by Laurell K Hamilton, fantasy (2006, 1995 reissue)
Wizards Of The Coast, $14.95, ISBN 0-7869-4122-7
In between the first two books in the Anita Blake books, Ms Hamilton manage to squeeze in this book, her one and only contribution to the Ravenloft mythology. Death Of A Darklord is a taut, gripping, and ultimately knuckle-whitening horror story. The violence is reduced to a PG-13 level for the young fantasy readers, but it is still a frightening pitch.
Harkon Lukas is a darklord trapped by an ancient curse never to leave his realm. He rules over a barren, desolate wasteland, and he wants to go out and wreck havoc in neighboring lands. He has now found a means to do so.
Jonathan Ambrose is a mage-finder, a man who specializes in hunting and battling evil sorcery. With his wife Tereza and two siblings Blaine and Elaine, he answers a summons from Cortton. The villagers of Cortton are plagued by people who just won't stay dead. These undead don't bite or anything, neither do they heal. They just won't die.
Only that nothing is what it seems. Harkon has nefarious plans and he will lead one of Jonathon's team member astray to achieve his aims. There's someone who is obviously preventing this people from dying. There are also very human evils out to play treacherous games. The whole party has to come to a penultimate, and boy, it is a creepy, scary, and chilling ride all the way.
Death Of A Darklord has no werewolf/vampire/S&M hanky-panky of the Anita Blake series, though Elaine shows subtle signs of necrophilic tendencies. Elaine is the actual star of the story, her straying into the thin line between good and evil the main focus that keeps this story together. I can't help thinking it would be intriguing if she and Harkon end up lovers, but alas, this book's audience are in the 13-18 crowd. No rumpy-pumpy naughtiness.
Hold tight - this book is one nerve-chilling ride into the dark side. A bit tame for my taste - come on, evil + eroticism = ooh baby - but it's a pleasant filler while I wait for Obsidian Butterfly.
Death Of A Darklord rates an 83.
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