Darkling
by Yasmine Galenorn, fantasy (2008)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-21893-8


I said in my review of the previous book in Yasmine Galenorn's Sisters Of The Moon series, Changeling, that Darkling would be the last book in the series. Oops, that's not true, sorry. The series will continue after this book with the narrative duties going back to Camille in the upcoming next book. Then again, at the really slow pace the plot unfurls, I won't be surprised if we need twenty books to finish the whole story arc.

Due to the slow development of the story arc, Darkling is a pretty easy story to follow, in my opinion, even if you haven't read the previous two books in the series. There is a large cast of characters here, but the secondary characters are trotted out as if they are on a roll call or something that it actually doesn't matter if you forget everything but the three sisters' names. But do read the review of the first book, Witchling, to catch up on who is who if you are unfamiliar with the series.

Darkling sees Menolly D'Artigo, the youngest sister, taking over the narrative duty. Where we last left off, demons under the banner of the Shadow Wing are planning all kinds of mischief on Earth, the D'Artigo father and aunt have gone AWOL in the Otherworld and no one has heard of them since, and our sisters along with their groupies and friends are allied with Queen Asteria to topple the current bitch Queen of the Otherworld. Meanwhile, there is a rogue dryad on the loose, working with what seems like a bunch of rogue vampires to cause more havoc on Earth. Menolly, who is a vampire, is in her element here as she and her sisters come to the rescue.

I am not impressed at all with the previous book but dang, Darkling sucks me back in. This is a very readable and entertaining read, perhaps because I do like Menolly much more than Delilah. Menolly is the Prue Halliwell of the D'Artigo sisters (the feline shapeshifter Delilah is of course Phoebe while Camille is Piper) - she's tough and takes no prisoners here and with me being who I am, I'm already inclined to like Menolly already. I should point out that despite the increased prominence of glowing praises from Mary Jo Putney, Patricia Rice, and MaryJanice Davidson on the front and back covers in what is undoubtedly a move to attract romance readers to the series, there is absolutely zero romance here for Menolly. Perhaps that is why I enjoy this book so much more than Changeling: this one isn't dripping with ridiculous adoration of the heroine by a bunch of flat boyfriend figures.

Instead, despite the fact that the villain remains in the background for so long that the whole Bad Guy On The Prowl thing feels more like tacked-on wallpaper than actual plot, Darkling is well-paced and much tightly-written without any noticeable sagging middle or dissipation in momentum. This book isn't the most exciting one since for a long time, nothing happens apart from a bunch of characters sharing the same thought bubble chatting, but there are some very intriguing scenes here nonetheless. I like the scene where Menolly cuts her ties to her evil sire in a ritual that is surprisingly moving and chilling all at once, for example. Menolly is pretty interesting character in that she's a nice balance of toughness and vulnerability without one side overpowering the other.

Since Menolly has had at least mouth-to-mouth contact with members of both sexes, I wondered at the start whether the author will defy convention and give Menolly a female lover. As it is, there is a pretty erotic scene involving blood-sharing with another female that is as close as one can get to such a relationship here, heh. But at the end of the day, despite the presence of Wade the nice vampire and Rozurial the gun-totting incubus, Menolly doesn't do that lovelorn thing that Delilah did to the point of overkill in the last book. I like that, actually. The absence of one-dimensional boyfriends worshiping the heroine makes this one less of a Mary Sue fanfiction than the previous two books in the series.

Oh, and I must commend Ms Galenorn. Whether she deliberately sets out to do this or not, this book, like the previous book in the series, is like an episode of Charmed, strengths and flaws and all. My niece and her friends are hooked on this series the same way they were hooked on Charmed when that TV show was still on - in fact, I have to lend her this book after I'm done with it or my niece will disown me - and I can see why. There is something very girly-girl about this book despite an occasional scene of violence and gore. The male characters in this book are noticeably subservient to the D'Artigo sisters - they exist as boyfriends (in the case of Camile's harem and Delilah's boyfriend Chase) or extra muscle on the job, but other than that, they remain on the sidelines, at the beck and call of the sisters. The sisters and all the good guys in this story are so beautiful that the eyes hurt just looking at them. The bad guys are ugly - they are goblins and mean bad vampires, after all. And the D'Artigo sisters are obviously the center of attention, loved by all. Beautiful, kick-ass, exotic, loved by many - the D'Artigo sisters appeal to the Mary Sue in little girls everywhere who identify with one of the Halliwell sisters as the person they want to be when they grow up. What Ms Galenorn has done with her series is actually brilliant, if you ask me. Those little girls, heartbroken now that they have nothing to watch when a season of Supernatural ends, do not stand a chance against the D'Artigo sisters.

I have my reservations about Darkling, especially with how Ms Galenorn is introducing yet more characters in her already packed-to-the-fullest setting, but hey, I'm like those little girls who want to see Prue and Cole hook up, so I'm helpless to say no when Menolly's story turns out to do that character justice. I still want to see Delilah die slowly and painfully, but she actually kicks fabulous ass here during the confrontation with the ultimate big bad so I think we may get along after all and I can put aside that "Delilah/meat grinder" fan fiction I am working on. No really, I am kidding about the fan fiction thing.

Anyway, I like Darkling. That's very well played indeed, Ms Galenorn, for reeling me back in when I am this close to jumping off the wagon.

Rating: 85


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