Dark Prince
by Christine Feehan, fantasy (1999)
LoveSpell, $4.99, ISBN 0-505-52330-2


This book has a wonderful premise - the author has built a complex mythology behind her characters: a race of quasi-vampire creatures called the Carpathians who, while feed on human blood, don't do so to the extent of killing their prey. For the most part, Carpathians are benign creatures trying to blend in among humans. A vampire is a Carpathian gone rogue and insane, a creature that doesn't hesitate to kill the human he preys on. And the fun thing is, a Carpathian turns vampire if he goes on too long without a mate. You see, no mate = no sex. No wonder they turn berserk.

Fun? I think so too.

Raven Whitney, a woman with extraordinary psychic powers, is weary and exhausted - not to mention stretched taut mentally - after a particularly grueling help-police-find-serial-killer tour of duty. She goes to nice, remote Carpathian Mountains, hoping for some R&R to recharge herself. Only that the Carpathian lord Mikhail Dubrinsky is waiting with open arms. Sort of.

Mikhail is contemplating ending his life by the usual clichéd Let me see the dawn method when he manages to forge a mental telepathy link with a sleeping Raven. And she turns out to be the mate he is waiting for for six hundred years (read: six hundred years of celibacy). Raven's human. He's not. Ah, the pain of star-crossed love.

At this point I am really excited: how could this not be an emotionally rich and satisfying romance?

Well, it can go awry, and it did halfway down the book. Frankly, it feels as if the author has run out of plots halfway. There are many minor irritant in form of pesky know-too-much mortals that get kicked out of the story after a brief, inconsequential appearance. Then there's the tug-of-war between Mikhail and Raven - they push, they pull, and when one gives way, the other refuses and we are back at square one. Then there's the increasing pitch and feel of accelerated melodrama that rises with each page until by the last few chapters I am actually chuckling away. It's like reading a bad B-Grade script complete with Love will triumph over everything preachiness and other heavy-handed dose of contrivances. What a waste of the wonderful first few chapters.

And then there are the two main characters. For the first few chapters, I feel sorry for Mikhail's loneliness and feel of eternal damnation. By midway of the book I wish someone is giving me a dollar for each time Mikhail starts his self-pity party session. Raven starts out wonderful but eventually turns into a stock, flat, martyr-like heroine. And the secondary characters can be can-can dancing macarena hippopotamuses for all the impact they make in the story.

There are glimmers of good storytelling, imaginative creation of intriguing mythology, and if Ms Feehan writes some more about the Carpathians, I'm buying. But this book also has a very, very, very weak plot and poor execution.

Keeper or no, either way I'm glad I'm introduced to the Carpathians. They will definitely be interesting additions to the paranormal romance market. Here's hoping for a much better Carpathian follow-up story.

Rating: 48


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