15 March 2011

Gothic Reading Challenge review: Evermore by Lynn Viehl

I hadn’t planned to review this book, but then I realised that not only was it a perfect fit for the Gothic reading challenge, but also that I had already reviewed the previous four books in the series, so why stop there?

It fits the Gothic theme because much of the story seems to happen at night, in a medieval style castle (even if it does have electricity and hot and cold running blood water), parts happen on a medieval battlefield which is pretty damn scary, there are vampires involved and supernatural threats, there is considerable angst, and there is cloak-and-dagger villainy that threatens the heroine (who, however, is no shrinking violet and is fully capable of defending herself).

Intro, necessary for understanding of some of the below. Cue a bad Christopher Lee vocal imitation doing the starting voiceover to an episode of The Dark and the Dangerous:
"The Darkyn were once people, but centuries ago they became infected with an organism that stopped their ageing process and turned them into the nearly immortal beings humans call vampires. At some point, they stopped being able to make more of their kind by infecting humans, but now they are again able to do so, albeit with great difficulty. They gather together in clans, called jardins, each under the leadership of a Lord. They are hunted by an evil sect, the Brethren, who will go to unspeakable lengths to eliminate the Darkyn. And now we return to Florida, USA, sometime in the recent past or present..."

(Broadcast technician removes her headphones and remarks to another tech: Darkyn: aka “my vampires must be unique”. Both snigger and exit left stage. ) (See footnote)

Genre: Urban fantasy, paranormal romance
Year of publication: 2008
No. in series: 5
Setting & time: Orlando, Florida; contemporary
Sex scenes? Yes, several, ranging from icky to sweet and tender.

Scottish Darkyn lord Aeden mac Byrne owns a medieval-themed restaurant in Orlando, Florida, where the Darkyn entertain unsuspecting humans with jousting, swordplay and medieval style feasting (for the humans – the Darkyn are strictly forbidden from feasting on the guests). Not only is the place a money spinner that allows him to keep his people safe, but it is also a way for the Darkyn of his jardin to live as closely as possible like they were accustomed when they were mortal.

His servant, Jayr, is the only female suzerain (second-in-command) of a Darkyn lord, and has been since the day of the battle of Bannockburn, when she came upon a wounded Byrne, who turned her and bound her to him when he fed off her blood. She has loved him deeply since that day, but the rules of conduct and their differences in social status forbid a union between them. But when Byrne decides to retire and renounce his role as lord of his jardin and name a new lord, passions explode among the candidates. Someone among them isn‘t playing fair and is prepared to use Jayr for his own nefarious purposes...

This is the first of the Darkyn books where the Brethren are hardly mentioned at all and the first to feature a romantic relationship between two of the ancient Darkyn and not between a Darkyn and a human or recently turned half-human/half-Darkyn. This makes it more self-contained than the previous four books, but knowing Viehl, it will probably turn out to be important for the later books.

Taking place as it does almost entirely within a self-contained realm of the Darkyn where humans only have limited access, this book delves deeper into the world of the Darkyn that the previous ones do. It contains several flashbacks to the battle of Bannockburn where Jayr and Byrne first meet, and gives an interesting twist to the story of Robin Hood.

This is a type of romance I enjoy but also sometimes find it hard to accept: the kind where the heroine and hero have loved each other close to forever but never suspected that the other felt the same. It does make for great tension-building, but when the charade has been going on for over 600 years, it becomes not just strained, but stretched as well.

Apart from that, the story is well-constructed and tightly woven, but there are several points where I was somewhat icked-out, points that involve, among other things, what I can‘t call anything but rape, which is, however, not called by its true name, or rather the mention of the word is carefully skirted by people who know damn well that‘s what it was. Other parts are interesting, especially being shown the Robin Hood legend in a whole new light, so that eventually the good and the bad points almost balance each other out, but only just almost. The way the rape issue is handled by the characters is a Huge Red “WTF!!! NO-NO!!!“ for me, so I can only give the book 2 stars where it would otherwise have deserved 3+.

Footnote: Just because I enjoy them it doesn‘t mean I can‘t look at them clear-eyed ;-)

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