St Martin’s Press, $6.99, ISBN 0-312-98482-0
Fantasy Romance, 2003
Sherrilyn Kenyon’s latest book, Night Embrace, is much better than the books in the Dark-Hunters series that come before it. Unfortunately, it still relies on its outlandish setting to mask its overreliance on sex and stereotypical characterization to haul itself to the finish line. While I can hardly fault the author for writing what sells in the paranormal romance genre today – tone down the fantasy, up the vampires, up the sex! – a part of me wishes that the author has at least tried to insert a little meaty substance – not counting vampire immortal male genitalia – into her story. There are some great potential in this series, but right now it’s all about sex, destiny-ordained love, tired male baggage, and dim-witted heroines.
Talon, our hero, gets his story here. He rescues our heroine Sunshine Runningwolf from evil Daimon. Now he has to figure out why the Daimons are chasing after our heroine. Love? Pshaw, it’s destiny, soul-mate, yadda, yadda – it’s the sex that’s more important here. Character development? Everybody Talon loves dies, so Sunshine? He cannot love her, et cetera. The greatest character development comes from the damaged immortal Zarek, albeit in a predictable “he’s misunderstood, his past was horrible, you must love him!” way, and I like it… until I realize the author is just pimping Zarek for his own book, coming up next.
Part of the problem of an author writing books for a series is that the author sometimes forget to write a book as a book instead of just another piece of a chain that leads to the big NYT Bestselling royalty check. In this book, all the Dark-Hunters that work together are uniformly perfect, perfect, perfect – each with derivative mental baggage to help readers tell Talon apart from Kyrian from Dragon from Claw from whatever – because the author is obviously thinking of these characters as toys coming out from the Mattel factory. The Daimons are cartoonish idiots, there is no chance of any of the Dark-Hunters slipping up (or how else will, say, poor Fulcrum the Immortal Viking get his own book?) or screwing up. There is no unpredictability factor. More accurately, there is no risk. I get this feeling that I know where this story is going, and I probably know where the story in the next book is going as well.
While readable, Night Embrace is all fluff, meager characterization, predictable action hero antics, a heroine who isn’t functional as much as she is just a damsel in distress, and enough pimping of upcoming heroes to create a new Heidi Fleiss scandal (pretty much every guy in this book is a walking advertisement). It really can’t shake off this impression that it’s just the latest toy from McKenyon’s Happy Meal promotions and that I am supposed to collect all ten. Or twenty. While I do applaud such enterprising spirit from an author, I also feel a measure of nostalgia for those bygone days when a book stands alone and is filled with characters that exist because they compliment the story, not because the author plans to write future books for every brother, sister, friend, child, neighbor, and dog she can cram into her book.