Dark Symphony
by Christine Feehan, fantasy (2003)
Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-13521-6


Oh, look: Christine Feehan has cheerfully decamped to Jove. Hello, better covers. Hello, yummy stepback guy. Still searching: coherence and the road to Plotsville. Reading the latest in this author's Carpathian entry, I can't help but to wonder if the author is making things up as she goes along. The guy here, Byron Justicano (where does Ms Feehan get these names?), can change himself into animals. Can Carpathians do that, or is this guy yet another Most Powerful Ever guy to top the ten zillion Most Powerful Carpathians already out there?

I won't be surprised if the author's next book features a Carpathian that starts his own religion.

Still, there's no coherent plot, and any newbies to the series will be lost in a morass of dripping purple melodrama. But there's a charm to such shamelessly overwrought prose so turgid and violet - just like how sometimes I need to quickly kick a Jackie Collins book under the sofa when the English Literature crowd drop by unexpectedly.

The heroine itself is a walking caricature of the most bombastic Elgarian portrait of female haplessness. From her occupation (millionaire classical concertist) to her handicap (blind and scarred) to her one sole personality ("I love my grandfather forever and now I love Byron forever too) to her single character background ("Everybody victimizes me!") to her constantly telegraphing her Save me! thoughts in italics to even her freaking name, Antoinetta Scarletti is a walking shroud of bombastic emo. Byron, the cradle-snatching vampire that he is, is in love with her. Why? Don't ask. I don't know. She doesn't know that he's a Carpathian, believing that he's just a nice friend of her grandfather (she's also blind, so... um, Byron, can you please put that banana poking against her bum somewhere else?) Then again, she's a Scarletti, heiress to fortune and overwrought curses and psychic gifts that come complete with a scary mansion.

Plot? Er... I'm sure there's one. Fans of this author who follow her books zealously will probably be able to do a better job than me in explaining the plot, but what I get here are pages and pages of "Ooooh, Antoinetta, I want you!" and Ooh, Byron, come save me! interspersed with scenes of lightning flashing, storm coming, and other hilarious melodramatic hot air. It's really fun, actually, because Antoinetta is ridiculous and Byron is such an overwrought drama queen. She's always in trouble, getting carried in the hero's brawny arms, or talking like a porcelain queen of Memory Lane greeting card slogans. He's always in lust or running to save her or gnashing his teeth at anybody who dares to even look at Pure Fragile Antoinetta. It's a hoot.

While a part of me recoil at the thought of even liking such dreadfully pathetic heroines and Neanderthal-like heroes, I do have a guilty pleasure moment. This book is too ridiculous to be taken seriously. The heroine and the hero aren't one-dimensional as much as one-half-dimensional, the plot is... well, it's there, I'm sure, and the romance is seriously unbalanced. But I guess every girl deserves a moment when she can toss off her superwoman mantle, don those metallic bra and thong, and steps into the shoes of a buxom, vapidly braindead, and helpless blonde who needs the constant rescuing, guidance, decision-making, and lovemaking of a Much Older Male Authority Figure Who Knows Everything.

Dark Symphony may not be the dark sonata it wishes to be, but it's a pretty fine piece of cheese to savor. Just don't care too much about plot, logic, character, continuity, plausibility... er, don't care about everything, and you'll do just fine.

Rating: 81


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