Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
I was going to have an advance review up today. Seriously, I read the book and I was all ready to go. But I’ve been a bit distracted of late. A few weeks ago, after hearing it chatted up on Twitter and the blogosphere incessantly, I read Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series: Darkfever, Bloodfever, Faefever, and Dreamfever. The fifth and final book, Shadowfever, arrives in bookstores tomorrow, January 18—and on my Kindle early that morning. I may have to get up early to squeeze more reading in before work. Simply put, this is one of the most compelling, best-realized series I’ve read in a long time. It’s an engrossing story, full of twists and turns that keep you dying to turn the page. And, because I love sharing good books with people, I decided I wanted to convince my CC2K bretheren why they should read these books.
When I was at Barnes & Noble the other day, I decided to hunt the series down—not because I was trying to see whether the store had put out Shadowfever a few days early, of course. I checked the Fiction and Literature section, then the Science Fiction and Fantasy section, but I couldn’t find it. Where did it finally turn up? Romance. Oh, no. That just won’t do at all.
Not that there’s anything wrong with romance. But the series is NOT a romance (although Moning’s other books, the Highlander series, are), and classifying as such automatically eliminates half of its potential audience. (And you wonder why I wrote a rant against genre bias!) It has romantic elements, yes, but there’s no happily ever after for these characters—and after four books, I’m not convinced there will be. There’s also elements of mystery, paranormal, suspense, all wrapped up together into a story that, I think, will keep you glued to your seat even if you’re not normally a fan of romance or paranormal.
MacKayla “Mac” Lane is a young woman who has led a very sheltered life in rural Georgia. When her sister, who has gone to study abroad in Ireland, is murdered, Mac travels to Ireland to pressure the authorities to find her sister’s killer. There, she discovers a world she didn’t know existed: the world of the Fae. As a sidhe-seer, Mac is one of the few people who can see through their disguises and illusions. She discovers that her sister had been sucked into this world, that she was attempting to track the Sinsar Dubh—a million-year-old book filled with magic so dark and so black it corrupts anyone who touches it. Mac, with her sidhe-seer abilities, is the only one who can track the book.
In this new and strange world, Mac has no idea who to trust—and who may be involved in her sister’s death. There’s the enigmatic bookstore owner, Jericho Barrons, who teams up with Mac to find the book. He’s tall, dark, and handsome, preternaturally strong and fast, seems devoted to keeping Mac alive—but he’s also frustratingly unwilling to answer any questions about himself, his past, or why he wants the book. Then there’s V’lane, a Fae prince who wants the book for his queen, so she can trap all the Unseelie (the bad Fae) in their prison again. He’s a death-by-sex Fae, as Mac calls him, capable of making women strip naked and throw themselves at him with his Fae powers. Yes, it sounds cheesy, but the sexual dangerousness of the Fae (and Mac’s human vulnerability to it) is an important part of the story.
It’s the mystery that ties these books together. Four books in, we still don’t know who killed Mac’s sister and why, and many other questions have been raised—and not resolved. Mac still doesn’t know who to trust. Characters lie, give evasive answers, and skew the truth. From Mac’s first-person perspective, the situation is just as confusing—maybe more so—at the end of Dreamfever as it was at the beginning of Darkfever. I feel like I did on the eve of the Lost finale, wondering whether all my questions will be answered. But Moning has done an amazing job getting us here, and I trust her to take us to the end.
As for romance…yes, I did mention the story had romantic elements, namely in the relationship between Mac and Barrons, the bookstore owner who aids her on her quest for the Sinsar Dubh. Barrons definitely has that sexiness thing going on, but he’s also completely inscrutable. Every time Mac starts to trust him, he does something that makes her question her own judgment again. He also has the tendency to be a major, incredible ass at times. One second, I’m certain he’s secretly in love with her, and the next, I’m convinced he’s seconds away from throwing her out a window. I’ll admit, I want the happily ever after to happen for them, but I’m not convinced it will. (And how awesome is that? With reading as many books as I do, I can usually see the ending coming a mile away. For this series, I can’t. Not just for Mac and Barrons, but for the whole story. That not-knowing is frustrating as hell…but also exhilarating.)
But the best part has been watching Mac grow stronger and more self-assured through the series. Mac started the series as very naïve, sheltered, and shallow, and has grown up immeasurably. This growth was hard-won; she’s been through a lot in these last four books. But the story feels almost like a coming-of-age piece, with the heroine learning about life through her adventures—albeit a little bit differently than most.
I’m fighting the urge not to tear my hair out or chew off all my newly-grown fingernails while I wait. (I can’t imagine how the people who have been waiting more than a year since Dreamfever’s release—or worse, five since Darkfever’s—can manage.) But it’s almost time, and I’m more than ready for the end.