The Dark, Book 17
Heat Factor: They don’t bone until the 75% mark, but before that there’s a lot of womb clenching
Character Chemistry: Soulmates, but also, he’s the only man in an uber-alpha society who truly appreciates Ivory’s badassery
Plot: We must destroy the evil mage!
Overall: It wasn’t bad, but I won’t be reading books 1-16 of the series
Since this is a late entry in one of those epic vampire saga series, my review will be a little bit different than normal. I’ll talk about whether Dark Slayer works as a standalone, and then I’ll talk about some thematic elements that I suspect pervade the series as a whole, so you can decide if Feehan’s Dark series is one you’d like to try.
Dark Slayer follows Ivory, a woman who was thought dead for years, but is actually the most bad-ass vampire slayer in existence, as she works toward her centuries-long goal of killing the evil mage who caused all her problems in the first place. However, she happens to meet her lifemate, which is awfully inconvenient. She’s got revenge to take care of and doesn’t have time for her feminine side! Luckily for her, Razvan a) really digs her warrior vibe and b) lived in captivity to that same evil mage for years, so he is totally on board with the whole epic revenge plan. I will also say here that there’s some pretty creative work going on with the shapeshifting elements: they can shift into vapor or liquid or any animal, which does make the sexytimes more interesting (Razvan shifts into warm liquid in order to pleasure Ivory’s entire body, which sounds pretty awesome). Also! Ivory has turned some wolves into Carpathanians, so they can also shapeshift; they frequently turn into tattoos covering her arms and back and act as extra eyes as she stalks her prey.
Overall, it works pretty well as a standalone. Ivory and Razvan are both loners outside of larger Carpathian society, so while other couples from this world do appear, they are less intrusive to the plot than they would be if either Ivory or Razvan were more integrated into the community. While other evil bad guys appear, both Ivory and Razvan are pretty focused on the mage, which helps contain the story arc. There were definitely bits of the world-building that I was confused about (mainly: what the heck is a Carpathian?), but Feehan included enough backstory and detail that I got the general gist of the larger story.
So why am I not planning on picking up other books in the series? Well, let’s talk about some thematic elements.
As I mentioned above, I’m not entirely sure what a Carpathian is. I think they’re super-strong vampires? But there are also vampires in this book, who are all evil, but are maybe also former Carpathians? Like if you don’t find a mate the darkness overtakes your soul? (I suspect this is clarified in earlier books.)
What I will say about Carpathians is that they’re *everything* paranormals. They drink blood and are nocturnal. They can shapeshift into any form they want. They have a deep affinity for the earth – like they sleep in the ground and are sometimes healed by the magical minerals of the dirt. They do magic, sometimes. And they biologically reproduce, but then also have to be “turned.” They are pretty much unkillable, unless someone physically reaches into their chest and pulls out their heart.
It’s a lot, but I guess that gives Feehan more flexibility in coming up with fun situations for her characters.
There is a LOT of gender essentialism in this book. Ivory refers to herself as a “female,” which I never love, and does a lot of hand-wringing about how she doesn’t know how to be a woman because she’s a warrior. There also seem to be hints that Carpathian males have the dark side of the soul and the females have a soul of light and when you find your mate you share a soul and then are bonded. But given Ivory’s backstory (cut into pieces and left for dead to be eaten by wolves, in case you were wondering), I was like, “Wow, is she really the soul of light here? Can we let her have some darkness too?”
The heavy gender essentialism in Carpathian society does make for some fun moments in this particular book, when other Carpathian males meet Ivory and are like, “We will take care of you now,” and she’s like, “I am a mother-fucking vampire slayer, don’t test me.” So Feehan does play around with this a tiny bit here, though I suspect that other books in this series lean way more into a women do this / men do that binary. This was, for me, the biggest deal-breaker.
Oh man, is there a lot of emphasis on babies. Carpathians are an endangered species, so they are very very interested in the survival of their young. Including all the fetuses, who are also called babies. It frankly borders on breeder porn, but if you like your HEA to include procreation, this may bother you less than it did me.
Mystic Christian Science Mish-Mosh
The cosmology of this world is wild! As someone who studied religion, I found it really fascinating.
Ivory is very attuned to Mother Earth. There’s a lot of crystal magic and burning of sacred plants and stuff like that. There’s also that whole, the earth’s minerals heal us, which is especially the case with Ivory, who has been accepted as Mother Earth’s daughters.
But they are also very Christian, but in kind of a sneaky way. When Ivory does a healing spell, she uses crystals, burns incense scented with specific plants for protection, and draws the sign of the cross in the sky. Later, she draws the fleur-de-lis, “symbol of purity, representing the three who were one.” (There is no mention of God or Jesus or Church.)
And intertwined with all this mysticism is science. The mage has sent evil microbes to harm the fetuses. Vampires are evil because they have a parasite in their blood. Ivory has a lab back in her secret cave home, where she does science-magic.
A final note: Feehan includes a lot of “Carpathian” dialogue and spell-casting poetry. It’s mildly Tolkien-esque. This book was a bit repetitive—we hear a lot about the magical healing minerals in the earth and Ivory and Razvan’s tragic backstories (this could be why I wasn’t lost, because there was a lot of repeated explanation about their relationship to other Carpathians).
And the final final thing, which is the true deal-breaker: it’s not that fun. These vampire-like-beings brood. They don’t crack jokes. They are very serious or fighting evil pretty much all the time. I prefer my ridiculous paranormals with a bit of absurd-sauce on top.
Looking for something similar?