Sunday, October 27, 2013
Dark Prince, Christine Feehan
Book 1's have a hard time right? A lot they need to get done. You've got to set up the characters, the general plot of the series. The feel/tenor of the series.
It's a lot of work.
This paranormal romance does a fairly decent job.
It's not exceptional. I can't lie. It's good. (There's lots of sex, FYI.) But it's got a really interesting take on the vampire legend.
See, there's a race called the Carpathians. They're an immortal race. They exist on blood, but they never kill their food. They actually think the idea of killing something and eating it's meat like we do is repulsive and barbaric. They are sensitive to light, but the whole garlic thing seems to be just a random myth. And they are definitely not dead, though they do appear that way when they're asleep. And their connected to the earth, so sleeping covered in dirt (aka buried), heals them.
So, is it just misunderstanding that created the vampires we know?
Nope. Not exactly.
See, Carpathians are similar to the Greek myth about soul-mates, in they need a lifemate to be complete. The males are darkness, the females are light. They need each other. Without a lifemate, the males start to...devolve. The lose emotion, colors, all that kind of thing. Their world becomes grey and flat - physically and emotionally. If it gets bad enough, the only way they can feel anything is to kill their prey and drink their blood. They then become...shells of themselves, interested only in power and violence.
The problem? The women are dying out. Well, a bunch were killed by vampire hunters, and now the few women they have only have male children.
It's all pretty tragic, if you ask me.
So, in this book we meet Mikhail and Raven. Raven is a human with telepathic powers. One night she hears Mikhail cry out in desperation. After centuries of loneliness, he's ready to kill himself, rather than become a vampire. She engages him, they fall in love, she becomes Carpathian. They hope she will be able to bear healthy, female children.
Why didn't they looked for lifemates among humans in the first place? Well, see vampires tried to turn humans, but they always go nuts and have to be killed. When they're too deranged for vamps, you know it's bad. It works this time because Mikhail and Raven are already lifemates. They're destined for each other, I guess.
Now, if this sounds similar to the Chimney Rock series, you are on the ball. If you'll remember, that book has a pack of werewolves looking for humans they can mate with who won't die during child birth. You'll also remember the issues I had with the idea of a group of men just looking for breeders, not to mention, these men had every reason to believe the women would die.
This is different (thankfully) for one major reason.
They are not looking for breeders - or lifemates even - among the human population. They've seen the vampires try to turn humans and fail, so the Carpathians would never even consider it. Mikhail turns Raven in an act of desperation while she's dying. His actions might have put her in the position where that was the only option, but who's judging. *eye roll*
They want to have female children again, but they're not seeking out women for this purpose. They're also not willing to risk the women's lives for that goal.
Which makes the similarities to Chimney Rock superficial only.
There are a few things I'd like to see from this series to make it really...epic.
One, I'd like to see a gay Carpathian. I'd like to see him struggle with his "duty" to have children, to help save his race. Carpathians have sexual interests before finding their lifemate. So, maybe he just thinks he's attracted to men because he hasn't found his lifemate. Or maybe he's bi. I don't know. I just would like to see that inner and social conflict, where, of course at the end, everyone is accepted.
Cause really, to deny him his lifemate - even if it's a male, would mean damning him to become a vampire.
Two, I'd like to see an abused woman as a lifemate. See, Carpathian males are supposed to be animalistic, almost primal. They're instincts push them to protecting their lifemate (aka woman) at all costs. Oh! I should take the time to add that, once found, and once the ritual happens, lifemates can't bear to be away from each other for long. And if one dies, the other usually follows shortly after. Or goes nuts and has to be killed.
So, back to my desire to see an abused lifemate. Well, not abused by the Carpathians... *eye roll* I'm making a mess of this, let me just get it out. OK, so. Raven and Mikhail struggle because Raven is and wants to be independent. Mikhail wants to protect her even if it means taking away her free will. So, there's a lot of conflict around that.
It actually brings up an interesting conundrum around these types of relationships: If you do something to protect someone from getting hurt, but what you do hurts that person anyway, how do you protect them? Which hurt do you let happen?
So, why I want to see an abused lifemate is to challenge this idea. I actually like the idea of this lifemate for Gregori, Mikhail's...best friend, bodyguard, 2nd in command? All of the above. He give Mikhail a lot of shit because he doesn't just stick Raven in a room and lock her up to "protect" her. I like the idea of this kind of woman for him because I think he'd see the need to let her have her freedom the most starkly with this type of character.
What I imagine is a woman who is either recently out of an abusive relationship or was attacked, but is just starting to take back control. A lot of women who are attacked/raped or abused talk about the lack of control they feel. I want to see Gregori (or whoever) find this woman and want to protect her, but realize she needs the control in her life to protect herself. I actually have this scene in my mind where he first sees/finds her while she's in a self defense class. With Raven, Mikhail was horrified but the mere thought of another man just casually touching Raven. The idea that the first time this man would see his lifemate she would be thrown around on a mat my a male self defense instructor would be amazing. I can see him ready to charge in to rescue her, only to see her smile and laugh and realize she enjoys it.
I want to see him learn what it means to her to be protected instead of his need for her physical safety.
I have to admit, I'm taking a little bit from the Dark Jewels Trilogy here. See, the men in those have the same protection instinct, but they display it by wanting the women to be able to defend themselves. They recognize they can't always be there to save the damsel in distress (*eye roll*), so they make sure their loved ones can protect themselves.
I'd love to see this lifemate bring that mentality back to Carpathian society.
Next, I'd love to see a female Carpathian looking for her lifemate. One, I want to learn more about what it means to be a Carpathian female. Second, I'd like to see Mikhail and the gang accept a human male. Or more accurately, I'd like to see them play overprotective siblings and put the new guy through the ringer. I feel like that would be really entertaining.
Finally, this is kind of the counterpoint to the abused lifemate (terrible name, I know, but it's the most descriptive). This woman I want to see as vivacious. Independent, and strong. Works out, does self defense style, maybe she's a cop. Oh! I like the cop thing. What I mean is the opposite of the abused lifemate, but leading to the same conclusion. She's not learning to take control of her life again, she's always been in control.
What do you think?
Lastly, I just kinda want to bring back feminist corner - not that it's ever really gone away. These kind of books always make me a bit nervous. I worry that it gives the impression this is what women really want. What men should understand is that this works in. A. Book. The Carpathians can act like chauvinists because they're not human. They can say it's their nature because it is. They're supposed to be more animalistic, unable to control themselves to some respect at times. Think about Twilight. It's an insanely unhealthy relationship if you really look at it. But most of us can separate that because it's a different species (we can talk about the unhealthy impact on teens another time). Mikhail and Raven are a bit unhealthy too, except for the fact that Raven pushes back and Mikhail listens. But because they're fictional, we can enjoy their relationship and their foibles and find them endearing. If you have to live with Mikhail, I doubt you'd see it that way for long. No one wants to be told what to do - to be wrapped in a cocoon.
Regardless of how noble the intentions are.
Anyway, I have the next book ready to start. I don't expect any of my ideas to be used literally, but I really hope it's not the same basic plot over and over.
Dark Prince, Christine Feehan