Mikhail Dubrinsky is the leader of the Carpathians, a powerful race that is dying out due to lack of females. Raven Whitney, a human, is vacationing in the Carpathian Mountains after using her telepathic skills to help catch a serial killer. Raven senses Mikhail’s distress and the two of them realize they have a connection to each other. Raven may be the life mate that Mikhail thought he’d never find and she represents hope for the Carpathians.
Ugh. I really hated Dark Prince and, though I tried to stick it out, I finally had to put it down after three chapters of torture. The first problem is the characters. Raven is everything you expect in a romance heroine: slender, small bones, tiny waist, big high breasts (how often does that combination happen naturally?), big blue eyes (“brilliant sapphires”), long thick lashes, skin like satin, full soft mouth, “a wealth of raven hair tumbling down her back to draw attention to her rounded bottom” (Ugh!). Raven’s physical features are described over and over and over. The phrase “her slender…” (fill in with “arm,” “body,” “form,” “wrist,” etc) was used 25 times (assuming that Amazon has the entire print version searchable, I’m not sure). Every man wants Raven, yet she’s completely unaware of it. And totally innocent. We’re told that Raven is also intelligent, but I saw no evidence of that.
Mikhail is everything you expect from the brooding blood-sucking type: tall, rich, important, dark, broad-shouldered, chiseled features, arrogant yet passionate and, for some unknown reason, completely infatuated with Raven. Not only does Mikhail look great, but he sounds great, too. “Black velvet seduction was in the molten huskiness of his voice.” (Ugh!). By the way, the word “velvet,” which applies both to Mikhail’s voice and Raven’s creamy skin, is used 32 times in a 447 page book which calculates to, on average, one “velvet” for every 14 pages. With that much velvet, I could reupholster my living room.
This kind of stuff offends my ears (I was listening to this in audio format), but this isn’t the worst of it. What I really hated was that these two meet telepathically and speak about 3 paragraphs to each other while Mikhail spies on her when she’s alone in her bed in a white lace push-up nightie (how many antisocial young virgins normally wear those to bed, I wonder). Suddenly he becomes outrageously jealous at the random unwarranted thought of Raven with another man: “Rage shook him, raw and deadly.” (Ugh!)
Then he claims ownership and control of Raven and starts bossing her around, calling her “my woman” and “Little One” (this title is used 132 times in a 447 page book — you do the math). Despite Raven’s protests (“Don’t try to intimidate me, Mikhail; it won’t work. No one tells me what to do or where I can go.”) He manages to get her exactly where he wants her to be and she seems to be rather ineffectual against his manipulation. Though we’re told she’s intelligent, she seems naively unalarmed when Mikhail says these sorts of things (which make up most of his black velvet seductive speech):
- Do not disobey me in this, Raven.
- You will drink. Obey me in this.
- Obey me at once.
- Why do you defy me?
- Do not try to leave me, little one.
- Do not try to leave me, Raven. I hold what is mine and make no mistake, you are mine.
- You need to sleep.
- You are not nearly as afraid of me as you should be.
- You will never repeat this foolhardy act again.
- I will not tolerate any foolishness that might put your life in jeopardy…. I will not lose you.[he’s got his hands around her throat here]
- American women are very difficult.
These examples are all in the first 60 pages of the novel when they’ve known each other for one day. This is Mikhail’s courting behavior. Raven’s “foolhardy act” was to take a walk in the woods around the resort while on her vacation. Apparently American women are very difficult because they like to choose their own activities while on their own vacations rather than obeying handsome violent strangers. After this conversation, he carries her off to his lair. And she’s not kicking and screaming. Does Raven think that Mikhail will become less demanding, controlling and possessive after the courting is over?
Well, I couldn’t stand it, so I gave up. I don’t like Mikhail and Raven and I don’t want to read any more about their twisted relationship. How any self-respecting woman can think this is sexy… I have no idea.
Christine Feehan’s first novel, Dark Prince, was first released in 1999 and has now been re-released in a new “Author’s Cut Special Edition.” I recently had the opportunity to read it. While Kat didn’t like the book (see her review below), I was curious about it. I knew it was one of the early paranormal romances that had shaped the subgenre and its tropes. If I’m not mistaken, this may be the first instance of lifemates who not only don’t want to, but physically can’t be unfaithful to each other once they forge their mystical bond. Another example is “sequel bait”: the hero of this novel is outfitted with a posse of equally hunky, equally angsty brothers and friends who will serve as the heroes of subsequent books.
Kat’s main issue with Dark Prince was the domineering nature of the hero, Mikhail. In the first few chapters, this was a huge sticking point for me as well. He stomps around demanding obedience from Raven and overriding her will when she doesn’t obey. The good news is that this aspect improves. Raven starts standing up to Mikhail and even poking fun at some of his macho posturing, Mikhail takes a metaphorical chill pill and starts to enjoy her teasing, and the book becomes more bearable on the gender-roles front (though Mikhail is still overbearing and Raven still disturbingly weak in some scenes). I often dislike alpha jerks, but I do enjoy heroines who can deflate their self-importance.
Unfortunately, the book is marred by other issues, possibly because the original edition of Dark Prince was Feehan’s first novel. The point of view jumps around constantly. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be third person omniscient or if it’s just plain old head-hopping, but it’s distracting. The writing is also thick with melodrama and purple prose, especially during the sex scenes: “velvet,” “silk,” “satin,” “lava,” and “black magic” figure prominently.
Most problematic, though, is the plot’s lack of shape. It moves from sex scene to action scene to sex scene to action scene, and so on, without seeming to build to anything in particular. It just sort of stops, after a final round of violence followed by sex. If the overall plot arc is supposed to be “Raven and Mikhail fall in love, and they’ll probably be facing persecution all their lives,” that was resolved well before the ending. If the plot arc is meant to be “Raven is the hope of the Carpathian race because she can stay sane and bear a female child,” it’s still not resolved after 496 pages. She still teeters on the edge of madness every time something terrible happens, and there’s no baby in sight.
I haven’t read the original edition, so I don’t know how much of this meandering quality is due to the re-addition of scenes that were cut the first time around. If that’s the reason, though, maybe Dark Prince was better off at a shorter length. After the first few sex/action cycles, it began to feel like a slog. On the other hand, it may be worth reading if you want to know where some of the conventions of paranormal romance originally came from.
The Carpathians (The Dark) — (1999- ) The novella Dark Descent can be found in the anthology The Only One. Dark Hunger, from the anthology Hot Blooded has been made into a graphic novel. Publisher: Mikhail Dubrinsky is the prince of his people, the Carpathians. But they are dying out, there are few women, and the men are either falling prey to vampires, or are choosing the soulless life. Losing all hope, Mikhail is no longer sure he can bear the bleak future laid before him. The only thing that can add light to his life, can relieve the terrible and haunting loneliness, is to find a life mate. But he has given up believing one exists. Raven Whitney has a rare gift. She not only can read minds, but she can communicate telepathically. But her talent is not always a gift. Her job is to track the twisted mental paths of serial killers, and those evil thoughts drain her both mentally and physically. Now, she is hoping to heal and seek a quiet escape in the Carpathian Mountains, but when she mentally hears the anguished cry at dawn, she can not ignore it, unaware that her life is about to change forever.