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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Katie MacAlister: DARK ONES

Author: Katie MacAlister
Plot Type: SMR 
Ratings: V2, S4-5, H5
Publisher and Titles:  
      A Girl’s Guide to Vampires (reissue, 12/2010)
      Sex and the Single Vampire (reissue, 3/2011)
      Sex, Lies and Vampires (reissue, 8/2011)
      Even Vampires Get the Blues (5/2006)
      "Bring Out Your Dead" in Just One Sip (10/2006)
      The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires (Signet, 4/2007)
      "Cat Got Your Tongue" in My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon (12/2007)
      Zen and the Art of Vampires (12/2008)
      Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang (5/2009)
      "Unleashed" (in Cupid Cats, 7/2010, and e-book)
      In the Company of Vampires (11/2010)
      Much Ado About Vampires (10/2011)
      A Tale of Two Vampires (9/2012)
      "Lifestyles of the Rich and Undead" (e-novella, 9/2012)
      "Shades of Gray" in The Undead in My Bed (9/2012)

     This blog post was revised and updated on 10/22/12 to include a review of the tenth book in the series: A Tale of Two Vampires. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the series world-building and a review of books 8 and 9:

          BOOK 10:  A Tale of Two Vampires            
    In this book, MacAlister once again sets her story at the GothFaire in small-town St. Andras, Austria. This time, the heroine is Iolanthe (Io) Tennyson, an American woman who is visiting her Austrian cousin, Gretl, as she attempts to redirect her life after losing her job as a consequence of filing a sexual harrassment suit against her former boss. Gretl is a friend of Imogen, the sister of Benedikt, who was the hero of book 8. When Io goes off alone on a photographic expedition in the near-by haunted woods, she stumbles into a portal and  travels back in time to 1703, where she literally bumps into the horse pulling the carriage of the local baronNikola Czerny, who is Benedikt's father. Got all that? O.K., let's continue.

     The first 3/4 of the book follows the speedy, if bumpy, development of the romance between Io and Nikola. Naturally enough, there are lots of humorous verbal exchanges as Io overloads her speech with (sometimes outdated) 21st century slang and tries to deal with clothing, food, and social customs in an eighteenth century Austrian castle. All of this is no doubt meant to be hilarious, but it soon becomes a one-joke situation that goes on way too long. The worst of Io's street talk is her continual habit of calling people, "Dawg" (due perhaps to spending too much time watching Randy Jackson on American Idol back in the 21st century).

     Just before Io and Nikola jump in the portal and wind up back at the present-day GothFaire, the action plot finally kicks in. This one begins with a dastardly plot by Nikola's wicked half brothers to take away Nikola's fortune and eventually grows to include the unresolved plot line from book 8 that involves Fran and Benedikt's search for their therion (aka shape-shifter) friend, David.

     This is definitely one of the weaker books in the series, with its brief and very thin action plot and its too-long build-up of the romance. You'll probably want to read it if you've been following the series because it does tie up some loose ends, but don't expect the story to be as entertaining as earlier books.

     The Dark Ones are soulless male vampires. In order to redeem their souls, they must find and bond with their Beloveds. If a female is born to a Dark One, she is called a Moravian and is not exactly a vampire. Moravians have souls, are immortal, and sometimes drink blood, but they can exist without consuming blood. The Dark Ones are ruled by the Moravian Council, which has the power to dole out punishments to Dark Ones who breaks their laws.

     Each book follows one of the Dark Ones as he finds and wins his Beloved. Heroines are frequently human or half-human, sassy, independent, zaftig women. They often have a physical defect (e.g., aftereffects of a stroke, scarred leg), and they sometimes have preternatural abilities. They are, however, not always the sharpest knife in the drawer. Heroes are, of course, handsome, sexy, mysterious, and angst ridden—and always über-alpha. Minor characters provide comic relief. MacAlister's books are always funny, sometimes silly, and consistently entertaining. 

     This venerable series is the archetype for the process by which vampire male-human female relationships go from lust-at-first-sight lovers to life-bonded soul mates. MacAlister actually provides a step-by-step list (seven steps in all) in the very first book in the series. (Check out the Introduction to my book, Fang-tastic Fiction, for a summary of all seven steps.) If you are a fan of paranormal romance, you may have noticed that many SMR authors use some form of MacAlister's soul-mate process, which begins with mutual protection and climaxes (in more ways than one) with the exchange of their lifeblood.

     Click HERE to go to MacAlister's Dark Ones Connections page on her web site, which lists the DARK ONES books, and how the characters are connected.

Here are the happy couples for each book:
   > A Girl's Guide to Vampires: Joy Randall & Raphael St. John
   > Sex and the Single Vampire: Allegra (Allie) Telford & Christian Dante
   > Sex, Lies, and Vampires: Nell Harris & Adrian Tomas
   > Even Vampires Get the Blues: Samantha Cosse & Paen Scott
   > "Bring Out Your Dead": Ysabelle Raleigh & Sebastian Mercier 
   > The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires: Portia Harding & Theondre (Theo) North (nephilim)
   > "Cat Got Your Tongue": Joy Randall & Raphael St. John (follow-up story)
   > Zen and the Art of Vampires: Pia Thomason & Kristoff von Hannelore
   > Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang: Pia Thomason & Kristoff (continuation of previous book)
   > "Unleashed": Jacintha (Jas) Ferreira & Avery Scott
   > In the Company of Vampires: Francesca (Fran) Ghetti & Benedikt (Ben) Czerny
   > Much Ado About Vampires: Corazon (Cora) Ferreira & Alec Darwin
   > A Tale of Two Vampires: Iolanthe Tennyson & Nikola Czerny
   > "Lifestyles of the Rich and Undead": Grayson Soucek (part 1)
   > "Shades of Gray": Noelle & Grayson (part 2)

          BOOK 8:  In the Company of Vampires           
     This book tells the SMR story of Francesca (Fran) Ghetti (a witch with psychic powers) and Benedikt (Ben) Czerny (a Dark One) as they reunite after a five-year separation, during which she turned her back on her Beloved status, moved to New York City, and started a career in computer technology while Ben remained behind in Austria, working at the GothFaire at which the couple met. Francesca was just a teen-ager when she first met Ben, and she felt pressured by him and by her friends to mate with him and fulfill the Beloved bond. Now, Fran's mother, a wiccan who has a booth at the Faire, has disappeared, so Fran heads off to find her, accompanied by three Viking ghosts who have been brought back to solid form by the goddess Freya to serve as Fran's protectors. Their mission is to locate Fran's mother and then to banish Loki (the Norse trickster god), who Fran defeated in Circus of the Darned (see below). The Vikings provide most of the slapstick humor in the book. Picture the Capital One Visigoths from the TV advertisement and you'll get the picture. The plot involves a villainous necromancer, a magical relic, some shape-shifters, and Fran's pet horse, Tesla. 

     Fran and Ben's early story is told in two out-of-print young adult (YA) books that MacAlister wrote under the pseudonym Katie Maxwell: Got Fangs? (2005) and Circus of the Darned (2006), which are now available in an omnibus edition entitled Confessions of a Vampire's Girlfriend (NAL, 2010), published under MacAlister's name. In the Company of Vampires can be read as a stand-alone, but you'll probably enjoy it more if you read the prequel stories first.

          BOOK 9:  Much Ado About Vampires            
     The ninth book tells the love story of Corazon (Cora) Ferreira, a human woman, and Alex Darwin, a Dark One who was banished to the Akasha (a realm between Hell and mortal earth) by the Moravian Council for his reprehensible actions in the two-part story told in Zen and the Art of Vampires and Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang. The prequel to this novel is a short story entitled, "My Heart Will Go On and On," which is included at the back of Much Ado and should probably be read first, even though much of it is reprised at the beginning of Much Ado. As the story opens, Alec is fading fast in the Akasha and hoping for death to end his misery, while Cora is doing a real estate run-through at an ancient mansion during which she is accidentally transported to the Akasha by Bael. Also accidentally, she absorbs the power of the Occio di Lucifer (eye of Lucifer) and becomes a Tool of Bael. This is dangerous for Cora because many supernatural beings want to capture her and use that power. Cora and Alec fall instantly in lust, of course, when they meet up in the Akasha. They soon escape, and the plot follows their efforts to rid Cora of her Tool-ish powers. The conflict is built on a fragile frame of constant misunderstandings, miscommunications, withholding of information and not-too-smart behavior on Cora's part. The dialogue is typically humorous and full of wisecracks, just like the rest of the series. Pia and Kristoff play important parts in the story, and they renew their friendship with Alec despite his bad past behavior. Also playing a part is Sally, the mischievous demon lord from MacAlister's DRAGON series. If you love the series, you'll certainly love this newest addition.

     Here is an example of the humorous dialogue that is rampant in Much Ado About Vampires. In this scene, Alex has been severely injured by an energy blast, and Cora offends his alpha dignity by telling him to lie down and take it easy:
     "I am not a child that you must order me around," he answered, trying to wrap his dignity around him, but it was difficult to do so while listing heavily to one side.
     Cora must have noticed the list. "Sit down before you hurt your owie."
     "I am a Dark One!" he said, managing to stand upright at last, ignoring the pain and tearing feeling on his left side. "We do not have owies!  We have grievous, nearly fatal injuries!" (p. 265)

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