By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
I am one of the last to the Fever party, and as such, I haven't read the whole series yet: Just Darkfever. I suspect my feelings about this first book may evolve as I read the rest of the saga. Others have told me that the Fever books keep getting better and better. Man, I hope so, because so far Fever isn't living up to the hype. (Alas, so few things do....)
MacKayla "Mac" Lane is a flawed heroine and an imperfect narrator. When the story begins, she lives a happy, carefree existance that consists mostly of lounging by her parents' pool, painting her nails various shades of pink to coordinate with her pastel-heavy wardrobe, and pulling her long, blonde hair into perky, high ponytails. She resents that people treat her as a Barbie stereotype, but for all the time she puts into telling readers about her wardrobe and grooming routines, methinks the lady doth protest too much.
Mac's shiny happy bubble pops when her sister, who is studying abroad in Dublin, is brutally murdered mere hours after leaving a cryptic voicemail for Mac. Mac goes to Ireland to investigate (because surely Barbie can do a better job tracking down a killer than the city's police force, dontchaknow), and her pink-and-sparkly world comes crumbling down when she discovers that humanity is threatened by warring factions of Fae -- and these are not your Disney-esque, Tinkerbell Fairies, but some seriously scary beasties -- and that she is a key player in that war.
1) I like that we learn about the world-building through Mac's experience, imperfect narrator though she is. She is too fluffy and perky and sparkly for my tastes, but she's not stupid (though she's not the sharpest tool in the shed), she's both empathetic and sympathetic, and she's fairly observant. Mac's experience allows Moning to (mostly) avoid info-dumping: we learn about the Fae and about this scary new world as Mac learns, and what we see is filtered through the lens of Mac's experience. It works because Mac's skepticism about "woo-woo stuff" (her words) like Fae and vampires and dark magic complements the reader's own skepticism, and so as she comes to believe, so we come to believe.
2) I love the descriptions of Dublin, and the notion of Dark Zones -- previously vibrant parts of the city being "erased" by the spreading Fae invasion -- is fascinating and chilling.
3) The plot pacing is excellent. No part of this book dragged on, and no part felt rushed (except, perhaps, the confrontation in the last chapter, but I think the rush might have been me speed reading in my eagerness to find out happens next--I'll own that rather than blaming Ms. Moning).
1) My biggest problem with Mac as a narrator is not the tedious descriptions of her hair and clothes, but her portentious foreshadowing. She is forever saying things like: "Later I would look back on the next few days as the last normal ones of my life, though at the time they seemed anything but" (Loc. 1152) and "Something nagged at me, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. It was a thing that I would stupidly fail to put my finger on until it was too late" (Loc. 2052). Some of these statements are pretty spoilery, and some of them foreshadow things that don't even happen in this first book. (For example, I'm just going to go ahead and predict now, based on things Mac shares in the prologue and in her two meetings with the Fae prince, V'lane, aka "The Sex Fairy", that he's going to go ahead and rape her at some point in the series. Yay, something to look forward to! ... not.) I could do without the foreshadowing, which I'm finding distracting and annoying, and which detracts from my ability to experience the story as it unfolds.
2) I had a really hard time buying into the fact that all of a sudden, after bumbling around like the clueless hick she is for the first 20-some chapters, Mac instantaneously develops Ninja-like, Fae-battling Mad Skillz when the chips are down. She says, "I didn't have time to think about what I was doing, I just acted on instinct. It turned out my instincts were amazing. ... There was something inside me that worked like the missile-targeting system of a stealth bomber, locating and locking onto anything Fae once it was in a few feet of me." (Loc. 4151). I'm all for an alpha heroine who can kick ass and take names, and yay for Mac for finding something she's good at besides coordinating pastel outfits, but this would have been so much more satisfying and believable if she'd worked for it and trained for it rather than simply poof!, she's a super Fairy-fighter now! Because Magic!
3) It's a good thing I'm reading the 5-book series bundle and don't have to wait for the next installment, because Darkfever doesn't have a satisfying climax and denouement. Very few loose ends are tied up, and if anything, the last few chapters raise more conflict than they resolve.
I'm keeping in perspective that this is an urban fantasy more than a romance, and so I'm okay with the fact that Darkfever doesn't find Mac falling in love and living happily ever after. I'm troubled by the fact that there is a romance component to the series, because so far the contenders for Mac's prospective love interest leave me pretty chilled.
1) Jericho Barrons. I know legions of Fever fans wet their panties over Barrons, and yeah, I get that he's big and strong and gorgeous and looks good in black, but seriously, so far?... he's kind of a douchenozzle. The first time he meets Mac, he puts forth an air of intimidation, aggression, and a subtle threat. The second time he meets her, that aggression becomes overt, and he holds her so tightly he leaves "a wide band of bruises" around her chest so that she can't breathe and it hurts to wear a bra. Lovely. Later, he drags her off a couch by her hair, grabs her by the throat, and holds her against a wall. I'm a domestic violence prosecutor, and these scenes read like the police affidavits for crimes I prosecute every day. Many of my cases fall apart because the victims forgive their abusers and recant their stories or refuse to testify, and I can't help but think part of why women do that is because our culture is full of messages like this that glorify and normalize violence like Barrons exhibits towards Mac as sexy and romanticly intense. Ladies, Barrons might be sexy, and on the page, he's safe, but if you meet a guy who does this shit to you in real life, run for the fucking hills because there's a good chance he will LITERALLY FUCKING KILL YOU, and that's not sexy or romantic.
2) V'lane the Sex Fairy. See my prediction above: sooner or later, he's going to rape Mac. In Darkfever, he almost does. Again, so not sexy or romantic.