Midnight’s Daughter by Karen Chance
Meet Dorina; she comes from perhaps the most dysfunctional family in existence. She’s the niece of Dracula, the bastard daughter of Drac’s older brother Mircea. Dracula, Mircea, and their third brother, Radu, are all vampires, and centuries of bad blood lie between Drac and the other two men. Dorina’s own place in the clan is shaky. She is a dhampir, the offspring of a vampire and a human, a creature subject to berserk rages and ostracized from both human and vampire society. Most dhampirs die early, violent deaths. Dorina has lasted five hundred years, and she has no desire to end her winning streak now.
As Midnight’s Daughter begins, Dorina’s roommate Claire is missing. Claire is a magical null, a descendant of one of the most venerable witch families in existence, and the only person who’s ever been able to keep Dory calm for any length of time. Rumor has it she’s been kidnapped by vampires and is pregnant with a dhampir baby. Dory is getting desperate, and that’s when her father, Mircea, shows up wanting her help. Dracula is free from his prison, and Mircea wants Dory to help recapture him. If she does, he’ll help her get Claire back. Mircea assigns Dorina a partner, a vampire named Louis-Cesare, and sparks (both angry and hormonal) fly instantly.
The first half of Midnight’s Daughter follows Dorina as she travels from place to place, trying to amass information, allies, and kick-butt magical weaponry — stalked by Dracula all the while. I found this part of the novel slow going despite the frequent action scenes. I think this is mainly because I read Midnight’s Daughter without having read the Cassie Palmer novels first. I kept getting the idea I should know these characters well, but I didn’t. Some of them are based on historical figures, but while I know who Kit Marlowe and Casanova are, I don’t know how they fit into vampire politics and history, or how they fit into Dory’s life.
Then, about halfway through the book, something clicked and I couldn’t put it down. What sucked me in was a combination of some Dory backstory, some Louis-Cesare backstory, and further information about what has been going on with Claire. (That, and Olga, whom I absolutely adored.) I felt like I suddenly understood much more about what made these characters tick, and the result was that I became deeply emotionally invested in them just in time for some harrowing action!I spent most of the second half of the book on the edge of my seat, frantically turning pages.
I liked Karen Chance’s prose style a great deal. It’s vivid but never pretentious, and she’s equally at home describing a horrific scene of gore and a delicate faerie glamour. Here’s my favorite image from Midnight’s Daughter:
Caedmon laid a hand on my forehead. His power surrounded me, like sunlight on my skin. Despite the fact that we were underground, it threw a pattern of gently waving branches across my body and gilded the dusty air until everything glittered. The sounds of the cleanup became a distant background noise, overwritten by musical laughter and voices singing unknown songs. I breathed in a rich forest smell, and vague shadows swirled up around me in a storm of green and gold, like leaves caught in a high wind. For an instant I thought the cave would disappear altogether; then a phantom leaf brushed my cheek and I jerked away, scrambling to reinforce my shields. The sensations hadn’t been threatening, but neither is the sun until it burns you.
Also, I thought the romantic subplot worked well. I can be a bit like Goldilocks when it comes to how much romance I like in my fantasy, and Karen Chance gets it just right: enough romance to add spice to the story and raise the emotional stakes, not so much romance that it eats the plot for lunch.
Recommended, with the caveat that you might want to read the Cassie Palmer books first, and I’ve gathered that the Claire subplot has its roots in a short story in an anthology called On the Prowl, which you might also want to read first.
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