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Monday, August 22, 2011

Sherrilyn Kenyon: DARK-HUNTERS

Author:  Sherrilyn Kenyon
Plot Type:  SMR
Ratings:  V3-4; S4; H3-4
Publisher and Titles:  St. Martin’s
      Fantasy Lover (2002) (Julian & Grace) 
      Night Pleasures (2002) (Kyrian & Amanda)
      Night Embrace (2006) (Talon & Sunshine)
      Dance with the Devil (2003) (Zarek & Astrid)
      "A Dark-Hunter Christmas" (2003, story included in early editions of Dance with the Devil) (Gallagher & Simi)
      Kiss of the Night (2004) (Wulf & Cassandra)
      Night Play (2004) (Vane & Bride)
     "Winter Born" in Stroke of Midnight anthology (2004) (Dante & Pandora)
      Seize the Night (2004) (Valerius & Tabitha)
      Sins of the Night (2005) (Alexion & Dangereuse)
     "Second Chance" (short story telling Acheron & Styxx's story, given away in 2005, click on title for link to long excerpt)
      Unleash the Night (2005) (Wren & Marguerite)
      "A Hard Day's Night-Searcher" in My Big, Fat Supernatural Wedding anthology (2006) (Rafael & Celina)
      "Until Death Do Us Part" in  Love at First Bite anthology (2006) (Velkan & Esperatta)
      "Fear the Darkness" (free e-book, 2006) (Nick Gautier's story)
      Dark Side of the Moon (2006) (Ravyn & Susan)
      Fear the Darkness (2007) (e-book, audiobook short story free at this link)
      Devil May Cry (2008) (Sin & Kat)
      “Shadow of the Moon” in Dead after Dark anthology (2008) (Fury & Angelia)
      Acheron (2009) (Acheron & Tory)
      One Silent Night (2008) (Stryker & Zephyra)
      Bad Moon Rising (2009) (Fang & Aimee)
      No Mercy  (2010) (Dev & Samia)
      Retribution (2011) (Jessaka Sundown& Abigail)
      Time Untime  (8/2012) (Ren & Kateri)
      Styxx (9/2013) (Styxx & Bethany)
      Son of No One (9/2014) Cadegan and Josette Landry)
      Dark Bites (Dark-Hunter novella collection, 1/2014)
      The Dark-Hunter Companion (2007), a nonfiction companion book to the series in which Kenyon explains and analyzes the Dark-Hunters world

     Just a word about the list of titles (above): I did my best to research all of the books, stories, and novellas written for this series. Over the years, Kenyon has published several free short stories and novellas, which were treated in various ways: as e-books, printed pamphlets, and bonus sections of earlier editions of various DARK-HUNTERS books. I tried to track down as many as I could find, but I'm not sure that I got them all. Also, some readers include the DREAM-HUNTERS titles as part of the DARK-HUNTERS series, but I consider that to be a separate series.  

     This post contains an overview of the series world-building and reviews of novels 17 (Retribution) and 18 (Time Untime). (I read the other novels before I started this blog.) When novel 19 (Styxx) appeared, I was so disgusted by the constant scenes of horrific degradation and abuse that I didn't finish reading it, which meant that I didn't be review it. At this point, I would rather remember the series in its earlier years when the characters were mostly appealing; when the love stories were angst-filled but not blood-soaked; and when the plots were filled with suspense, drama, and wise-cracking humor. Therefore, I will not be reading or reviewing any more books in this series, although I will continue to add the new books to the series list above.  When a series gets to be as long as this one and begins to rely on new and confusing mythology and horror elements in vain attempts to avoid repetition, it's probably time for it come to an end.

     Kenyon’s fantastical world imagines a contemporary New Orleans teeming with a paranormal menagerie. Warring groups are the Dark-Hunters (ancient warriors who sold their souls to the goddess Artemis in return for a single act of vengeance and whose job it is to hunt and destroy Daimons) and Daimons, or Apollites (killer vampires whom Apollo originally created as a super race but were punished with vampirism after they killed his mistress and son). When an Appolite reaches the age of 27, he or she becomes a soul-sucking daimon and becomes a target for the Dark-Hunters. An abundance of shape-shifters and demons also enter both the battles and the romances. Kenyon provides the usual handsome male nonhumans, but her twist is that some of her human heroines are unusual for romance novels (e.g., Night Play’s BBW boutique owner, Bride McTierney, wears a size 18). An overview of the series’ entire Dark-Hunter and Daimon history is presented in Night Embrace (pp. 211–12). 

     Click HERE to go to an index on Kenyon's web site of DARK-HUNTERS characters with brief descriptions. 

     Kenyon writes a related series called DREAM-HUNTERS. Here is a description of that series from her web site: "Traditionally called the Oneroi, we are what protect the humans, Apollites, and immortals while they slumber. We are the Dream Warriors. The ones who battle the Skoti Daimons and demons who drain the energy, dreams and life from sleepers....We are also helpers to the Dark-Hunters and Were-Hunters working as a go-between when they need help from the gods or healing."

    Books in the DARK-HUNTERS series have won numerous awards, including the P.E.A.R.L. Award for best fantasy or magical romance and best overall romance, RT Book Reviews paranormal romance award, RBL Hughie, Golden Rose Reader's Choice Award from GoodReads, Reviwers International Organization (RIO), Prism, And Romance Writers Association (RWA).

            BOOK 17:  Retribution            
     In Retribution, we are definitely not in New Orleans any more; instead, we're in the American West. Kenyon switches her mythological pantheons completely as she delves into Native American mythology to tell the story of Jess (Sundown) Brady, a Dark-Hunter, and Abigail Yager, a human who has been infused with Daemon blood and brainwashed into believing that Dark-Hunters are evil killers. Supporting characters for the good guys include Sasha, a werewolf; Choo Co La Tah, Guardian for the North; and Renegade (aka Ren), a Dark-Hunter. The primary villain is Coyote (Guardian of the East), who is assisted by Snake (Guardian of the South) and a bevy of monstrous magical insects and daimons. 

     As the story begins, Jess has been tasked with tracking down a serial killer who has murdered several Dark-Hunters. When he discovers that the killer is a young human girl who looks just like his long lost love, he's not sure how to react. Then, he learns that along with her Dark-Hunter victims, she has also killed Old Bear, Guardian of the West, which let loose the horrors that Old Bear was guarding. During a horrific magical wasp attack, Jess and Abigail begin to bond, and their romance is on. Both Jess and Abigail are haunted by their tragic pasts. He became a Dark-Hunter to wreak vengeance on the man who killed him and raped his fiancée. Abigail is an orphan who was raised by Apollites after the murder of her parents, and she has been told repeatedly that Jess is their murderer. (Now, we all know that Dark-Hunters never kill innocents, but Abigail has obviously not been reading the series, so she doesn't know any better.) The conflict involves the building of trust between Jess and Abigail and the defeat of Coyote, who is trying to take advantage of Old Bear's death to make a power play of his own. Unfortunately, towards the end of the book, events begin to get convoluted and hard to follow. I read this as an audiobook and kept wishing I had a print copy so that I could look back and double check past events in order to better understand the ending, which involves love, revenge, death and reincarnated spirits, with several confusing flashbacks (confusing, at least, in audiobook form).

     As is usual in Kenyon's stories, the humor comes from the sarcastic, wise-cracking dialogue among the characters. The character of Jess is well developed and likeable. We see him in his human death scene and feel his pain as he watches the brutal rape of his fiancée. The character of Abigail is not so great. She makes one bad decision after another and whines about the consequences throughout the book. I just didn't like her at all, which is highly unusual for me, since I generally like Kenyon's heroines. Most of them can be described with three S's: smart, sassy, and stubborn. Regrettably, Abigail is defined by three P's: petulant, pouty, and perverse. Also, I had a hard time believing that Jess would so quickly fall in love with a woman who has attacked him and murdered not only several of his brother Dark-Hunters, but also a Guardian. Click HERE to read an excerpt. Click HERE to read Jess's character profile. Click HERE to read Abagail's character profile.

     The part of this book that most DARK-HUNTERS fans will love the most is the "Bonus Section," which describes the birth of Ash and Tory's baby. 

            BOOK 18:  Time Untime            
     In this book, Kenyon sticks with almost the same Native American mythology she used in Retribution, with the addition of a Mayan calendar connection that feels forced. Ren (aka Renegade, aka Ren Waya, aka Makah'Alay Omawaya, aka Thunderbird) is the hero who must find and protect the Keeper who will reset that calendar. Here is Choo Co La Tah's cryptic explanation: "The feathers are forming in the heavens and the Cold Moon is almost upon us. Soon Father Snake will open his eyes, and with them, the seven gates....Those feathers were the crown on the head of the Snake constellation that ruled their ancient calendar. When the feathers were in full plumage and the winter solstice aligned, the gates between this world and others would open. And into this world would spill all the evil that had been driven out by not only his people, but those from the other six continents as well." (pp. 8-9)

     The book's heroine—and Ren's soulmateis Dr. Kateri ("Teri") Avani (aka Soul Jaguar, aka Waleli, aka Hummingbird), a geologist of Cherokee descent who lives in Alabama. Teri was raised by her grandmother after her mother died and her father abandoned the family (or so she has been lead to believe). Teri, although she doesn't know it, is the Keeper (aka ghighau, aka Ixkib)—the one who must save the world by resetting the calendar with a magical stone that has been handed down in her family for generations. Naturally enough, Teri's missing father turns out to be an important part of the story.

     Ren's background is nearly as tragic as Ash's: He was born of a goddess mother who was forced to abandon him and a human father who hated him; was raised by a demon who also abandoned him; suffers from a severe stutter that has made him the butt of pranks and jokes throughout his life; has been enslaved by the evil Grizzly; has killed his father; and has been tormented for centuries by his brother, Coyote. At this point, Ren is living as a Dark-Hunter (D-H) (even though he's technically not one), and he has tried to put all of the evilness in his life behind him. Ren has the lowest self-esteem of any of the D-H group (with the possible exception of Nick). Here is an example from one of his early interior monologues as he muses about his life: "How could one man ruin so many lives? No, not ruin. Destroy. He no longer had a right to live. Not after all the blood he'd greedily spilled with his knife and arrows. Not after all the atrocities he'd committed. Yet here he stood. Alone. Ashamed. Undead.  A twice-designated guardian to a world he'd done his damnedest to annihilate." (p. 2) As Ren tells Teri, "I have the blood of three competing pantheons, two of which are born warring, flowing through my veins. Since the hour of my birth, I've been at war with myself....I was suckled for a year by a demon...I became a conduit of evil. That is my true nature." (p. 194) Ren spends much of his time in a series of of self-hating interior monologues that are so frequent that I was skipping over paragraphs and pages because they were so repetitive.

     As the story begins, the big Mayan Apocalypse date (12/21/12) is just days away, and Ren is supposed to protect the Keeper who will reset the calendar. That would be Teri, who knows nothing about any of the prophecies concerning her role in this all-important, world-saving ceremony. Ren finds Teri just as she has been dragged off by demons who are demanding that she give them the stone. She, of course, doesn't know what they're talking about. When she sees Ren, she recognizes him from visions and dreams that she's had all her life. As the demons attack Teri, Ren tries to get her to safety, but they wind up in Xibalba (the Mayan land of the dead), where Teri has more visions of Ren in various stages of his life. The plot consists mainly of attack scenes (all very similar), preachy speeches in which various wise elders hand out lengthy advice to Ren and Teri, flashbacks that include non-chronological visions that take place over thousands of years, and explanations of a mythology that is a complex mash-up of Greek gods and goddesses, Mayan mythology, and Cherokee mythology. Needless to say, things get even more confusing with all of the flashbacks, and the story slows down to a crawl during the sermons.   

     When Ash, Talon, Sundown, Sasha, Urian, and Nick finally show up near the end to save the day, I was just as happy to see them as Ren was because they are the only familiar frame of reference in the whole book. Ash has a new look in this book: He and Tori cut their hair and donated it to Locks of Love, so Ash's hair is very short—and that gets lots of sarcastic comments from the D-H guys.  

     All in all, this is a disappointing book, with too much repetitious information and too many confusing flashbacks along with a mashed-up mythology that is never quite clear. The ending feels rushed and anti-climactic. I expected more than a quick defeat of not one, but two, villains, but they both take place in the blink of an eye.  

     Click HERE to read an excerpt. Click HERE to read Ren's character profile. Click HERE to read Teri's character profile.

1 comment:

  1. I have some items you don't. Below is my list which includes Dark Hunters, Were Hunters, and Dream Hunters. I put the main character(s)' names in parenthesis.

    1. Dark–Hunter 01 – The Beginning (Acheron)
    2. Dark–Hunter 02 – Fantasy Lover (Julian & Grace)
    3. Dark–Hunter 03/Were–Hunter 01 – “Dragon Swan” in the TAPESTRY Anthology (2002) and reprinted singly (2005) (Sebastian & Channon)
    4. Dark–Hunter 04 – Night Pleasures (Kyrian & Amanda)
    5. Dark–Hunter 05/Were–Hunter 02 – Night Embrace (Talon & Sunshine)
    6. Dark–Hunter 06 –"Phantom Lover" in the MIDNIGHT PLEASURES Anthology (V’Aiden & Erin)
    7. Dark–Hunter 07 – Dance with the Devil (Zarek & Astrid)
    8. Dark–Hunter 08 – Kiss of the Night (Wulf & Cassandra)
    9. Dark–Hunter 09/Were–Hunter 03 – Night Play (Vane & Bride)
    10. Dark–Hunter 10 – A Dark–Hunter Christmas (also in the back of Dance with the Devil early print editions 2003) (Gallagher)
    11. Dark–Hunter 11/Were–Hunter 09 – "Winter Born" in the STROKE OF MIDNIGHT Anthology (Dante & Pandora)
    12. Dark–Hunter 12 – Seize the Night (Valerius & Tabitha)
    13. Dark–Hunter 13 – Sins of the Night (Alexion & Danger)
    14. Dark–Hunter 14 – "Second Chances" (in Exclusive Dark–Hunter Collectible Booklet 2005, free giveaway) (Acheron and his brother, Styxx)
    15. Dark–Hunter 15/Were–Hunter 04 – Unleash the Night (Wren & Maggie)
    16. Dark–Hunter 16/Were–Hunter 05 – Dark Side of the Moon (Ravyn & Susan)
    17. Dark–Hunter 17 – "Until Death We Do Part" in LOVE AT FIRST BITE ANTHOLOGY (Velkan & Esperetta)
    18. Dark–Hunter 18 – "A Hard Day's Night–Searcher" in MY BIG FAT SUPERNATURAL WEDDING Anthology (Rafael & Celena)
    19. Dark–Hunter 19/Dream–Hunter 01 – Dream Hunter, The (Arik & Megeara)
    20. Dark–Hunter 20 – Fear the Darkness (Free ebook 2007) (Nick)
    21. Dark–Hunter 21 – Devil May Cry (Sin & Kat)
    22. Dark–Hunter 22/Dream–Hunter 02 – Upon the Midnight Clear (Aidan & Leta)
    23. Dark–Hunter 00 – The Dark–Hunter Companion
    24. Dark–Hunter 23 – “Where Angels Fear to Tread” in BLOOD LITE Anthology (Zeke)
    25. Dark–Hunter 24/Dream–Hunter 03 – Dream Chaser (Xypher & Simone)
    26. Dark–Hunter 25 – Acheron (Acheron “Ash” & Tory)
    27. Dark–Hunter 26 – One Silent Night (Stryker & Zephyra)
    28. Dark–Hunter 27/Were–Hunter 08 – "Shadow of the Moon" in DEAD AFTER DARK ANTHOLOGY (Fury & Angelia)
    29. Dark–Hunter 28/Dream–Hunter 04 – Dream Warrior (Cranus “Jericho” & Delphine)
    30. Dark–Hunter 29/Were–Hunter 06 – Bad Moon Rising (Fang & Aimee)
    31. Dark–Hunter 30/Were–Hunter 07 – No Mercy (Dev & Samia “Sam”)
    32. Dark–Hunter 31 – Retribution (Jess “Sundown” & Abigail)