Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Unleash the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon, book 2 of the Were-Hunter Series

Wren has had a hard past. As a hybrid white tiger/snow leopard katagari, he was reviled by both parents and his greater family as deformed or lesser. It scarred his childhood – and lead to his parents killing each other and him fleeing into the night

Now a barely tolerated inhabitant of the Sanctuary in New Orleans, he busses tables and hides from his family that would kill him should he ever move his home from beneath the roof. But the bears of the Sanctuary don’t trust him – they see him as unstable, dangerous and barely able to integrate with humanity. And more, Nicolette, the leader of the bears, has her own agenda.

And then there’s Marguerite. Or Maggie as she wish people would call her if they didn’t all find that too common. The daughter of a senator, she has the blueist of blue blood and a strict upbringing ordering her never ever to embarrass her senatorial father. She has friends she doesn’t especially care for, she dresses as she’s told, she attends the university she’s told, studies what she’s told, dates who she’s told always backed by her father’s shaming and bullying should she ever deviate from his path.

When they meet, it’s somewhat explosive. And their relationship only gets more rocky when to save Wren’s life from his family’s plotting, they’re forced to travel through time to solve a decades old murder mystery, all with shapeshifting assassins dogging their heels.

I have the same standard complaint I have with every Sherrilyn Kenyon book, and yes, your mileage may certainly vary. However, two complete strangers in a crowded bar see each other and suddenly she has never seen anyone so hot and luscious and sexy and amazing, while he, taciturn to the point of being mute, has never before seen a woman who touches his heart/soul/throbbing penis like this and, yes cupid has his bow at the ready for twu luv has arrived (he’s upgrading to a machine gun).

What bothers me about this is there’s never a reason why they fall in love. Indeed, I’m not even sure if they fall in love with each other because they know nothing about each other except their physical appearance and (shortly thereafter) their prowess in bed. Before we know it they’re pledging eternal devotion, risking their lives for each other etc etc and they may as well be doing it for a stranger. Well, a sexy stranger who’s really good in bed.

And, like many of the books, there are 2 halves. The first half where the relationship is “established” which isn’t to my taste. Partly because I’m not a romance fan, but mainly because it’s so rushed, on weak foundations and generally feels like this epic devotional love happens without a solid basis for it to be built on.

Then there’s the grand adventure. The time travelling, the seeking the truth, new insights into the katagari and arcadians. Evading the plots of Wren’s tiger uncles who are trying to kill him, leaping back in time to prove that he didn’t kill his parents, finding out who did kill his parents yet at the same time not changing the future no matter how much they long to do so. Wren has to confront some severe demons from his upbringing and has to resolve himself to not changing that and they both have to realise that they’ve been pulled into plots of beings far craftier than they are.

I also quite like seeing Maggie adapt to a world she never knew existed and coming to terms with the supernatural being actually real. I do thinks she, perhaps, adapted a little too quickly, but on the whole it was well and amusingly done - but not very realistically done. for that matter there's just a sense that the plot is a little too... pat. Everything works out just too perfectly, everything goes just a little too smoothly. It's not unrealistic, but it's just a little too ideal

I’m in 2 minds about Savitar. On the one hand, he’s an amusing figure. On the other, this series already has Acheron running around playing Deus Ex Machina and he’s already indulged in tucking some plots back together in classic Deus Ex Machina fashion – I worry what the effect of having 2 of them in this series could do. I don’t want to see more books end with “and Acheron/Savitar fixed it. Aren’t they awesome? The end.” It’s not a problem yet, but it could be.

Diversitywise we’re pretty much following the same pattern of the previous books. This one was pretty much erased except for some walk on POC to wave and generally disappear again. We have no GBLT characters but we are treated to a wonderfully stereotype laden musing over Wren’s sexuality. Homophobia with no inclusion again, such fun.

In theory we can see some ruminations about class – because all of Maggie’s rich, blue blooded friends are pretty awful and able to but then they have to make Wren a multimillionaire and, really, there’s no real message on this beyond some rich people are unpleasant and use their money to get out of trouble (unless there’s an even more rich person around to make their lives awkward) with a side-helping of how haaaard it is to be a rich girl with an overbearing father.  I did manage not to say “oh honey, here, cry into this Gucci it’ll make you feel better” but only just (that doesn’t count). And also, the whole “I don’t need your money anymore, daddy!” would look much better if the reason wasn’t “I’ve got Wren’s money! And he’s got so much more!”

In many ways I have a similar problem with this book as I had with the last book – there wasn’t much in the way of meta plot, even if we consider that it's a Were-Hunter book and not a Dark Hunter book. There wasn’t much development of the world, characters or plot. Most of the characters were completely new – or they were very minor characters in the past. Yet, unlike the last book it actually had enough of its own book to stand as a stand alone novel. I would have preferred more of a continuation of the greater meta-plot, but it stood as a good story in its own right with intriguing characters and enough twists and turns for me not to miss the meta-plot too much.

If reading this series along with the Dark Hunter series this book follows Sins of the Night