alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 49: Born of the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Goodreads summary: “Awakened from a drugged sleep in a cold cell, the Princess Kiara finds herself a prisoner of the merciless marauders who threaten her father’s planetary kingdom. Miraculously, a rescuer appears, but behind his fearsome mask is the handsome face of a dark avenger whose outlaw touch sets her very soul aflame.”

The last time I reviewed Kenyon, I somewhat flinchingly (really though — I did NOT like them, but lots of other women do and I am not generally contrary just to prove a point) bashed the first few books of her Dark-Hunter series. Perhaps a bit of healthy distance did us well, because I was able to more-or-less enjoy this book despite it being, seemingly, the original template she used to create her other popular series. She even likes to reuse names a bit. Here, our hero is Nykyrian; the second Dark-Hunter hero is Kyrian of Thrace.

The tortured and broken hero is not a uniquely Kenyon device, but she has a particular brand that was unmistakably born here: self-loathing, forsaken by his parents and would-be peers, but with one or two loyal and fiercely protective friends, this hero has no love to give any woman because he can’t even love himself. But lo! He then encounters THE ONE WOMAN who re-ignites his soul and his erection, and the province of Sadland slowly transforms into Gladland after much turmoil and upheaval.

Other than healthy distance, I think the thing that allowed me to enjoy this one a bit more was a fairly interesting sci-fi universe. It’s built on classic tropes of the genre, but I liked Kenyon’s version of shadowy assassins and who-watches-the-watchmen?-isms. Kiara was a fairly standard heroine: she’s stubborn and snarky (read as: “different” from other princesses who probably just want to stay home and knit space petticoats and drink intergalactic tea, or something), but more importantly, she somehow has the capacity to fix our broken hero, and that’s really all we need from our romance heroines anyway (HINT I’M CHOKING ON MY SARCASM. How’s that for a sarcasm font?)

Anyway, I’m talking more smack than not, again, but really this one wasn’t so bad. It was fun, even! If you’ve read Kenyon, it’s probably an interesting experiment to read this one if you haven’t already, just so you can keep tracking her tendencies backward.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 18-21: Dark-Hunter 1-4 by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I’ve given mostly positive reviews so far for this Cannonball, so I’m rubbing my hands together with glee to finally be able to write a “critical” one.

The Dark-Hunter books 1-4 in order are:

  1. Fantasy Lover
  2. Night Pleasures
  3. Night Embrace
  4. Dance With the Devil

I borrowed these from a friend after we’d discussed how I had started to read romance and romance-adjacent books, namely, the Fever series; then, after enjoying Fever so much, I started perusing Mrs. Julien’s infamous “Shameful Tally” with piqued interest and started with one of her highest recommendations: Courtney Milan.

After finding Milan’s books and novellas to be pretty good as well, I wondered to myself: “Have I been unfairly biased against romance?” Maybe I just am a fan of fromage, after all! Well… now I can say, having mainlined this selection of Dark-Hunter (why the hyphen?) like a fifth-grader pretending Pop Rocks are cocaine, I surely did spoil myself beginning my foray into romance with the likes of Milan, because there is some true crap out there and this is it.

These books are apparently bestsellers and pretty highly rated on Goodreads. The Fifty Shades phenomenon has reminded me to take public opinion with a grain of salt, but I still feel like kind of an ass for shitting on what is obviously a well-loved series. Fortunately, I’ve accepted occasional assholery as one of my charming personality tics awhile ago, so I’m going to move forward with this review. I gave the first two books two stars as opposed to one on Goodreads, but I’m going to retcon myself a bit because frankly, they aren’t really much better than the third and fourth; I just wasn’t bored of the plug-and-play plot yet.

So: this is the plot of all four books (and I’m assuming probably all twenty-four — twenty four!!! — in the series.) The heroine, either by some mishap or lucky accident, encounters the hero, who is an ancient immortal of Greek or Roman ancestry. He is cursed somehow, and despite their smoldering sexual chemistry and his deep, inexplicable feelings for the heroine — feelings he has felt for NO OTHER WOMAN, ever (and really, I can’t emphasize enough how often the “only her” or “never anyone but her” line is used in these books) — he pushes her away because he is CURSED! She finds some way to help him become uncursed, though, and they live happily and sexily ever after.

Aside from the rote plot, there are also a bunch of really silly details in the novels that had me pretty consistently rolling my eyes. One thing that isn’t necessarily too egregious, but still had me giggling, were the technological references that were surely intended to make the book seem very “now.” But of course when “now” is 2002 (when the first book was published) and your character is dutifully punching away on her Palm Pilot, it comes across as very instantly dated to a reader in 2013. The second thing, related to the first, though it seems pretty laughable even by 2002 standards, is the author’s shameless plugging of her website in the text of the books. She spends at least a page in each of the books describing how the characters log onto “the website”, and in the context of the books it’s supposed to be the totally secret administrative message board for the Dark-Hunters (seriously, that hyphen just kills me,) while obviously in real life it’s the promotional website for the series. So, LOL Sherrilyn Kenyon, I see what you did there!

The other major groaner, for me, is how the characters are all on a first-name basis with the Greek gods, so we’re given HILARIOUS characterization and nicknames for said gods. Like, Aphrodite and Artemis are both self-centered and bitchy (because of course they are,) especially compared to the heroines, who are just not like other women. They’re different! Special! Artemis in particular is portrayed as pretty awful, which is bizarre because I never picked up on that from any of the mythology I’m familiar with, but then again I’m not sure that this series is meant to fit right into the Pantheon canon, so…

Let’s see, what else. The Dark-Hunters themselves are kind of like vampires, except that they don’t drink human blood to survive. They can, but it’s kind of looked down upon. But they definitely have fangs, and die in the sunlight, and they have supernatural strength and special abilities. They’re meant to hunt Daimons, which are a species with a convoluted backstory, but the point is that they kill humans. So the Dark-Hunters are basically vampires who don’t act like vampires and hunt the creatures who do act like vampires. If this sounds confusing and stupid, that’s because it is.

I could go on, and I know I’m reading way too much into what is meant to be a fluffy series, but as a fan of paranormal entertainment, if your paranormal shit doesn’t make sense, I’m not going to give it a pass just because it’s supposed to be mostly romance. The romance itself is fine, I guess, outside of being extremely formulaic. For readers of Pajiba’s caliber, I can’t recommend this series at all, unless you are really into unintentional comedy and want to practice decaying your own grey matter for sport.