21 January 2010

Dark Slayer by Christine Feehan

Spoilers Ahead

I don't like having to review bad books. I really don't like reading them, but reviewing them just adds to an already unpleasant experience, especially when the publisher (in this case Penguin) was nice enough to send me a review copy. But I just can't say something is good when it isn't. Dark Slayer is not good.

The problem isn't with the story--a fairly standard fantasy/paranormal romance. Traumatized pair Ivory and her newfound "lifemate" Razvan team up to overcome their painful pasts while fighting the ultimate evil. Good triumphs and the heroes find redemption, but evil still lurks waiting to rear its ugly head once again (in the next book, of course). Nothing earth-shattering, but it could have been a decent literary distraction.

So what's the problem? Or, I should say, problems?
  • Note to all writers of vampire fiction: There is only one Slayer and her name is Buffy Summers (Faith, Kendra, and Fray also count but, as you may have noticed, they're all from the Buffyverse). Calling any other characters "The Slayer" only brings Buffy to mind and makes you seem really unimaginative. Just accept it and use a thesaurus.
  • With all the repetition in Dark Slayer, it probably could have been cut in half with no detriment whatsoever. I blame this one on the editor. Same goes for all the typos and grammatical errors.
  • Writing 101: Show, don't tell. Exposition = bad. Endless exposition = really bad--and boring...and lazy... (The truly depressing part is that apparently Christine Feehan is a bestselling author. Why do people want to buy and read dreck when there are so many good books out there?)
  • Worse than the exposition is the poetry. Dark Slayer is full of magical chants that were just painful to read. There is no excuse for lines like this:
I call to thee, Mother, who once held me tight,
Healing me whole so that I might continue the fight.
  • Sexual Content Ahead: use your discretion. If life were fair all romance writers would have to take an extensive course in writing sex scenes. In the meantime, here's a few tips: (1) sex scenes should not gross out your readers "womb clenching," among other things mentioned, just sounds unpleasant; (2) if you must use euphemisms, at least go for ones that won't cause readers to roll their eyes-- "feminine channel"--really?; (3) lose the fetish for deflowering virgins; (4) at least have a grasp of anatomy--not only is it impossible for a man to penetrate "so deep he pierced her womb," but if that ever actually did happen it would be horrifying and excruciating. Not exactly sexy; (5) try to be consistent--how can you have flowery euphemisms next to words like clit? With all the womb clenching in her exotic feminine core as he invades her, I couldn't help alternating between laughter and revulsion, which I have to assume is not the effect the author was going for.
On a more amusing note, I was sent both these books for review at the same time (same publisher). What do you think--same cover model and designer? Both characters must be part of the union (Female Vampire Hunters and Widget Makers Local 443).

There were plenty of other problems with Dark Slayer that I didn't mention, but I think you get the idea. We've all got limited time for reading--why waste it on something less than brilliant? Although I wish it did, Dark Slayer just doesn't make the cut.

Fang Files

Carpathians vs Vampires: Although similar in a lot of ways, vampires and Carpathians are not the same.

Carpathians: Humans who are "turned" (not explained in this book). They live for centuries, are extremely difficult to kill, burned by sunlight, and need to drink blood.

Vampires: Carpathians who are turned, live forever, are extremely difficult to kill, burned by sunlight, and need to drink blood. But apparently they're foul creatures of pure evil.

Both groups heal quickly, shift forms (to animal, vapor, or simply a different appearance), can call down/control lightning, and are super strong. Carpathians also have magical abilities and are strongly connected to the earth. Vampires have acid blood, are toxic to the earth and infect with their bite. Only vampires are affected by holy objects.

Text Bite

Ivory, upon realizing that Razvan is her lifemate: She raised her face to the heavens, letting the snow cover it like a white mask. "Why now?" she asked softly. A plea. A prayer. "Why are you asking this of me now? Don't you think you've taken enough from me?" She stood waiting for an answer. Lightning to strike, maybe. Something. Anything. Her whispered entreaty was met with implacable silence.

Dark Slayer (part of the Carpathian series) by Christine Feehan. Also available as an e-book. From Penguin (Berkley).

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