Dark Guardian
by Christine Feehan, fantasy (2002)
Leisure, $6.99, ISBN 0-8439-4994-5


If you want to experience the cheese mojo of Christine Feehan but can't stand her brand of spineless Barbie doll heroines, try Dark Guardian.

The heroine Jaxon Montgomery can actually put two thoughts of her own together, plus she can kick ass and even mock the all-mighty beef stick hero Lucian Daratrazanoff - did I spell that correctly? - and with Jaxon in the spotlight, the whole Carpathian-gooood, Carpathian-biiiiiig-dongs Neanderthalia Extravanganza becomes campy lurid fun to be enjoyed like the best of T&A hokey B-grade movies.

Of course, the plot is still the same old: horny ancient lecherous sociopath males looking like twenty-something hot studs shagging women they have known since the woman was a kid. Hey, don't look at me like that, I didn't write these books. This time around, it's Lucian Darnwhatanamebugoff's turn to kill bad vampires, sex up that woman with whom he shares italicized mental foreplay with, and sucks her dry and turns her into his Carpathian girlie by the end. Lovely. Although when there are die-hard Carpathian groupies out there dropping hints that the premise is starting to wear - after nine books in under three years, I'll be surprised if no one realizes that Ms Feehan is on a one-note spree that puts Stephanie Laurens to shame.

Jaxx has an unbelievable nasty uncle. Lucian is an unbelievably powerful vampire. Evils are supremely evil, Carpathians are supremely donkey-donged and all powerful, and superlatives are skewered and overkilled over everything in Dark Guardian except for the heroine. Needless to say, Jaxx can easily become my placeholder in the story. She actually displays a sense of humor concerning the nonsense she is embroiled in. At one point, she even sasses Lucian for being an over-the-top Conan (with Fangs) the Barbarian caricature. And on his part, Lucian displays what seems like half of a sense of humor too.

Jaxx can be dumb at times, but she actually has a spine, and it shows. Likewise, the author spends time fleshing out both Lucian and Jaxx's back stories, which is a good thing as it makes the two characters more two-dimensional and it pushes the hammy romance back to where it belongs: in the background.

Everything about Dark Guardian is vintage Carpathian, from the overpowering male domination to the ridiculously overpowered hero. But this time around, Ms Feehan also cheerfully pokes gentle fun at her own campy story. And then there's Jaxx. Girl Power has finally infiltrated the ridiculously overpowering patriarchy of the Carpathians, and I say it's about time.

Rating: 87


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