Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Book 1 of the Were Hunter Series

The Kategari are a race of creatures born as an animal but able to shift into a man. The Arcadians are a race of creatures born as a man but able to shift into an animal. Both races are gifted with incredible magic powers and both races loathe the other and have been fighting a long genocidal war with the other without rules or mercy since ancient Greece.

Verne’s mother was an Arcadian and his father a Katagari. Both loathe him and want him dead, along with his siblings and after the death of Anya, his sister and Vane’s actions protecting the Dark Hunters, his father has a perfect excuse to order his death

He’s now on the run, grieving for his sister, worried for his comatose brother and fleeing the attention of his father’s pack – and even his mother launching attacks across time.

And then he meets Bride, a woman with whom he is destined to mate – and if she doesn’t accept the mating in the next 3 weeks, he is doomed to a life of celibacy. But is avoiding this fate – and being with the woman he loves – really worth risking Bride’s life; a human who knows nothing of the supernatural world.

He now has the uphill battle of protecting Bride, adapting to human society and introducing Bride to the hidden world, all under fire from his parents – and deciding whether to truly try and make a life with Bride or not.

I think this book set a new record for a Dark Hunter’s book for speed in which the relationship was established. There’s Vane, walking down the street, worried because his brother’s in a coma, worried about his dad and pack leader who wants him dead and grieving for his dead sister Anya. And then he sees Bride! The most beautiful woman in the world! And she is sad! There must now be hot/hard/sexiness and then kissing then making out and then the hot monkey sex! HUZZAH!

And there is Bride. She’s sad because her arsehole boyfriend dumped her  - but then she sees Vane! And he is so hot/sexy/awesome! Bring on the kissing and the making out and the hot monkey sex! HUZZAH!

As far as complex romances go it’s not exactly the most nuanced or complex of beginnings. 2 people see each other. Think they’re both hot. Sex happens, magic steps in to firmly stamp Twu Luv on things. They have 3 weeks to decide to bond in metaphysical marriage or Vane will be forever celibate. 

I have to say the whole concept of the bond skeevs me – and not just because all of these magical mates sealed forever by woo-woo are so very very heteronormative – but because of the infringement of choice (and, therefore, consent) because it’s magic that has chosen, not the people. I also don’t like the time scale on this one – accept the bond within 3 weeks or you have doomed the guy to impotence – but no pressure, right?

So, this was about 30% of the book. They met, they had sex, spent a lot of time ruminating on each other’s hotness and magic had come down like a great big Deus Ex Pornicha to seal the deal with an almost automatic happy ever after through magical shotgun wedding. I was not impressed. There followed not really a whole lot of plot, we follow Bride and Vane around as Bride has her eyes opened to the supernatural world and he adapts to human society. There’s a fair bit of angst, a large dollop of sex and some occasional nods to the world and plot, but only nods.

And I was set to hate this book. I actually tried really hard to hate this book because this whole concept was just so flawed and simplistic and awful that it should be intolerable.

And yet? I didn’t. I can’t say I loved it, but it was fun and amused me and I really couldn’t hate it.
Vane’s attempts to assimilate into human life were funny and amusing. His interactions with Bride were, somewhat rushed, but still quite touching and sometimes quite gloriously funny (especially taking down the ex) but, perhaps not all that plausible. It’s like when someone really annoys you and you have elaborate fantasies about how you would totally have the best come back for them, the perfect situation to bring them down a peg – extremely satisfying but not all that likely. It’s still fun.
Similarly Bride’s reaction to the revelations of the world around her are fun, a trifle overdone, but extremely funny as she deals with a whole lot dumped on her at once.

Social justice-wise I can’t think of anything overly positive to say beyond Bride being a size 18 who has faced fat shaming being affirmed as a sexy, sexual and beautiful woman who doesn’t need to diet – and can have the damn chocolate cake if she wants it and shouldn’t feel the need to diet or order the salad.

Beyond that, I don’t recall any POC and certainly no GBLT people. Bride was a relatively strong character, but her life did revolve a lot around men – her ex and then Vane, not unsurprisingly given the circumstances, however. She wasn’t an instigator of much of the action, but she was very much out of her depth – she did hold her own though, refuse to curl up and whimper and her take down of Bryani was truly a joy to see.

Speaking of Bryani, I’m not happy with how that was resolved or how she was presented. She has done some very evil things, no doubt about it, but she was attacked, abused and raped and though that doesn’t justify her actions afterwards, it isn’t adequately acknowledged, especially when the proposed solution for both problem parents is to dump them on an island together.

Plot wise, the ending in general – with Fury being elevated – also struck me as just so… neat. The kind of ending that you can’t imagine happening even remotely in practice and there was no small amount of Deus Ex Machina here – with Acheron basically fixing everything with his uber powers. There were some fascinating glances at the world – especially since we’ve been seeing Arcadians and Katagari for a while now and never really had them explained – but we only really got glances, I’d have liked to have seen more. Also the magic system annoys me, since it doesn’t seem to have a system, it’s more wave your hand and stuff happens; it may be a matter of personal taste but I like more structure to magical style.

On the whole it’s not an awful book, but it’s a very clichéd book and it has some social justice problems. I think I enjoyed this book despite itself rather than because of it. It was fun, amusing and funny – but could have been better.

If reading this book along with the Dark Hunter Series then this book should be read after Kiss of the Night.