by Lucy Blue, historical/fantasy (2006)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 1-4165-1195-4
The second book in the author's Bound By Darkness series, Lucy Blue's The Devil's Knight is related to the previous book My Demon's Kiss because the hero of the previous book turned the hero of this book, Tristan DuMaine, into a vampire in this book. This book is also linked in a way to the previous book in that while the heroes are very likable if somewhat stereotypical tortured sad little blue boys, the heroines are so juvenile that they are supremely deathworthy.
Picture this, will you: Siobhan Lebuin and her brother Sean hate all Normans after they show up and kill their parents. Now, a Norman knight, Tristan, is taking over. Even if Tristan is a fair man, these two decide that he must die so they instigate a rebellion that culminates in the butchering of Tristan's own men. Finally, Tristan surrenders when the rebels hold the life of his beloved daughter hostage. He is forced to marry Siobhan so that they can kill him right after the wedding and Siobhan will inherit the lands back (I'm sure the good Norman king will happily go along with this brilliant plan). So anyway, Tristan is brutally beaten and tossed out to die, until Simon from the previous book turns him into a vampire after finishing off the men that would finish off Tristan once and for all. Now Tristan wants vengeance on Siobhan and her brother, and despite Simon's warnings about not letting the vampiric nature of his overpowering the last vestiges of his humanity, Tristan is not going to let anything sway his from his path of vengeance.
Until he realizes that Siobhan really doesn't want to kill him. No, wait, she does. No, she doesn't. Wait a minute, she does! Anyway, when Tristan drinks some of Siobhan's blood, he realizes that she has the hots for him and for some reason he finds that enough to be attracted to her. "No! What is with you men and your attraction to braindead little girls?" I shriek at him. "Have you no consideration about how I feel, having to keep reading about Siobhan's continuous existence?"
What makes The Devil's Knight very frustrating is that this could have been a good turbulent romance filled with all kinds of drama. However, Siobhan is so irrationally bent on hatred that she fails to see anything remotely positive about Tristan. This doesn't really make her come off as smart. In fact, Siobhan's blind spot feels most contrived indeed, as if Ms Blue is determined despite reason to keep Siobhan hating on Tristan. On one hand, Siobhan's blind hatred is understandable since the Normans killed her parents and uprooted her from her old existence, but Ms Blue than contradicts her premise by having Siobhan's attraction to Tristan portrayed as something true and pure rather than a more reasonable kind of primal attraction to an attractive enemy that can result from too much adrenaline taking over one's common sense. Blind and even irrational hatred and true love existing together in one person? That's really a stretch and Ms Blue's characterization of Siobhan isn't even two-dimensional enough to make the duality of Siobhan's feelings for Tristan even a little believable. Siobhan veers from pure hate ("Kill him!") to pure waterworks ("Oh no! I just killed him! Sob, sob!") and back again that I get nauseous trying to follow this heroine.
On the bright side, Siobhan is a pretty hardy heroine, although that makes her more like a crazy tank that will keep charging blindly ahead and flattening people in her wake even if we lob a few grenades at her rather than a decent kickass heroine.
Tristan's attraction to Siobhan is equally perplexing, especially considering how the woman and her people threaten the life of a daughter he holds most dearly to the point that he gives everything up to ensure young Clare's safety. But... hey, I suppose some men are attracted to childish women who act like impetuous little girls.
The huge and apparently insurmountable obstacles standing between our hero and our heroine are eventually swept aside for a more convenient (and easier to resolve) external conflict involving a mean and bad vampire who wants to kill everybody and take over everything. Even so, there are a few good scenes here nonetheless revolving around the issue of forgiveness. Unfortunately, these good scenes are built on a foundation of perplexing psychology. Ultimately, the initial attraction between Tristan and Siobhan feel forced and unbelievable given the things standing between them. Siobhan's actions tend to be on the childish one-note "Love! Hate! Love! Hate!" side and for the most part she comes off like a psychotic little dingbat bent on vengeance without really knowing what kind of fire she is playing with.
I like how Ms Blue portrays her characters as actual people in times of war - they don't shy away from violence. Even Siobhan embraces the need to kill the enemy if necessary. Maybe with a more mature heroine and Ms Blue taking time and pains to have Tristan and his heroine deal with their internal conflicts in a more realistic if painful manner rather than relying on forced "instant attraction" gimmicks, The Devil's Knight will be a powerfully emotional read. As it is, this one is just a typical adventure story with a hero who just happens to be a vampire and a heroine who just happens to be stupid and wacko with an underlying attraction between those two that never rings real to me.
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