BOOK 4:  Wild Darkness            
     In the series finale, the Others are being attacked on multiple fronts by the bigoted followers of PURITY and Humans First. Molly Ryan is still recovering from her injuries in the bombing in the Congressional hearing room (in the previous book), and Helena Jaansen, the Gennessee head of security, has taken the lead in keeping the Others as safe as possible. As this book opens, the opposition has just firebombed a community center filled with young and elderly Others, and the local police are blaming the Others for the catastrophe. Just as the situation is about to disintegrate into violence between the police and the Others, a new group steps into the picture—the newly formed Cross Species Task Force, a government agency that promises to be open-minded and fair in its investigation of problems between Others and humans.

     The romance plot centers on Helena (Lark's sister) and Faine Leviathan (Simon's brother). Faine is a 400-year-old half-demon, half-Lycian prince. Once again, the romance goes very smoothly, primarily because Faine has absolutely no faults. He is unfailingly thoughtful, polite, brave, smart, sexy, and just protective enough—but not to the point of smothering Helena's innate independent streak. Helena is also a one-note character: always feisty, intelligent, and courageous. She has only one flaw—her overwhelming feelings of guilt about events over which she had no control. (This is a fault commonly found in heroes and heroines in paranormal fiction—always taking the blame for tragic situations that they couldn't possibly have prevented.) Although the snarky dialogue between Helena and Faine is entertaining, their characters would be more interesting if they had either a few flaws or some kind of past tragedy in their lives.

     In a secondary romance, Toshio (Tosh) Sato (human) and Delilah Sperry (werewolf), both U.S. Senators, finally get together for a few kisses and a meet-the-family dinner.

     The action part of the plot follows Helena and her fellow Others as they fight hard against a proposed federal law that will strip them of all civil rights and force them to be micro-chipped and placed in detention camps. As the Others strategize, the separatists continue their violent attacks, and public opinion is divided. The resolution to the conflict doesn't come until the final few pages of the book, and it plays out very quickly. My only quibble with that resolution is this: Why did the Others wait so long to take the actions they finally took that led to the downfall of the PURITY leaders? (I can't say more or it will be a spoiler.)

     All in all, this has been an above average paranormal romance series with fast-paced action and a tension-building series story arc. Its weakness lies in the fact that the lead characters are all too good to be true (especially the men), and the villains are all so evil that they are nothing but melodramatic caricatures.

     In this world, there are three groups of supernatural beingscalled Others: shifters, witches, and vampires. As the series opens, the shifters have outed themselves to the humans, and the vampires are on the verge of doing the same. But the witches remain undercover because they remember their history of being hunted down, tortured, and burned at the stake by humans at various points in the past. In some areas of the country, witches live in clans, but in others, they don't. The series is set in Seattle, where the Owen Clan is in chargethe largest and most powerful clan of witches in the country. 

     Clan witches share their power through their fonts. Here is Meriel's description: "The font was the collective energy bank for the clan. All witches within it were keyed in so that their magickal energy should be part of it, if not every day, at least several times a week." (p. 8) Here, Meriel explains the concept in more detail to Dominic: " never dies, it simply turns into something else. That's physics....Anyway, the font doesn't steal your magick. It collects whatever the magick dissipates into once the function is served. Like a cistern collects rainwater, for example. Only the dissipated energy once collected, will mature into magickal energy over time and be there should anyone need it." (Heart of Darkness, p. 27)

There are several types of witches in this world:
Clan witches, who belong to organized clans and share their power through their fonts. Each clan is composed of two groups:
          Commonwealth witches (90%), who are the non-governing members of a clan  
          Council witches (10%), members of the clan council who are born with much more power than commonwealth witches and are charged with leading and governing their clan    
Outclan witches, who live independently and do not belong to any clan
Turned witches, who become "stuck" in their addiction to magick and burn away all of their powers until they are no longer considered to be witches. Some of them have allied with the mages and try to steal power from the witches.
     There are two types of shifters: traditional werewolves and Lycians. The Lycians come from an alternate realm and don't really consider themselves to be shifters, even though they can change back and forth between their human and animal (wolf) forms. As one Lycian explains, "I'm Lycian. I am a beast who wears a man's skin sometimes. And other times I wear fur. But I am always who I am, no matter the skin I wear. I do not need the moon or the tides. If I bit you, you'd bleed, but you wouldn't be infected." (Wild Darkness, p. 60)
            BOOK 1:  Heart of Darkness            
      Meriel Owen, the heroine of book 1, is a council witch who is in line to inherit the leadership of Clan Owen. As the story opens, Meriel's mother (Edwina) assigns Meriel to investigate a series of attacks on witches in various parts of the country. The witches are being drained of their powers by unknown villains and left to die. But first, Meriel heads out to the Heart of Darkness, a nightclub for humans and Others, to question and probably punish the club's outclan witch owner for stealing magic from the font that belongs to the Owen Clan. When Meriel meets that owner (Dominic Bright), all thoughts of punishment leave her, and all she can think about is bedding the guy (and vice versa). As it turns out, the two are fated to be bond-mates. 

     The plot mostly follows Meriel and Dominic through the ups and downs of their developing relationship. I know that I have complained in the past about the high levels of angst in some of these SMR series, but now, ironically enough, my complaint is that there is no angst at all in this story. All of these characters are logical, reasonable people who don't hold grudges, don't sit around musing about the problems in their love lives, and don't misunderstand anything their lover says or does. These characters have watched way too much Dr. Phil because all they do is UNDERSTAND one anotherto the point that I just wanted someone to get mad or pitch a hissy fit or do SOMETHING emotional (other than the sexy stuffof which there is plenty). Even the initial mother-daughter antagonism between Meriel and Edwina gets mushied up in the endso, no real drama there. And although Merial's feelings occasionally get hurt by something Dominick says or does, she is quick to analyze his emotional state and immediately forgive him. Dominic just spends the entire book worshiping her. So...the end result of all of these happy, Kumbayah moments is a somewhat static, boring book. The plot, which does sometimes interrupt the couple's mutual admiration society, involves evil mages, turned witches, and bigoted humans all of whom are the culprits in the kidnappings. One of Dominick's relatives also turns up among the villains. Click HERE to read an excerpt.

     The second book will focus on the love story of Lark Jaansen, another witch, and Simon Leviathan, a Lycian (wolf shifter) prince who co-owns the Heart of Darkness club with Dominick. I have my fingers crossed that this couple will be a lot more flamboyant than Merial and Dominic.

            BOOK 2:  Chaos Burning            
     The heroine of book 2 is Lark Jaansen, a witch from the Gennessee clan in San Francisco. Lark is a trained Hunter who has come to Seattle to help the Owen clan beef up their security in response to a series of abductions of witches and other supernaturals within Owen territory. Her soul mate is Simon Leviathan, the Lycian prince who is Dominic's partner in the Heart of Darkness nightclub.

     The Lycian are wolf shifters who are bigger and badder than regular werewolves and can shift at will, not just at the full moon. Their homeland is "across the Veil," whatever that means (it's not fully explained). Simon is 600 years old, and Lark is 25, but age doesn't seem to matter much. The romance is the primary focus of the story, with Simon worshipping Lark and Lark thinking that Simon is "adorable" and extremely sexy. The only bump in their romantic journey is that Simon sometimes gets a bit too protective as he responds to Lark's macho, tough-girl, take-no-prisoners attitude toward life. Their dialogues are so far from being normal conversations that it's hard not to just skip over them completely. They don't talk like people; they talk like cardboard characters in a really bad melodrama. At one point after Lark has told Simon a few things about her life, he actually says, "Thank you for sharing." Who talks like that to his girlfriend? (Answer, only Dr. Phil).

    Once again, all of the good guys are really, really good, and all of the bad guys are evil to the core. The action part of the plot centers on the villain—called the Magister—that is at the heart of the abductions. Although Lark and her Hunters catch a slew of mages and turned witches who are helping the Magister, they can't seem to get a handle on exactly who, or what, the Magister is, and unfortunately that problem is never solved—even after they defeat it. All they know is that the Magister is an ancient, death-dealing power. After the requisite magical battle near the end, the story peters out in an unfinished manner leaving several story threads unresolved (e.g., What happened to the possible traitor? Exactly who, or what, was the villain's helper? Why did so many Others die at the end—even those who were nowhere near the battle scene?) Even if this story thread will be continued in the next book, the way the ending is handled is incomplete and extremely unsatisfying. Unfortunately, this series does not seem to be improving in any way, not in characters and not in plot.

     Lark is a strong and independent woman (a paper-doll super-heroine) who makes few tactical mistakes, but Dane has made Lark über-quirky, particularly in regards to her colorful, thrift-store wardrobe and her pink and blue hair. I was willing to accept most of that until things went from quirky to ridiculous when Lark headed out to her first meeting with the Seattle vampires dressed like this: "She wore a little white dress with red hearts on it. And thick leggings in red. And red cowboy boots. Give me a break! Even Simon thinks the outfit is over the top as he tells her, "You do resemble a cupcake today." (p. 199) As in book 1, poor Simon, the hero of the story, seems to exist only to worship his female and to punch out a bad guy every once in a while. Click HERE to read an excerpt. 

     Book 3 will tell the love story of Gage Garrity and Molly Ryan as the Others come out to the public and a rush of violence and unrest follows.

            BOOK 3:  Going Under            
     As book 2 ended, the mysterious Magister had been banished, but in its wake, many thousands of Others simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Among them were friends and family members of various leading and supporting characters. This mass disappearance served to out the witches to the general public. Now, the human population is being whipped into a frenzy of fear and violence by PURITY, an organization of human fanatics who are convinced that all Others are dangerous, soulless monsters and that they must be controlled (preferably killed off) in order to protect human lives. PURITY thugs have begun attacking innocent Others, and the PURITY leaders have begun outing Others who have been living as humans.

     This book begins in Chicago, where public relations expert Molly Ryan has just been outed as a witch. In response, her firm (which she founded) lost many of its clients and her partners have cast her out. One of the partners tells her, "For god's sake, you're an abomination and you had no business thinking you'd be allowed to stay here with what you are....You're a goddamned witch! How can we trust you now?" (p. 3) When Molly watches a TV broadcast in which Meriel Owen is bested by a PURITY-sympathizing interviewer, she applies for a job with the Owen clan as their PR voice to the media. One of the first persons Molly meets in Seattle is Gage Garrity, co-head of Owen security, and the sparks between the two begin to fly almost immediately.

     The romance is the most important part of the plot, but the action story line carries the series story arc along quite nicely. In the first two books, the Owen witches battled other supernaturals: mages and the Magister. In this book, the villains are the PURITY fanatics, who take a series of increasingly violent actions against the Others. That part of the plot follows Molly as she digs into her new job and brings together a coalition of the three Others groups (vampires, shifters, and witches) and attempts to open peaceful talks with the humans, only to be undermined at every turn by PURITY, which has members everywhere, including the government and the police force.

     This time around, the romance doesn't move along quite as smoothly as in the first two books. The romantic leads still spend much of their time praising their significant other to the skies, but they do have some major bumps in their road to romance. Molly holds in all of her grief and rage at losing her job and losing her foster father and sister to the Magister, while Gage suffers from that all-too-familiar alpha male complaint: I can't allow myself to love her because I can't protect her (which never makes much sense, but provides pages and pages of angst-filled interior monologues). As Gage tells his friend, Nell: "I can't protect her. I can't make a commitment to her or anyone else because I can't protect her. It's my job and I can't do it." (p. 287) In the end, they resolve their differences in the last page and a half of the book, way too quickly and with too little drama—kind of a let down, really, considering the amount of relationship turmoil that has been going on for the previous hundreds of pages.

     The author does a good job with the PURITY plot, showing exactly how the bigoted PURITY leaders worm their way into being the voice of the humans. Although a few government officials stand with the Others, they are nearly swept away in the tidal wave of fear that PURITY unleashes across the country. All of this plays out in a believable, if horrifying, manner. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Going Under.

     The fourth and final book will feature Simon's brother, Faine Leviathan, and his soul mate, Helena Jaansen, sister of Lark. 

No comments:

Post a Comment