In The Dark Of Dreams
by Marjorie M Liu, fantasy (2010)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-202016-1


In The Dark Of Dreams marks Marjorie M Liu's debut with Avon, but it's the ninth - ninth! - full length book in the Dirk & Steele series. Don't worry about continuity-induced headaches if you are new to the series, however, as this book is barely linked to the core Dirk & Steele cast - it could function just as well if the author had merely set this book in the same setting as those books without the Dirk & Steele connection.

This book is set in an alternate Earth that contains a hodge-podge of supernatural elements. We have shifters, gargoyles, empaths, dragons, telekinetics, pink jumping elephants... okay, maybe not the elephants, but there is a crow who has yet to get his own book. Anyway, this is a campy setting reminiscent of comic books featuring people with supernatural elements, and this one focuses on the sea folks of Ms Liu's alternate Earth.

Sixteen years ago, our heroine Jenny Jameson stumbles upon a merboy - with a tail and everything, ooh. That encounter didn't end well, however, as the merboy ended up trying to defend Jenny from another guy that emerged from the sea. Jenny fled the scene, but since then, she and that merboy kept encountering each other in dreams, at least until eight years ago, when the dreams stopped.

Today, Jenny travels the seas with her trusty crew, searching for the truth behind rumors of merfolks in the sea. She can afford to do so, since she's inherited lots of money to avoid having to work like the rest of us mortals. This story chronicles what happens when she eventually reunites with her dream hunk, the Krackeni Perrin O'doro, in the Malaysian waters and discovers that they may be the only ones to save the world from a certain refugee from Clash Of The Titans.

Like the last few books in this series, In The Dark Of Dreams is slower than I'd have liked. However, this one manages to capture better the romance in the story, unlike the lofty philosophical mumbo-jumbo about love and feelings that were in the last few books. Jenny and Perrin's love story may be powered by the dream plot contrivance, but they have a more tangible romance here and they share ample scenes to convince me that they are in love rather than playing at being art school students debating about love.

To be honest, I don't consider the romance the strongest aspect of this book, though, as both Jenny and Perrin are rather bland. They are nice good people with damaged psyches, but that's about it as far as depths go for these two. I find the villain a far more interesting character. No, it's not the romance, it's the plot involving the you-know-what that intrigues me more. There is a parasite latched on to Jenny that may cause her great harm, and it's all uphill from there as there are many fantastical twists and turns to keep me reading. The story is slow, mind you, it's how Ms Liu inserts the fantastical elements into her story and combines them into a heady cocktail of larger-than-life paranormal romp.

While I can't say that I find this book a keeper - there is a magic missing in the last few books by this series that has yet to resurface in this book - it does work for me due to the fantasy elements of this story and it's far better than the previous book in the series. In The Dark Of Dreams is a solid entertaining read as far as I'm concerned, but there will always be a part of me that will miss the thrilling fast-paced adrenaline rush that permeated the early books in the Dirk & Steele series. I don't know whether it's me who have outgrown the series or not, but I like this series enough to hope that the next book will continue to be a rebound in the right direction.

Rating: 76


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