Plot Type: Light Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—4; Humor—2-3
Publisher and Titles: Fire Flower Publishing, LLC
"Darkness Falls" (5/2014)
"Lay Me Down" (5/2014)
Although the chapter approach to series writing is—on the surface—repellent to me, I must admit that I can empathize with the authors. The publishing industry is in the midst of a violent upheaval, with various lawsuits over pricing and accessibility, the amazon slow-down with Hachette, and the proliferation of authors who want their voices to be heard—now rather than later. Sometimes, if an author's short fiction sells well in e-book form, print publishers will buy their future books, so it's good for the author to have a solid and lengthy sales record. Also, readers are more apt to pay $2.99 for an unknown writer's novella than $7.99 or more for a paperback book. So…it's a conundrum with no right or wrong answer. I am enjoying Kellison's series, and I'll continue to purchase and review the novellas as they hit the market—but only up to a point (one that I haven't defined as of yet).
Now Rêves are a pop culture phenomenon—a Rêve-olution—and companies sell the Rêve experience just like travel agents sell cruises and spa trips. Some Rêves are similar to exotic vacation trips, but others might be set up like stories, with plots enacted by the Revelers. One Rêve that is actually an extreme fighters' club set in a post-apocalyptic world, is nicknamed Apocalypse Pow.
Two big problems have developed as Rêves have become more and more numerous and popular: First, people become addicted to them because they offer a drug-like enhancement to people tired of living mundane lives. Who wants to live in the Waking World when a much better world is available through the Rêves? Second, some of the Rêves are run by criminals who steal the powers of dreamers and use the dreamwaters for various criminal activities. The enforcement officers of the dreamwaters are the Chimera, a group of multi-talented Revelers who are kept busy tracking down the bad guys and rescuing the innocent Revelers who stray away and get into trouble.
The series story arc involves Lambert's attempts to take control of the Darkside, using Nightmares (violent humanoids with strange eyes who live in the Scrape) to take out his enemies. The Scrape is a desolate sandy wasteland adjacent to the dreamscapes of the Darkside. "Scrape sand originated from the vast, unending nothingness outside of dreamscapes where the great dust storm blew…No one in the waking world even understood the sand's properties, though there was plenty of theoretical mumbo jumbo: the sand was the windblown, leftover chaff of millennia's [sic] worth of humanity's dreams, or the sand was the discarded cells of the collective unconscious's [sic] psyche. Blah, blah, blah" (Malcom's explanation, from "Night's Deep Hush") In other words, no one is really sure where the Scrape sands came from or what they really are.
The novellas are separated mainly by their love stories—one per e-book in the first three. Most of the events of the first two novellas take place concurrently, and they share a plot, so they really could have been combined into a single novel. "Darksider" takes place in time immediately following "Lay Me Down." If you just read one, you'll get the all the details of the romance, but you definitely won't get the full scope of the plot.
NOVELLA 3: "Darksider"
Harlen is in the middle of lots of action in this story. Rook and Coll want his help in stopping the villainous Didier Lambert and his cohorts; Sera needs him to find and eliminate her stalker; and Lambert wants him to join the dark side. Harlen has the powerful Darkside talent called Indirect Surveillance in which "A tracker marks the subject and then…drops a proxy into the subject's dreamspace." As the proxy (Harlen) merges with the subject, he sees and knows whatever the subject sees and knows. It's very dangerous, though, because the threat of the proxy being caught by the subject is very high, and the physical emotional after-effects on Harlen are extremely painful and long-lasting.
Once again, there are two story lines: the romance and the action. Because Sera and Harlen were once lovers, it doesn't take them long to pick up the sexy action where they left off several years ago, and their romance proceeds quite smoothly—not at all like the rough road travelled by Coll and Maisie. Although Sera gives up her dream of being a chef way too quickly, the lovers are both interesting characters. The action scenes relate to the series story arc that focuses on identifying and stamping out corruption within Chimera, particularly that which involves Lambert and his traitorous minions.
The story ends with yet another cliff-hanger: one of the heroes has gone missing and someone from Jordan's near-past promises to help find him. Who can be trusted? How deep does the Chimera corruption go? We'll have to wait until mid-July for the next installment. Click HERE and scroll down just a bit to read an excerpt from "Darksider."
NOVELLA 4: "Night's Deep Hush"
The story is told from alternating perspectives as Malcom tries to find and rescue the boy, and Jordan tries to find and rescue Malcom. Complicating Jordan's rescue efforts is Vince Blackman, the man Jordan sent into the Scrape when he tried to force her to work for Lambert back in book 1. Vince escaped from the Scrape by killing one of the Nightmares, and now he wants Jordan to tell him who killed his father.
As Vince accompanies Jordan into the Darkside, he meets and falls for Mirren, so I'm assuming that the next novella will pick up with their love story and their confrontation of Mirren's father. Their situation forms an unresolved cliffhanger near the end of "Night's Deep Hush."
As usual, the story has plenty of action and suspense as Malcom searches for the boy while trying to avoid the Chimera and lots of old enemies, and Jordan is forced to mug people on the street to get enough money to buy her way into the Darkside. For the first part of the story, Jordan believes that Lambert abducted Malcom, so she skulks around the city not knowing whom to trust.
As Malcom jumps from Rêve to Rêve on his quest, we learn a few more details about the Darkside mythology. For example, one Rêve is filled with "men and women...hunched over laptops at desks, chained to their chairs by their ankles—no waking up for them until they couldn't work anymore. On the screens before them was what looked like programming code. The night shift, as it were." This is an illegal labor Rêve in which dreamers are forced to work while they are Darkside. Another type of Rêve is an Echo, which allows the dreamer to relive his or her memories. Echoes are frequently used by people who have recently lost a loved one and will do almost anything to have them back, if only for the length of a dream.
Although the couple shares a few passionate kisses, this story focuses on the drama rather than the romance. The scene at the end when Malcom has to deal with the rescued toddler is very funny. The problem with a novella series, though, is that events (in both the action and the romance) occur at breakneck speed, and we have very little time to get to know the characters.
NOVELLA 5: "Bring Me a Dream"