Thursday, February 6, 2014

Full Dark by Ty Lawrence

Ashlyn is a sorceress but she is not a very powerful one.  Her life is spent enslaved to a vampire named Brennen who is addicted to her blood.  Ashlyn loathes him but knows that without his protection she will quickly held captive by another vampire who may not be as kind as Brennen. Though Ashlyn's yellow eyes mark her as other, she wants nothing more than to participate in the human world and pretend that she is not different.

Ashlyn suddenly finds out her precarious her world is when she awakes one morning to find her house entirely empty.  Not only is Brennan missing but so are all of the children he sired.  Things escalate when the cops start sniffing around and asking questions Ashlyn can possibly answer if she wants to remain alive. 

Full Dark is told in the first person and this would have worked if Ashlyn was even remotely an interesting character.   She spent most of her time simpering and being anything but active.  I understand that Ashlyn spent most of the book in peril surrounded by creatures far stronger than herself but she was nothing but a pawn throughout the story.  Even her one rebellion keeping a nosy cop alive was weak. Ashlyn seemed to spend far too much time either screaming, drinking or crying.  Ashlyn existed largely to be a victim.

The writing is a huge stumbling block in this novel. It was either sharp staccato sentences which had no flow whatsoever, or extended of prose so purple it would make Barney envious.  Lawrence spent far too much time describing minutia that had no real baring on the story.  We didn't need to know what Brennan was wearing every time he was in a scene for instance.  Why was it necessary to tell us that Ashlyn was wearing all Black when that was her standard choice of clothing? 

There were several female characters in the novel.  Ashlyn did have a very close relationship with Kaye but unfortunately the majority of their interaction seemed focused on taking about Brennan.  The same is true of Ashlyn's interactions with Elizabeth.  This of course does not rise to the standard of passing the Bechdel test.  Given that Ashlyn and Kaye were best friends, you would think at some point they could at least have reminisced about their childhood or some other event.

Brennan was Ashlyn's captor who forced her to offer her to offer him his blood several times a day.  She consented because she had no choice and yet Ashlyn was constantly accused of being self centered and cruel because she could not love him.  The truth is, Ashlyn very much did have positive feelings about Brennan even after she found out that he had allowed her to be raped repeatedly for years.  Had the relationship between them been explained as some sort of stockholm syndrome it would have made sense but instead it read like far too many other novels in this series - a justification of abuse as love.

In terms of racial inclusion we were treated to a token named man of colour in Lance.  Lance is the werewolf who Kaye was interested in and beyond that we learn nothing about him.  His presence in Full Dark took up exactly one paragraph.  This is horrible considering this novel is set in Texas.  When exactly did Texas develop such a homogenous population?  There were absolutely no GLBT characters in Full Dark and while this is common in the genre, erasure is not acceptable.

Ashlyn spent part of her childhood in an asylum because she heard voices and saw ghosts.  They made her to distracted to function.  Ashlyn spends quite a bit of time worrying that she will become "crazy" one day just like Finn, the head sorcerer. Finn is presumed "crazy" because he is violent and that hardly seems a fair descriptor when it's clear that most everyone in the story is violent.  "Crazy" in Full Dark is portrayed as unequivocally bad something that should be avoided at all costs and in many ways it read as extremely ableist.

The writing really let Full Dark down.  Lawrence had created a unique world which is something that is difficult to do in a market over saturated with all manner of supernatural creatures.  The problem is that the interesting world was then set in a storyline which had no steady build of tension and completely unlikeable characters.  I didn't feel compelled to put the book down and clean the toilet but I certainly didn't feel compelled to read it, desperate to find out how it ended.  At best Full Dark is something you pick up briefly while waiting for an appointment and then put down and quickly forget. It's less than average and at times, irritating.

Editors Note: A copy of this book was submitted by the author for review