In Review: Dark Fire

This is the first book from Avon I haven't enjoyed.

Dark Fire by Christine Feehan

Published by Avon Books, originally on June 10, 2010, re-released on December 24, 2018 (I’m reviewing the latter). Paperback of 392 pages at $7.99. 

The cover: Against some large windows that look like they’re from a mansion, mist is coming together to form a topless man with long black hair. The author’s name is at the very top, beneath it and to the right is a blurb from J.R. Ward, and at the very bottom is the title of the book. This frontpiece was designed by Patrick Kang. It’s a fitting cover for showing title character Darius appearing in this fashion, as this is actually a way he reveals himself several times in the book. The man doesn’t look like a photograph, more like a computer creation. If it is a photograph, the model has really been manipulated. Overall grade: B

The premise: From the back cover, “There is always a price to pay…Darius warned her when she accepted a position with his traveling troupe. Mesmerized by the merciless slash of his mouth, the implacable resolve on his face, the soulless emptiness of his black eyes, Tempest was afraid to ask what it was. She had always been different, apart from others. From the moment his arms closed around her, enveloped her in a sorcerer’s spell, Darius seemed to understand her unique gifts. But did his kiss offer the love and belonging she sought, or a danger more potent than his own panthers? Somewhere deep inside herself, Tempest realized she knew the answer. She had no choice but to accept the velvet stroke of his tongue, submit to the white-hot piercing her skin, welcome an erotic pleasure like no other…” Darius obviously has something of the supernatural around him, seeing as he owns panthers, and it seems that he is taken by Tempest, who is also smitten with him. This teases the romance, not the story, so I’m hoping there’s a frame to hang the love on. Overall grade: B-

The characters: Darius is a Carpathian, not a vampire, even though he sleeps in the dirt during the day, drinks blood to feed, can mesmerize humans, shape change, and turn himself into mist. Yeah, he’s a vampire. His and his family’s differentiation from being labeled blood suckers is that they haven’t lost their souls. One of their members did in the past and he had to be killed. Darius is very Alpha male in that his every decree is never questioned. He becomes slightly more likable when Rusti entrances him, but I there was nothing really to like about him. He’s described as being gorgeous and he’s an expert at making love, but his dialogue was painful, with odd insertions of the word baby into his speech that came across as very unlike his character. Once Rusti is his, which is the way he would phrase it, he is wholly devoted to her, protecting her at the cost of being obsessive and jealous and having telepathy with her 24/7. Much better is Tempest “Rusti” Trine, a lively redhead with green eyes who joins the Carpathians to be their mechanic, since their cars continually have issues between gigs. She is used to living alone and doing what she wants. Being drawn to Darius and what he wants of her, besides her body, is not in line with any part of her. This leads to several conflicts between the pair. She is very much a modern woman, while he is primitive man. It could have been a fun pairing, but I got bored with them together. Desari is a Carpathian and a singer, whose angelic voice allows the group to make money with her performances. The problem is she’s become so popular they’ve attracted a following, so they’re afraid their identities will be discovered. Desari is barely in this book, only appearing when the other female Carpathians speak with Rusti about her relationship with Darius. Syndil is also a Carpathian and was raped and beaten by the male in the group who became a vampire. She is turning her back on the traditions of their people and Darius’s rules. She has a fantastic scene with Rusti after something terrible happens and it revealed much about her. After this scene she appears fleetingly. I would have enjoyed learning more about her and seeing her growth. There is an early antagonist in the book when Rusti seeks to get away from Darious, but this man is easily dealt with. The first serious threat is Matt Broderick, a reporter who wants to learn more about Desari. He comes off as odd and when his true motivations are revealed he’s a great character to fear. He has others aligned with him in their cause and they don’t appear until the last quarter of the book. Given the abilities of the Carpathians that have been shown earlier, there’s never any question who will be triumphant in their conflict. The book truly only focuses on Darius and Rusti, and I just didn’t care for Darius, his dialogue, especially his babys and honeys which came across as unnatural, and he was too domineering and she was too submissive. It’s hard to enjoy a book if you don’t like the leads. Overall grade: D+

The settings: The woods where the Carpathians have made their camp is the setting for the first three-quarters of the books. Trailers, trucks, and cars of an undetermined age populate where they’ve stopped. Feehan does a good job in describing the woods for the family and a cave that’s used by one of the characters. The location also allows characters to run about in search of food and provides cover when they are being targeted. The last quarter of the book goes to a concert that Desari is performing at, which is what one would expect, but this doesn’t last as it moves to a location where the antagonists are staying. It, too, is described in fine fashion. Every setting is fine, but generic. Overall grade: B-

The action: Aside from the romance, the action revolves Rusti getting into trouble and then getting rescued. After the abilities of the Carpathians are revealed, there’s no situation that the human woman can’t be saved from. This made the threats impotent. Only after Darius gets wounded and is reportedly out of action for a few days do the threats seem stronger. However, the final quarter of the book lessens them. There’s not really much action, as the focus is on Darius and Rusti. Overall grade: D

The conclusion: The fates of the leads is telegraphed early on, by at least the halfway point, so there’s no surprise. Because Darius has so many abilities, the threats are not really an issue. It was predictable and not enjoyable. Overall grade: D-

The final line: This is the first book from Avon I haven’t enjoyed. The others have had engaging characters, plenty of romance, humor, and a story. This only has the romance, and the man is manipulating her so much it didn’t seem mutual. I didn’t care for Darius, there’s an utter lack of humor in the book, and the story is rote. If I hadn’t been sent this book to review, I wouldn’t have read it. I’m more than willing to read other books from Avon, but not any other parts of the Carpathian saga. Overall grade: D+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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