Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Give Me . . . Fever?

Today's book is Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning.  I have been tempted once again by the siren call of a series.  There's just something about being able to immerse myself in a fictional world, not once but repeatedly, that holds and almost endless appeal for me.  I'm already looking forward to the next book (I already have all 5 stacked on my coffee table fresh from the library) so much that I can hardly force myself to write this before moving on.  Ironically, this is a blog post that almost wasn't, since I was initially put off of the Fever series by repeated descriptions and classifications of the books as Romances. (Blegh. Yucky!) But after reading a more detailed summary, I decided that these books might be for me after all.

The Basics
Moning, Karen Marie. Darkfever. Detroit: Thorndike P., 2006. Print.

Karen Marie Moning a #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author is the author of two successful series and the recipient of the RITA award. The Highlander series, which I am given to understand feature time-travel and ruggedly handsome Scotsman, are a set of paranormal romances.  Her second series, which we'll be concerned with here in my blog, begins with Darkfever, an Urban Fantasy set in Ireland.  In this book, our intrepid heroine travels to Ireland to avenge the death of her murdered sister, discovering in the process a world filled with dangerous fae and her own recently uncovered power to see such creatures.

The Book

So, funny story, my mother was over at my apartment last night with my Aunt, who was looking through my book stack.  My mom saw Darkfever sitting on the table; the author's last name is the most prominent thing on the cover.  She saw this and exclaimed, "that's not how you spell it!" To which I replied, "Mom! That's her name!  She can spell it however she likes." She had mistaken it for the book's title and thought it should have been "moaning," which given the cover art on this edition* would, indeed, seem apt (see extras).

Which brings me to my single gripe (that is no fault of the book): why was this billed as a romance in some places?  Is it because Moning is well-known for romance?  Do romances simply sell?  Moning's website, certainly doesn't caste the book this way; there it is billed as Urban Fantasy, a category that makes much more since.  But perhaps I am in the minority when I am repulsed by heaving bosoms being ripped from their bodices by the burly Brawny man.  Yes, I realize that not all romance novels fit that bill and some are quite good fiction, but that stereotype was roughly how I first saw this book described. I suppose I am indignant because I came so close to missing out on a truly wonderful and absorbing book. According to the Romance Writers of America website "all romances contain a central love story," which was conspicuously absent from Darkfever.  Although, I suppose there is potential for one to develop over the course of the series.  I must admit to some confusion about the romance genre.  Tons of books feature a romance but are categorized as mysteries, fantasy, or just plain fiction.  I guess I just don't see the point, and maybe more research is in order.  Ultimately, I like my books with plenty of plot and character with just a smidge of romance, like a condiment, to add a little extra spice.

But enough about genre, because this book is far too good to get caught up on that.  For the first time in quite a while, I found myself so completely absorbed in a book that everything around became irrelevant.  Time and being directly addressed were completely ignored. Rather than being able to read while at the same time surfing the net and watching my boyfriend play video games, I was unable to peel my eyes away from the page.

Narrated in first person by the heroine, much of the book relies on character development.  And Mackayla Lane is delightfully flawed.  A tiny bit selfish and initially lacking in motivation, Mac is spunky and full of bluster, and we follow her along as she slowly learns her way around the world she's stumbled into.  Her constant urge to stick her head in the sand and enter a state of denial can be especially frustrating, but it's also what makes her character. As the plot forces her toward a state of enlightenment, we get to watch her character grow, and this makes her entirely believable.  Rather than jumping in with a strong kick-ass heroine who jumps in and out of an unbelievable number of scrapes only to come out scathed but even badassier than before (*cough* AnitaBlake*cough*), we instead have a character whose innocence and capacity for denial starts her from a weak point and we get to see her grow gradually stronger, learning as she goes.

It also helps that Mackayla is highly relatable.  I had my doubts from the moment I first read her name and thought, "Mackayla? Seriously?" However, after a little poking around I discovered that this is an Americanized spelling of the traditionally Irish name, Michaela.  I decided that maybe it might be okay, and I could forget about my associations with that ill-mannered country girl who smacked her mouth loudly as she chewed her gum in 10th grade political science.  Also, the nickname of Mac is way cool. But I digress.  Mac is relatable as a thoroughly modern heroine, who listens to her ipod and can actually use a computer (I'm looking at you Sookie Stackhouse). I also like that she's distinctly southern; being from the South myself, southern heroines hold a special place in my heart.  She comments on such topics as manners and hospitality that leave me giggling: "When I opened my door, I discovered someone had been busy while I'd slept. A bakery bag, a bottled latte, and my luggage were outside my door.  Down South store-bought food outside your bedroom door isn't a treat - it's an insult. . . . Stay out of my kitchen, the bag said, and don't go looking around. Down South it meant, Leave before lunch, preferably now. (161).  The expression of her grief over the loss of her sister also helps make Mackayla a relatable human rather than one-dimensional. Moning depicts this so well that it feels as if it's the expression of real emotion rather than the made up mourning of a non-existent character.

As much as Darkfever relies on Mac's character, it is also driven by plot, particularly mystery.  Jericho Barrons's (stop snorting at the name, please; nah, go ahead) could be accused of being a one-dimensional character, but I would argue otherwise.  His character is instead left intentionally shrouded in mystery, so that the uncovering of tidbits about his character becomes an essential plot element as well. It helps that his physical presence in the book is every bit as vivid for the reader as it is for the characters he interacts with; he exudes energy, brio, and menace.  It is only at the very end of the book that the reader can stop flip-flopping about whether his character is good or not . . . maybe.

And the mystery of Barrons's character is only one of many plot threads that Moning weaves into her story.  We follow Mackayla in her efforts to discover her sister's murderer.  We watch as Mac learns new truths about herself.  We delve into a whole new world right along with her. We doggedly keep following Mac as she traces the whereabouts of ancient Fae relics and ultimately as she discovers herself participating in the beginnings of an underground war.  Fun, right?

The whole book is about discovery, and it drags the reader in, captivating them as much as any Fae. Urban fantasy, with the occasional mirror-fogging scene, Darkfever was a great read.  And now, I'm going to abandon further blogging in favor of the next book!

*Please note my page numbers may seem odd since I'm working from a large print edition as it was the only one in the library when my greedy little paws proceeded to check out the entire series. Heh heh.


  • For more information about the author and/or her series, please consider her website.
  • For information on Romance and its sub-genres see the RWA website.
  • Looking for name information? Try this webpage.
  • This is the picture from the cover of the large print edition my mother saw.  I couldn't get the freaking thing to format properly in the post above, hence it's position down here. *shakes fist at blogger interface*



  1. Okay...I am reading those! I LOVE series, and after having seen them stacked on your table, I am intrigued. ALSO...I have the same qualms (is it romance or not) about one of my favorite series ever- Diana Gabaldon's books about a woman transported into 18th century Scotland. HEY, could this be the same woman under a different pen name?

    I loved the Gabaldon books, but was always ashamed to admit it to my artsy-fartsy friends, because they get categorized as romance. But for me, a huge history buff, they were great. Wonderful character development, a plot that moves you through the book, and it's a SERIES!

    Okay, so I am definitely reading these!

  2. I don't think it's the same author. Apparently Scottish time-travel romance is its own sub-genre. Who knew? But I guess I'll check out those Diana Gabaldon books I've been eyeing now.

    And yes, you should read the Fever series for sure. Tons of books that fit more in other genres have romance in them. And besides, romance has some awesome forebears: helloooo Jane Austen and Fanny Burney! To me as long as it isn't a straight bodice ripper without much plot or character development, there's nothing to be looking over your shoulder about.

    And did you know that one of the reason e-readers have become so popular is because they grant anonymity to what you're reading due to lack of covers. Romance is one of the fastest growing e-book genres as a result.

  3. I just checked out a book electronically, but there are only 2,000 available, which sounds like a lot but really isn't. At least not when you're looking for a specific book.

    PLEASE do read the Gabaldon books! I have long wished for with whom to share those! I've read them three times, and sometimes find myself wanting to read them again. Kind of sick, actually. And she is writing another one.

  4. I think I have them on display in the library right now. I'll have to go grab them soon, before they get checked out.


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