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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lynn Viehl: THE KYNDRED SERIES

Author: Lynn Viehl
Series: THE KYNDRED
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence--4; Sensuality--4; Humor--2
Publisher and Titles: Onyx
          Shadowlight (2009)
          Dreamveil (2010)
          Frostfire (2011)
          Nightshine (2011) (FINAL BOOK)


     I don't know how this series got past me, because I loved the DARKYN series. Included below are reviews for all four novels. But first, here's an overview of the series.

     This is a classic paranormal romance series with a direct connection to Viehl's DARKYN series. Just to review: The Dark Kyn, or Darkyn, were originally members of the Knights Templar who fought in the Crusades. After returning home, they were struck down by the plague and died, but then rose from the dead as vampires. Along with super-strength and spontaneous healing, each one also had a unique psychic talent and a special scent that allowed them to enthrall humans. They organized themselves into communities called jar dins and began to coexist with mortals. Eventually, religious zealots called the Brethren learned of their existence and began to hunt them down. When the Brethren discovered that the Darkyn were immortal, they began breeding, raising, and training their own replacements. The secret war between them has lasted for six centuries, right up until the present day.

     In this series, we have a related group called the Takyn (aka Kyndred). Several decades ago, mysterious scientists kidnapped infants meeting certain criteria from their families and subjected them to medical experimentation that enhanced their innate psychic talents. Each infant was tattooed with the image of an animal that was somehow related to the child's talent (e.g., a dolphin for a person who could call the dolphins to her). See the series cover art for examples of the tattoos. When the experiment was terminated, most of the children were sent out into the Catholic social services system to be adopted by well-to-do Catholic families, but others slipped through the cracks and were left to foster care. The enhanced talents did not manifest until the child went through a life-death situation, actually dying from accident or illness and then coming back to life. Needless to say, the adoptive families found it hard to accept that their child could create fire, bend metal, read minds. Many of the children hid their abilities. Others caused so much family upset that they were abandoned or given to someone else. As the series begins, a small group of Takyn have found each other in an Internet chat room, where they compare notes and give each other advice. Each one uses a fictional name because they don't trust anyone—not even their fellow Takyn. As the series advances, members of this group will meet and help one another as they battle against humans and supernaturals who want them for a variety of nefarious reasons.

     The villains of this series are the owner (Jonah Genaro) and the head geneticist (Dr. Elliot Kirchner) of GenHance, a bio-tech research company that is secretly hunting down the Takyn/Kyndred and harvesting their DNA in order to create a serum that will turn an ordinary human into an unstoppable superhumanstronger even than a Darkyn. Jonah Genaro traces his heritage back to a traitorous Roman soldier who betrayed his fellow warriors to the cc, causing them all to be slaughtered. Genaro is a typical power-hungry villain who expects the serum to "bestow increased strength and enhanced senses, and make inviolate the immune system of the test subject...Then nothing else would stop him from acquiring enough wealth and power to do whatever he pleased anywhere in the world." (Shadowlight, p. 37) Kirchner is the typical mad scientist that shows up frequently in paranormal fiction. He's extremely goal oriented and doesn't worry about collateral damage like the deaths of innocents.

***   ***   *****   ***   ***

Shadowlight
     Because this is the first book in the series, it is crammed with world-building mythology, so, at times, it moves very slowly. Soon, though, the pace picks up and then the action never stops. The heroine is Minerva Jessamine Starret, who is shot and killed by a crazed woman and then, impossibly, wakes up in the morgue, totally healed and with an all-new psychic talent. She can go into what she calls her shadowlilght and then touch a person and know their deepest, darkest, guilty secrets. Minerva sneaks away and starts a new life as Jessa Bellamy, the owner of a security firm in Savannah, Georgia. The hero is Gaven Matthias, who has been working underground (literally, at times) for many years tracking down the Kyndred, rescuing them from GenHance, and putting  them into his own private witness protection program. Matt has been aware of Jessa and her magical abilities for months, and when he realizes that GenHance is going to make their move on her, he sweeps in, grabs her up, and takes her to his underground fortress. Although Matt (and the reader) know immediately that they are soul mates, Jessa, in typical paranormal romance behavior, refuses to accept her lustful feelings. She views Matt as her kidnapper and does everything she can to escape. The plot follows the couple as they get to know one another and as Matt slowly lets Jessa in on the whole Kyndred story. Supporting characters include Matt's two assistants: the feisty Rowan and the devious Drew, both of whom will have their own stories. Also joining the action is a couple from the DARKYN series, the assassin, Lucan, and his lady-love police officer, Samantha. Samantha is still having trouble accepting her new vampire nature, but both she and Lucan jump into the action when a psychotic GenHance employee, Bradford Lawson, has himself injected with the serum and turns into a horrifying, murdering monster who is out to get Jessa.

     One part of the world-building that is slightly confusing is the sporadic inclusion of sections relating to ancient Roman history and culture, specifically several references to a statue of the goddess Minerva and several pages describing a crucial battle between the Romans and the Germanic tribes. Don't worry, everything will become clear. Just keep reading. Both Jessa and Matt are fully developed, with well-defined personalities, histories, and emotional lives. The best of the supporting characters is Rowan, a surly twenty-something who grew up on the streets and has a major crush on Matt. Her personality jumps right off the page and smacks you in the face. 

***   ***   *****   ***   ***
Dreamveil
     This book has a plethora of story threads that are interwoven in a dense and complex pattern. In the main plot line, Rowan Dietrich has left Matt and Jessa behind and has taken off on her motorcycle for a long road trip. Rowan is one of the Takyn, and her psychic ability allows her to go into what she calls her dreamveil and take on the physical appearance of the true love of the person she touches. Before heading for a promised job in Boston, she makes a stop in Manhattan to revisit the scenes of her unhappy childhood. When her cycle is damaged in an accident near a French restaurant, the owner, world-class chef Jean-Marc Dansant, takes her in and offers her a job in his kitchen. Rowan lives above the restaurant across the hall from Sean Meriden, a gruff mechanic and part-time bounty hunter who agrees to fix her bike. Both men serve as Rowan's love interests. 

     Meanwhile, Gerald King, a wealthy, arrogant man is searching for his run-away daughter, Alana, who has been sighted in Manhattan. He forces Meriden to search for her by threatening to kill his friends and associates, including Rowan. As Meriden begins his search, a young homeless girl, Taire, sets her sights on Rowan, believing that Rowan can help her. In the background, Jonah Genaro and his GenHance crew are dealing with an infiltrator. At GenHance, every employee is a possible traitor, but you can never be sure if those traitors are working for the good guys or for other bad guys. The main thing to remember is that in this world, no one is what he or she seems, so keep that in mind as you read this book. Both the plot and the character representations are filled with nonstop twists and hairpin turns. I have to admit that I never saw most of them coming, so kudos to the author on her story construction. The ending is really wild and was, for me, totally unpredictable. As in the first book, the early parts may seem confusing, but just keep reading and it all comes together.

***   ***   *****   ***   ***
Frostfire
     As in the previous books, a plethora of story lines coexist individually through most of the book until they are drawn together to resolve themselves at the climax. The heroine is Lilah Devereaux, who can speak psychically to animals (aka an animal whisperer). She has other supernatural characteristics, but those don't surface until the end of the book, and I don't want to include any spoilers here. Her hero is Walker Kimball, whose supernatural tendencies and real name must also wait to be revealed at the end of the book. One after another, they are drugged and captured by two men hired by an unknown villain, and as the story begins, they are lying naked and hand-cuffed to one another in the back of a refrigerated truck on their way to Denver. As the drugs wear off, they manage to escape and find refuge in a small Colorado mountain town in the middle of a blizzard, only to discover that the townsfolk aren't as human as they appear. 

     Meanwhile, a pair of Darkyn (Gabriel and Nicola) are on Walker's trail because he is supposed to be a rogue Darkyn. Also, a traitorous GenHance employee is after Walker for her own nefarious reasons. Lastly, Samuel Taske (a seemingly nice man when we met him in the previous book) wants to capture Lilahand his reasons are just as self-centered as everyone else's. By the climactic ending, Walker and Lilah are deeply in love, and the cast of characters includes everything from Drakyn to shape shifters to the Takyn/Kyndred, and hybrids of all of the above. If you're a fan of Viehl's DARKYN series, you'll be amazed when you learn Walker's true identity. Even if you're not a DARKYN reader, it's still a nice payoff. This is definitely a book in which you must trust the author to lead you through the labyrinthine plot. Just keep reading, and everything will tie itself up in a neat, HEA package by the final page.

***   ***   *****   ***   ***
Nightshine
     In this final book we get two couples' stories for the price of one. The primary story is that of Sam Taske and Charlie Marena, who are drugged, kidnapped, and dumped on a tropical island off the coast of Mexico. Sam is the billionaire Takyn who has appeared in previous books as he came to the rescue of various Takyn, except in the last book, where he tried to kidnap the heroine. Sam's talent is psychometrics; he can tell an object's history just by touching it. Charlie is also a Takyn, and she works as a paramedic in San Francisco. Charlie has the ability to read minds, but only at night. Sam and Charlie soon learn that there are six other couples on the isolated island and that most of the other women are pregnant. As it turns out, their kidnapper wants to raise his own Kyndred family so that he can take back the ancient Aztec territories stolen by Hernando Cortez and than move on to dominate the rest of the world. 

     Meanwhile, Drew Riordan tracks Sam to Mexico, where he meets up with a local environmental protection agent named Agriciana Flores, whom he nicknames Gracie. Drew is a Takyn who can manipulate metals, particularly copper; Gracie can speak to and control dolphins. As the two of them try to find Sam and Charlie, they run into problems of their own. Unfortunately for everyone, Jonah Genaro has also traced Sam to Mexico, and he brings in his mercenaries so that he can control the situation. Those are the main story lines, but, in addition, we have the stories of two of the couples of the island. Once again, the story threads are at first divergent but then come together at the end. Additionally, the ending provides some clues as to the relationship between the Takyn/Kyndred and the Darkyn. The fact that all three names contain "kyn" gives you a clue as to the closeness of that relationship.

     This is a great series, with highly developed characters and layered, fast-paced story lines. Viehl has always been a terrific story teller, and she carries on that tradition here. Viehl has started a new Darkyn series entitled LORDS OF THE DARKYN, which debuts with Nightborn (3/2012). Click HERE to read Viehl's "The History of Kyn," which gives a timeline for the development of her three Kyn series.

Here are the romantic couples for each book in this series. The names highlighted in blue are the pseudonyms of the small group that participated in the Takyn chatroom:
Shadowlight: Gaven Matthias & Jessa Bellamy (aka Jezebel)
Dreamveil: Rowan Dietrich (aka Aphrodite), Sean Meriden, & Jean-Marc Dansant
Frostfire: A threesome: Walker Kimball & Lilah Devereaux (aka Delilah)
Nightshine: Two couples: Samuel Taske (aka Paracelsus) & Charlotte (Charlie) Marena (aka Magdalene) and Andrew (Drew) Riordan (aka Vulcan) & Agraciana (Gracie) Flores 

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