Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Dream Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Book 1 of the Dream Hunter Series

Arikos is a Dream Hunter, an Oneroi. A race of beings that police and aid the dreams of humans though labour under a terrible curse that has robbed them of all their emotions. But Arikos is also a Skotos – who enters the vibrant dreams of humans and drains of excess emotions through sexy dreams. Most Skoti drift from human to human, chased and hunted by the other Oneroi for the damage they do, tolerated only so long as they do not stay with one human too long.

But Arikos is enamoured by one woman, Megeara, with her incredibly powerful and wild emotions, repressed in the flesh but running rampant when she sleeps. So enraptured by her, he is driven to make a desperate bargain with Hades to be made human so he can be with her in the flesh.

But his actions are not without consequence. The other Dream Hunters fear he will reveal their secrets and have him hunted, while Megeara’s quest to find Atlantis enrages the gods and risks raising Appolymi, the ancient Atlantean goddess of destruction.

And things only become more complicated when they seek to dodge the price he owes Hades

It is common in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter (and related) series for us to have about 50% of the book dedicated to a romance followed by 50% of plot. This often leads me to be not very happy with the book, then reach 50% and start smiling.

Sadly, this book didn’t quite fit that pattern. I’d say we had about 80% of the romance (or plots around the romance) before actually reaching the main plot which, even then, was romance related. And, as is often the case, I found the romance problematic. I also found it rather dull and the story that supported it weak – as well as just brushing off major elements of the meta-story.

The other plots beyond the romance somewhat fall flat. The Dream Hunter bosses have released the Dolophoni on Arikos because they fear what his actions may reveal is kind of hollow since the Dolophoni only make a couple of lack lustre attempts to bring Arikos down – they’re more like interlude fight scenes between the romance and a way to force Geary to confront the supernatural (and I’m going to add an aside here – normally  so we can short cut to the sex. The second plot, the quest for Atlantis and the possible release of Appolymi – the major super-scary monster of the entire series – and whether the various supernatural beings can stop this happening just… fizzles. Geary gets a cool necklace and… that’s about it, Appolymi decides to wait. Back to the sex. Again, it feels like Geary’s quest and the importance of Atlantis were just used as tools to push her and Arikos together rather than treated as vitally important elements of the plot – and, that’s depressing, because after this many books it’s clear Atlantis, the Atlanteans and Appolymi are Major Big Deals in this universe.

And while talking about plot points that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me – I don’t get why Solin felt obliged to help Arikos even slightly or why he was dragged into their whole mess from day 1. And why introduce the Cthonian ZT with no explanation, not development and not even any role for him? What was the point?

But central to the problematic is Arikos himself. Firstly, the whole concept of Skoti is skeevy – these guys enter someone’s dreams to have sex with them while the dreamer still thinks they are just dreaming now, personally, this does not fit my definition of informed consent. Especially when he uses the elixir to try to force the waking Geary back to bed and sleep so he can be with her. And there’s a huge difference between having an erotic dream about having hot sex with a stranger in a lake of chocolate and an actual stranger invading your dream without your knowledge to have hot sex with you. This is also very apparent when Solin used his human dream lover to convert Arikos.

Then there is the whole deal he made with Hades – in order to “experience” Geary in the flesh for 2 weeks he agrees to give Hades her soul. Yes, kill her and hand her soul over for 2 weeks of “experience.” And yes, he’s emotionless but emotionless does not mean incapable of ethics. Add in that, when this is revealed we have a brief outraged reaction followed by love justifying, well, everything.

And of course Geary and Arikos are both willing to risk and sacrifice their lives for each other after less than 2 weeks of acquaintance. Geary, he’s not that hot and he was willing to kill you, leave him in hades and make a play for Solin.

As to Geary herself, I don’t find her an ideal character. Firstly she slut shames her cousin Thia repeatedly (and she’s a character who exists to be nothing but the sexy one. Just as T exists to be the nerdy book worm). Her whole history of expressing her independence from her father is overturned on his death bed where she changes course to follow his dream (that she had previously ridiculed) and then that in turn id derailed by Arikos. Sure there are good reasons for both changes of path – but it still made her a woman with no direction of her own. And that was followed through much of the book – to appear professional she had to be reserved and repress herself, she didn’t lead any of the plot lines. While she spoke like she was in charge and in control, she largely followed in the wake of others, none of her anger or demands were ever made to stick or lasted and even her rescuing Arikos was lead by Kat, not her. The one thing I liked about her was, in standard Sherrilyn Kenyon form, she was beautiful while expressly not being thin.

We had zero POC inclusion and zero GBLT inclusion (though we do have some nasty, homophobic stereotyping- oh joy). And for some reason people who are “very Greek” are described as blond, with fair skin and light eyes. This is actually common in the series and to me these Greeks and Ancient Greeks sound more like Vikings than Greeks to me. Correct me if I’m utterly wrong with Ancient Greeks, but I don’t picture them as being tall, blond, fair with pale eyes. Surely olive skinned, black hair and dark eyes are far more likely?

We had some interesting world building from the Dream Hunters point of view and it is something we wanted explaining for a long time – these have always been in the background and it was nice to have more insight into them. But this was really the only thing developed and with Appolymi and Atlantis and the Dolophoni, I kind of hoped for more than this. All in all, I wasn’t fascinated and there was too much here that irritated me.

If reading this book along with the Dark Hunter Series then this book should be read after Dark Side of the Moon