St Martin’s Press, $6.99, ISBN 0-312-99241-6
Fantasy Romance, 2004
I find ihe previous entries to the author’s Dark-Hunter series pretty forgettable. With this book and the previous book Dance with the Devil, however, Sherrilyn Kenyon seems to have made some improvements to her characterization and fantasy alternate-Earth setting. The books don’t suffer from rushed or underdeveloped feel and the overreliance on sex and contrived conflicts have given way to meatier conflicts. In the case of Kiss of the Night, there is still some way to go before the series actually come into its own. But the party may finally be starting for the Dark-Hunters. After four books, it’s about time.
Structurally, this book follows the same formula as the author’s previous Dark-Hunters book: a secondary character getting his set-up for the next book while the tortured hero and the conflicted heroine work out their problems so that they fall in love and kick the butts of the evil Daimon creatures before the story is done.
Wulf Tryggvasen is a Dark-Hunter with a problem – nobody can remember him once he’s left their sight thanks to an ancient curse, and no, I’m not referring to the fact that nobody can spell or pronounce his last name. Although a name change may help a bit, I’m sure. Our heroine Cassandra Peters – no relations to the lady known as Elvira – remembers him thanks to the standard erotic dreams bond every paranormal romance novels seem to must have. Poor Cassandra is being pursued by Daimons because of her legacy that makes her a freak magnet for them. Oh, and she must make that special baby to save the day – another tired old crap every paranormal romance must have.
I’m deliberately leaving out a lot of details here because this book will not stand alone well if you haven’t read any of the author’s previous Dark-Hunter books. The Dark-Hunters and the world they live in are filled with stock and standard shipper-friendly genre elements like an overripe potpourri. Ms Kenyon’s ability to weave well together many mythological elements across several cultures into her settings is to be commended, although I can’t verify whether it’s true that inconsistencies are piling from book to book (I don’t keep track too much on the details in the arc). I do detect a few glaring inconsistencies in the plot, especially one involving a crucial plot development. Maybe Ms Kenyon should do what Laurell K Hamilton is reputed to have done – hire someone to keep track of continuity and consistency in the series.
Wulf isn’t too tormented compared to some of his Dark-Hunter ilks but at the same time, his characterization doesn’t actually come alive to me. Cassandra is even less interesting – she’s even more underwritten than Wulf to the point that she’s just a plot device – a walking baby maker with predictable visceral and not always intelligent reactions to the situations she’s caught it. They are both paranormal romance stereotypes and their romance is pretty much a standard “soulmate” romance where the foundations of the romance is left mostly to destiny, fate, et cetera instead of any actual relationship building, if I’m making sense here.
Still, compared to previous Dark-Hunter books that are even more underwritten, Kiss of the Night is a much better book. I find myself engrossed in the external conflicts in this book, although the too-convenient and almost insulting resolution nearly ruins the story for me. The Daimons aren’t all evil, fancy that, but my enjoyment of this aspect is dampened slightly by the obvious fact that the Dark-Hunter series has just made a few more sequels obviously known to the reader thanks to this plot development.
For now, the Dark-Hunters remain a cheesy amalgamation of every stereotypical elements of the genre, mixed and put together in a way that actually works. It is the author’s preoccupation with setting up sequels and trying to play it safe by dumbing down her conflicts that often work against her. I suspect that Dark-Hunter fans will most likely love it as it is a formulaic addition to the series, the non-fans not much for the same reason, and things will remain as they are until the next book comes out a few months later.