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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jaime Rush: THE OFFSPRING SERIES



Author: Jaime Rush (pseudonym for Tina Wainscott)
Series: THE OFFSPRING
Plot Type: SMR
Ratings: V4; S4; H2
Publisher and Titles: Avon
          Deadly Vision (free on-line prequel story)
          A Perfect Darkness (1/2009)
          Out of the Darkness (9/2009)
          Touching Darkness (4/2010)
          Burning Darkness (1/2011)
          Beyond the Darkness (11/2011)
          The Darkness Within (e-novella, 3/2012)
          Darkness Becomes Her (5/2012)
          Turn to Darkness (e-novella, 9/2012)
          "Kiss and Kill Cupid" in Bitten by Cupid (OFFSPRING story unrelated to series story arc) 

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 6/26/12 to include a review of the sixth book in the series: Darkness Becomes Her. That review comes first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of book 5: 

        BOOK 6: Darkness Becomes Her        
     Now that the love stories of the core group of offspring have been told and the primary villain has been vanquished, the series has turned to outlying characters who are related by their Callorian blood. In this book, the hero is Lachlan McLeod, an emotionally damaged man who has isolated himself from society in an attempt at self-punishment. Lachlan has the ability to astrally project himself into the past and future, but he's afraid to do that any more because several years ago he accidentally killed his mother (stabbed her with his sword) when she touched him while he was immersed in a projection to an ancient battle scene.

     As the story opens, Lachlan unexpectedly projects into the near future and sees his brother, Magnus, lying dead with his new girlfriend bending over his body. Thinking that the woman killed his brother, Lachlan immediately breaks into her apartment and tries to question her. That girl is Jessie Bellandre (aka Allyssa Jackson), who was born with the Darkening inside her. In a tragic series of events when she was just ten, Jessie's parents were both killed by her father's brother, Russell, who then took over her father's body and has been pursuing Jesse for his own nefarious reasons ever since. In fulfillment of Lachlan's vision, Russell catches up with Jessie while Magnus is with her, and he tries to protect her. Before Lachlan arrives to assist in the fight, Russell turns into a wolf, claws Magnus fatally, and disappears. Jessie saves Magnus' life by pouring Darkness into his body, which leaves Magnus in a coma for the next few weeks, with unknown lon-term effects from the Darkness infusion. Two characters from previous books (Pope and Eric) arrive to transport Magnus off, leaving Lachlan and Jessie to confront Russell on their own. 

     The plot follows Lachlan and Jessie as they try not to fall in love, but do it anyhow. Surprisingly, both of them are virgins. As Lachlan attempts to honor his brother and stay away from physical contact with Jessie, their initial love scenes are kind of strange—and kind of gross, although they seem to know a lot more than most virgins do about the fine points of foreplay and follow-through. The action part of the plot, of course, focuses on Russell's attempts to kidnap Jessie. Eventually, help arrives in the form of an ancient Scottish warrior named Olaf who has attached himself to Lachlan and who takes Jessie into the Void in an attempt to save her father. The Void is an artificial afterlife created by Russell to trap the souls of Jessie's parents. From there, the plot gets even murkier with more body possessionor attempted possessionand several bloody battle scenes with the evil Russell. 

    For me, this series was better in the earlier books when it stayed with the Offspring and their fight with Darkwell. This whole extra-terrestrial addition to the mythology, which is now getting the most emphasis, seems to be getting more and more convoluted. I'm still not exactly sure what the Darkness isand it was the major focus of this entire book. The scenes in which the characters visit the Void are not as fully described as they could have been, so the mythology in that area seems weak. I'm guessing that future books will continue to deal with the Darkness, so I hope that Rush pins down the description with some concrete details.

        WORLD-BUILDING        
     Two decades ago, a secret government agency gathered together a small group of men and women with a variety of psychic abilities (e.g., telekinesis, out-of-body travel, ability to predict the future) and injected them with "booster" chemicals to enhance their talents. When the boosters eventually caused the psychics to lose their minds, the project was abandoned. Now, one of the original project directors, a sociopath named Darkwell, has discovered that the offspring of the original group have psychic talents even more powerful than their parents. Darkwell wants to pump the offspring full of boosters and use them as his personal assassin team until they go crazy—and then just replace them with additional progeny. But some of the offspring have banded together to fight Darkwell and to discover the truth about their parents. The series follows this team of Rogues as they discover more offspring and battle Darkwell and his minions. The Rogues vs. Darkwell battles take up the first four books. Click HERE to go to a page on the author's web site with brief biographies of the offspring.

     Here are the soul mate couples for each book. Names in blue are offspring:
A Perfect Darkness: Amy Shane (sees auras) & Lucas Vanderwyck (dream communicator)
Out of the Darkness: Zoe Stoker (telekinesis) & Rand Brandenburg (seer)
Touching Darkness: Olivia (Darkwell's assistant) & Nicholas Braden (finder)
Burning Darkness: Fonda Raine (assassin) & Eric Aruda (pyrokinesis and remote viewing)
Beyond the Darkness: Petra Aruda (healer, Eric's sister) & Cheveyo (jaguar shape shifter)

        BOOK 5: Beyond the Darkness        
     By the time Beyond the Darkness opens, the whole Darkwell story arc of the first four books has been resolved, and most of the Rogue offspring are leading happily married lives. But not Petra. She longs to be with Cheveyo, but she fears that will never happen. The lusty attraction between Petra and Cheveyo has been simmering along on the back burner throughout the series, even though they have met only a few times. Earlier in the series, Petra had a huge crush on Lucas, but as soon as she met Cheveyo, Lucas's half-brother, her affections shifted immediately. Petra is a healer, but she has to be careful to ration her healing powers so as not to drain her strength. As this book opens, she has used too much of her healing power in recent months and is supposed to give them a rest for at least a year. If not, she risks death. Cheveyo is a black jaguar shape shifter who spends his life hunting down bad guys. He is driven by the voice of his dead father to maintain his solitary warrior lifestyle, foregoing love, marriage, and family. Naturally, Cheveyo fails to explain to Petra why he constantly turns his back on her even though they both feel a huge lusty attraction. The primary plot, filled with angsty interior monologues, follows the ups and downs of their romance.

     Now for the action plot: The twist that came just a bit earlier in the series is that the Rogues have discovered that the essence that fueled the "booster" injected into the original offspring was pulled from an alien whose spacecraft wandered to earth from the planet Surfacia. The human inhabitants of Surfacia perished long ago and were replaced by the formerly underground-dwelling Callorians, who are ruled by the Collaborate. We met Pope, a Callorian Shine (agent for the Collaborate), when he rescued the Rogues in a previous book. As a result of illegally using his deadly powers during that rescue, Pope has been declared a Scarlett—an outlaw, and the Collaborate has sent an Extractor Agent to retrieve him so that they can scan his memory for any secrets. If the Collaborate looks into Pope's mind and learns about the Rogues, they will send more Extractors to kill them, because they are half-breeds with Callorian DNA.

     Pope asks Petra to contact Cheveyo so that he can ask for Cheveyo's help in capturing the Extractor, whose name is Yurek. To complicate matters, Cheveyo has been on the trail of a demonic, shape-shifting alien dog called a Glouck (aka Baal), and the dog has turned the tables on Cheveyo and is now tracking him. When Yurek and the Glouck team up to hunt down Pope, Cheveyo, and Petra, the action quickly moves up several notches. By the time we reach the climactic ending, both Petra and Cheveyo have laid their lives on the line for one another—absolute proof of their soul-mate connection.

     The angst levels in this book are so high that I found myself paging past those lengthy sections, because they were all very nearly the same. Petra, who in past books was portrayed as a spoiled princess, did step up and learn to fight, so her character here is an improvement, although she did a little too much shopping for someone being pursued by a pair of murderous aliens. Cheveyo is the stereotypical closed-mouth, emotion-repressed, alpha hero, blaming himself for everything bad that has happened to his friends and family. If you like formulaic paranormal romance, you might enjoy this one, but I wish that there had been more complexity to the plot. The book contains scenes of graphic violence, with one stomach-turning near-rape scene. Sensuality levels are high once Cheveo finally lets himself go, but it takes him quite awhile to get to that point.

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