Berkley Sensation, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-19880-4
Fantasy Romance, 2004
Like MaryJanice Davidson, Angela Knight seems to fast approaching meltdown for me when they have barely started in the playing field. Maybe it’s because I’ve read too many of this author’s works but her stories, while too steamy for words, have a marked similarity in plot, mechanics of the love scenes, and characters to the point that her works soon become one indistinguishable blur. Master of the Night has the same kind of hero and heroine that the author has created for her Secrets and Ellora’s Cave stories. The only difference between those and this one is that this book is filled with so many background details and technical details that I fear that I will have to sit for a test before I can put away the book.
Like her debut with Berkley, this book tries to be too many things. It wants to have a pretty decent canon involving vampires and all, but at the same time it tries to be yet another cartoon erotic romance by having the whole story revolve around the exchange of bodily fluids. Trust me, I’ve dealt with these fluids in the lab and I’ve mixed all sorts of chemicals into them – they do not alter the course of world history. That or they are all sex-mad Republicans who are living in Ohio, I don’t know.
Angela Knight introduced her Earth Mages heroes in a short story but do not fear if you haven’t read that one. Ms Knight will give the entire back story in, oh, sixteen or twenty pages at the beginning of the story. Apparently the Earth Mages are vampiric otherworlders keeping our world safe – yes, I know, they are doing an incredible job so far, I tell you – and Reece Champion is the Earth Mage who is taking care of Uncle Sam. I guess this is where I crack more jokes that will cause self-proclaimed conservative visitors to flood my mailbox with flames but really, this is too easy. The only thing I gather, from this story, that these people do for humans is that they carelessly sire children with humans, children that they can’t even keep track of. And if they can’t even keep a database or walk down to the 7-11 to buy some strawberry-flavored Durex, how can they save the world? Don’t make me laugh.
Come to think, they are overpopulating the world, which is bad and hence goes against what they are charged to do.
Our heroine, Erin Grayson, is an ex-FBI now working for some shadowy organization and she is charged to investigate Reece Champion who may be involved in death cults (terrorist cells are like so last year).
The trouble with the author creating a series proclaiming that every guy in the group or consortium or whatever will be a hero is that there is no suspense, just as there is no suspense here whether Reece can end up the bad guy. Instead, I get plenty of cartoon-like canon about Erin being a Latent and how they need to exchange blood or have sex NOW to save the world. While the mechanics of the love scenes are hot enough to scorch, the context of these scenes is ridiculous. It’s like someone have spliced an episode of Farscape into a softporn movie. And because the external conflict, which I wouldn’t even try to offer a synopsis here because I fear my head will explode, spans through the earth into the Mageverse, the story is also crammed with plenty of canon expositions that actually add little to the story. In fact, these expositions force the first half of the book to slow down to a grinding halt.
I find myself bewildered by the sheer expense of canon in this book. Won’t it be better to seamlessly weave the canon and world-building into the narration instead of setting up long chapters of exposition? Sure, it worked for JRR Tolkien but somehow I don’t think they will be making a movie out of this book anytime soon.
So here’s my problem with this book: when it wants to tell a story, it bites off more than it can chew – the whole King Arthur stuff, in fact, can be taken off the canon without changing the story too much – and there is unsatisfactory balance between action and narration. When it decides to drop the back story for the moment and get going with the action, more often than not the characters are having sex to save the world. I end up being confused by the Berkley version of Angela Knight. Does she want to tell a substantial story or to set up her story merely as a backdrop for her characters to have sex nilly-willy? Because if sex is all that matters and all we need to save the world is to exchange body fluids with a hot hunk, then all those tedious details in the canon are distraction before the money shot. But if I am to take the story even a little seriously, perhaps a little more, er, logic into whole sex thing will make it easier for me to take the story seriously. The overemphasis on sex and overflowing fluids in this story borders on ridiculous and even juvenile. Maybe some campy humor to allow the author to display some much-needed self-awareness about the over-the-top aspects of her story would have worked wonders here.