Sunday, August 28, 2011

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

A little over a month ago, I joined Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy Fanatics!, a group on GoodReads (I've met alot of great people over there).  This book was heavily pushed from the second I joined.  After reading the first book, I can see why.

Darkfever introduces us to Mackayla Lane, a twenty-two year old southern belle, who travels to Ireland in the hopes of forcing the Garda (Irish Police) to reopen the unsolved murder of her sister, Alina.  Alina had traveled to Ireland to attend college before meeting a charismatic stranger and her nefarious end.  Beautiful, pampered, and unfocused, Mac is not prepared for what she discovers lurking the the streets of Dublin and will have to grow up in a hurry if she hopes to survive, let alone find her sister's killer.

Darkfever is the first book in a five book series by Karen Marie Moning (The Fever series).  I have to say that I read alot of "series" books these days.  It's pretty rare to find a book that isn't part of a series in the Paranormal Romance (PnR) / Urban Fantasy genres. What I've discovered is that the initial book in most series tends to be weaker than other books in the respective series.  I generally credit this to all the establishing material the writers have to introduce in order to build their foundation for what is to come.

Personally, I think Karen has done a fantastic job with this particular establishing book, but once again I think I'm in the minority (as I usually am).  Many of my GR friends warned that the early books aren't as good but that I REALLY needed to stick with them because the series as a whole, particularly from Faefever (Fever #3) on is phenomenal.  This kind of recommendation tends to make me a little trepidatious.  Afterall, the implication is that if I don't know how much better the series gets,  I might stop reading it. Not what I would call a resounding endorsement of the initial installment.  Whether this series gets better or not I can't really say, but it doesn't need to for me to recommend it. 

The major complaint I tend to see about this book is with regard to Mac. It seems there are a bunch of people out there that find her annoying, whiney, and immature.  While I agree that at times she was all of these things, I not only liked her, but I get why she was written this way.  Mac has not been training her entire life to become the savior of our planet.  Before the murder of her sister, she had no axe to grind.  She's grown up privileged, loved, and sheltered by her family and friends.  Like many of us at her age, her world view is rather short cited and ego centric.  Having wanted for nothing, she lacks direction and drive.  Her annoying, whiney, and immature moments in Darkfever are perfectly normal responses to the dangerous and foreign world she is thrust into upon arriving in Dublin.  She is the quintessential reluctant hero.

People forget or don't realize that Darkfever is only the first act of a five act story.  The characters need room to become what they are meant to be.  It's always wierd to talk about realism in realms of fantasy, but it is this kind of detail that makes the fantsy in this book believable.  A person coming from Mac's background is unlikely to simply accept and deal with the horrific environment she finds herself thrust into. Essentially, Mac is a work in progress.  It's a credit to Karen's writing that she's willing to take the long road and show the evolution of the character.  Sadly, this kind of character development is not as appreciated in today's world of immediate gratification.  No offense to Anita Blake or Kate Daniels, both of whom I adore, but Mac is more a REAL person in my mind than either.  With respect to this realism I do have one gripe, but it requires a spoiler to discuss.

» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «

For the most part, I like the way Karen writes.  The text is descriptive without bogging down in overly ornate language, and it flows well.  Her imagery is crisp and she's great with atmosphere.  On the down side, she occasionally shifts gears too quickly for my likeing (she's trying to control pacing, I think, but it felt disjointed in places to me), please note that I think this is a matter of taste more than anything else tho. For clarity's sake, here's an example of what I'm talking about. Once again, it requires a spoiler.

» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «

A final caution about Darkfever (I've touched on this already, but it bears repeating).  This is part one of five.  Karen doesn't make much of an effort to give this book a distinct plotline of its own.  Precious few things have been resolved by the time we reach the end (at least not in a traditional sense).  There are clearly many players behind the scenes that have not been introduced or have barely been touched on.  Interpersonal relationships are still in their infancy and characters are still being defined.  I can see how some people might find this unsatisfying, but I was very much okay with it.  Patience is a virtue after all ;)


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