Harper Voyager, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-178315-9
Sin’s Dark Caress looks like the final installment of the Dark Brethren series, or rather, the last one to be released by this publisher anyway. To date, there is no sign of any future books in this series either from another published or self published by the author aside from a very short prequel, so bear that in mind before starting this one. There are several loose ends dangling by the last page, so readers who end up loving the series may feel like they have been left high and dry by the author. It’s probably a good thing that I can’t find myself getting too enthusiastic about this series.
In this one, the Dark Brethren and their minions are up to their gory teen-killing ways again. Similar to previous books in this series, we focus on a different main couple here, while couples from previous books are relegated to smaller roles alongside other secondary characters in this woo-woo watchdog agency series. Bianca Sin, who is the forensics lady, is a witch who hasn’t discovered her powers yet, so she’s not exactly on the cool kids list. Don’t worry, she finally discovers her familiar and turns into some Daenerys Targaryen-wannabe, so power upgrade is still on the menu here. Lancelot McManus from all appearances is an alcoholic and drug addict who is trying to keep his addictions from his NYPD superiors, but if you are expecting some angst here, oh don’t hold your breath. He does become Jon Snow though, and I wonder whether this is a Daenerys-Jon alternate universe fan fiction somehow converted into a full-length story. If yes, it will certainly explain a few things.
This is easily the most focused story here, without any tangents or soap-opera elements to distract everyone from the main thriller arc. While this means people who are hoping for romance will be disappointed, I am personally glad that I am getting a story that has tone, pacing, and character focus that make sense for once. I mean, who has time to play Marius and Cosette when there is a genuine threat on woo-woo folks in the neighborhood?
However, this also means that several subplots introduced early in the story, such as Lancelot’s addiction issues, end up going nowhere. Either they will be developed in a future story (unlikely, given the author’s tendency to focus on a new couple with each book), or this is just the author trying too much in the beginning and ending up delivering only a little of what was initially promised. While the mystery itself is resolved to a satisfying closure (with enough loose ends for more sequels, of course), the main characters by themselves feel incomplete.
Also, I’m confused by what the author is trying to do here. Now, no matter how some authors claim that they aren’t writing their own stories as much as their characters are dictating their stories to these authors, at the end of the day everything in a story is a choice made by the author. Well, that or they are dictated by the editor sometimes, but many authors always like to pretend that this kind of thing never happens, so let’s humor them and blame everything on the author. Here, the story is structured to have Bianca and Lancelot be duped by the bad guy and end up in deep trouble, until a secondary character show up solo to blast the bad guys to pieces, save our main characters, and even get in a few quips for good measure.
Why does the author do this? Does she want me to look at her main characters with some degree of side-eye? “I was hoodwinked… and I had to be rescued!” isn’t exactly a compelling character arc, especially for characters who are given significant power upgrades only to go oops. It is bad enough that the main characters feel half-baked, they don’t even have an interesting zero-to-hero journey here. So, what is the author trying to do here?
Despite having a better focus and a generally more satisfying thriller arc, Sin’s Dark Caress is still bogged down with the same flaw as the previous two books. Namely, there is nothing here that hasn’t been done a lot better in many other urban fantasy series of its time. Another time and day, perhaps.