Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Dark Heir (Jane Yellowrock #9) by Faith Hunter

When Jane receives an alarm that there’s a battle going on in vampire central, she assumed they were under attack from outside

But it was far worses – one of the fathers of the vampire species, long imprisoned in Master Vampire Leo’s basement has escaped. Ancient, powerful beyond all measure and homicidally dangerous he is now running free through New Orleans, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake

The human press and authorities have noticed and they want his head on a platter –and the mob are willing to add a whole lot more vampire heads I the process

But Joses is a revered figure in vampire society – his being held hostage is one of the few things preventing the European vampires from invading. His death would give them they every excuse to do so…

The Jane Yellowrock series is now a very long running and established one and it’s also a series that makes full use of everything that has happened before. So this book contains characters, information and references to everything that has happened in the past – which I love. It also doesn’t engage in lots and lots of excessive recapping which I also love

But perhaps a little non-excessive recapping wouldn’t have gone amiss. Not a lot, but just a little to not leave me floundering at times at a new name or another event mentioned, another past drama referenced, another mystical shiny touched upon. I didn’t get lost per se, but when something was mentioned it did take me a little while to catch up and remember exactly what it was they were talking about which did affect the pacing a little.

It is probably something I wouldn’t normally mention if the middle of the book wasn’t kind of flabby anyway – I think it comes down to the actual plot of the book not being overly complex. There are complex elements – like the different factions all having different motives for Joses – the priests wanting him alive, but each delivering to them, Leo wanting him alive to hold off the European vampires, the humans mortal authorities wanting him dead. All of this could make for a lot of complexity and nuance and difficulty – but it didn’t really emerge. These were the factions that were all vying for a piece of Joses and needed balancing, but ultimately the majority of the book was one single thread of Jane trying to chase Choses, trying to find Joses, fighting Joses, collapsing from exhaustion/healing then getting up and doing it again. There were no real twists no real different directions – just a chase.

There was a lot of investigations into why Joses was imprisoned in the first place and what drove him insane and required it – but it all felt just a little irrelevant, partially because of this series ongoing treatment of mental illness. Vampires in this setting going insane, on a semi-regular basis. When newly turned, when bitten by certain creatures, when particularly injured, when particularly sad. It would help a lot if this wasn’t really termed as a mental illness and it was just referred to as the dovoveo but there is a lot of leaking over to comparing it to “mundane” insanity. This also arises with Jane who also believes Skinwalkers will, inevitably, become insane and dangerous as well. This is both stigmatising (despite the endless trope, most mentally ill people are not dangerous) but it also rendered this whole investigation somewhat pointless. We spend so much time trying to figure out what drove Joses over the edge – but in this setting it could have been ANYTHING and was rather irrelevant. Vampires so regularly frolic over that edge that it could have been the clashing wallpaper that drove him to it.

It brought out a lot of old characters – like Leo’s son – and helped explain the mental conditions of Bethany, Leo’s son and even a few others, but, again, since we have a setting where insane serial killing can afflict any vampire quite easily, knowing the particular trigger just didn’t seem that necessary. I just hope these revelations become more pertinent in later books

This left me not disliking the middle of the book, but generally feeling like something was lacking. Especially when chasing down the Joses eventually ended in something of an anti-climax after so much difficulty. This was made worse by having what was, apparently, a grand betrayal by a vampire who I don’t even remember and certainly wasn’t emotionally invested in.

In between we did have some of Jane’s emotional development – but even then I wasn’t that sold. Yes I love that she, Eli and the Kid have become a family and how she thinks of them that way, but I also felt that her vocalising it so blatantly was kind of awkward and a bit more overtly emotional than Jane is usually comfortable with. It was a good scene in terms of meaning and definitely good to get more of Jane’s Cherokee culture into the book (this has always been one of the stronger elements of the series, Jane isn’t just a mystical Native American In name so woo-woo can be included, there’s always been a sense of including her culture and her history as well). This was also blighted by Jane’s endless, agonising guilt. She will blame herself for anything, she will blame herself for everything. It’s almost arrogant how much she assumes responsibility for events around her.

This series continues to have a very high amount of racial inclusion. Jane is Cherokee along with her mentors and, as I’ve said repeatedly before, there is a real effort to make her heritage a part of her character rather than just slapping feathers and woo-woo on her and calling it done. The other two most important characters in the book and in Jane’s life are Eli and Alex, the brothers who are her family, co-habitants and business partners who are POC (mixed-race Black people). Derek and much of Leo’s guards and the people Jane works with the most are also Black. Bethany, one of the two super powerful priestesses of the vampires is also Black, albeit also dangerous and carrying that ubiquitous scary-scary-scary vampire insanity the book loves so much; she also has a huge amount of exotic othering dumped on her along with a heavy dose of Africa-is-one-monolithic-country-esque descriptions.

Depiction of LGBT people in this series has always been shaky – but we’ve finally got round to Jane deciding all vampires are bisexual (which seems rather late to suddenly make this pronouncement) and how that can make some of the guards uncomfortable (which is… far from ideal). But as well as being a somewhat late day announcement, this has never actually been shown except among villainous vampires who are now all dead. Among the living, Jane says things like Gregoire and Leo are lovers but we never actually see any indication of that (it feels a lot like Jane’s assumption) which contrasts with the depiction of them with their female lovers (and posing in provocative pictures with those lovers). This ends up making it feel like something that has been hastily pasted on the series or even Jane’s own mistaken interpretation. It all, unpleasantly, fits in to non-straight sexuality being something to be alluded to while opposite-sex pairings can be much more open.

I’m glad to see Molly return in this book and, after some shakiness, return to a more even keel. Jane runs in too much of an all male world (most of the women tend to be antagonists, enemies or rivals or brief side characters) and her fraught relationship with her best friend hasn’t helped things. I always hope that more can be built between Jane, Molly, Jodi the cop and Del, Leo’s new Primo (who Jane spoke up in favour of since she thinks Leo is not respecting her capabilities) to make her world less male and her relationship with women less shaky.

I liked this book, it was a fun exciting chase to bring down a big bad. But I’m not sure it added more than that. It was a simple book, it was a book full of exposition I’m not sure we needed or even made that much sense in the plot (going into 100 year sealed rooms to find out were a vampire had escaped to in the present?). It rambled a bit before getting anywhere near the point and when we reached the end I wasn’t sure if we were in a particularly different place than we were at the very begging. It was a ramble and it didn’t particularly go anywhere – now it was a ramble with characters I love in a world setting I enjoyed so that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it wasn’t a great thing either.