OK, so where shall we start?
Despite the terrible covers and the mostly terrible titles, I mostly liked the Dark series. Is it a favorite? Nope. Not even a favorite romance. However, it's close. There were just a few things, small by themselves, that bring it down.
If I was comparing it to another series, it'd have to be the Troubleshooters series, mostly based on the structure - that kind of ever expanding circle of friends and family. Unfortunately, it's just not as good. Granted Troubleshooters isn't paranormal, but you'd think that'd give the Dark series more to work with. Instead it's the basics are the same every time.
This is my first complaint: at times, it was really repetitive. Maybe I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't binge read, but I did. We're talking language and overall themes. "Sinful mouth" came up a lot. And just the descriptions of sex. And then there's the basic premise of male Carpathian meets human woman. Something horrible happens, then they fall in love. It's not like I don't like the formula, but it does seem to be a formula. It definitely gets better in later books, though.
However, I have to say, just when I start getting bored, Feehan throws in something new to keep me interested. The stories start getting deeper as well. Characters have more to deal with, they start growing and becoming..."more."
And here's another complaint: I wished the characters interacted more. In Troubleshooters, old characters still pop up and interact with the newer ones. With the exception of Dark Celebration, you don't really get that here. And there are times it'd really make sense for it to happen. There are times, when it is just incomprehensible that the characters don't call for help. As a precaution at the least.
This could have been helped by a more overarching plot. There were a few books there in the middle that had it, and those were better. The overarching plot just added that bit of something. I donno. Depth? Substance? Interaction? Development? I'd like to see more of that.
Now, I hinted at some of the problems as far as sexism goes, but I avoided going into them too much because it'd just get repetitive. There are issues though, and I feel I have to acknowledge them. First the whole issue of consent. The men can bind the women with the ritual words without the women even being aware. They can even enact the conversion without consent, fogging the mind so they exchange blood. This is obviously a big no-no.
What kinda saves it is the idea that they're not human. They're humanoid, but not human. The point is made repeatedly. We don't expect animals to act like us, and there's every indication that in some ways Carpathians are a lot like animals. However, it still reinforces the idea that the man knows best. Even if the woman doesn't want something, she really does and he knows she does.
This brings me to the idea that the women, with a few very minor exceptions, are afraid of the men, how they feel about the men, or what it means to be with the men. The men are always ready to commit. And they have to right? They need them. They need the women way more than the women need the men. That's why they're imprinted with the binding words. But the women are always reluctant.
This reinforces that old "blushing bride" idea. That women can't somehow be sexual on their own, for themselves. That women should resist even when their interested. That virginal role is really irritating. What's wrong with wanting to be in a relationship, have sex, and/or fall in love? I don't get it.
Another thing is the protectiveness of the males. What saves this is Feehan's acknowledgement of the issue. Well, sorta. They have that meeting about if women should be fighting. Unfortunately it's never really settled. They seem to be leaning toward leaving it up to the lifemates - though they should just leave it up to the women. She still needs her man's permission. Sigh. OK, maybe that's not fair. Couples should discuss and make decisions together. But what someone does, how they behave and what they do with their bodies, is ultimately up to them alone.
Feehan doesn't seem to shy away from these issues, which really helps it from just being annoying. I'd still like to see more challenging of the Carpathian mores. As I said in the Dark Prince review, a gay character would be great. We're challenging the mores by having vampires with lifemates, and Zacarias' odd issue with his lifemate. So why not that? Why not a female Carpathian and a male human?
I'll definitely keep reading this series, and I'm looking forward to it. Despite the issues, it is enjoyable to read. I like the twist on vampires. I just hope to see some more advancement.
The Dark Series, Christine Feehan