“There Is Plenty of Darkness…”
The first omnibus edition of The Night World sets up the basic premise of the Night World, introducing several concepts and characters that pop up again in later books, and are quick, entertaining reads. But it’s not until the fifth story (found in this collection) in the series that things really get moving, and Smith begins to draw on her established history of the Night World, bring back past characters, and begin to set the scene for more epic things to come.
Dark Angel is unfortunately the weakest book in the entire series, namely because it has little to do with the Night World at all. Gillian Lennox is walking home from school one day when she’s overcome by hypothermia and succumbs to the cold. Yet on her way up the infamous “tunnel of light” she is met by a spirit who calls himself her guardian angel and sends her back to earth, claiming that it is not yet her time.
But when she revives, she realizes that her “Angel” has come with her and acts as her guide in gaining much-coveted popularity in her school, as well as the attention of her long-time crush David. And yet, as time goes by, Angel starts to make more sinister demands of her that begin to have dangerous repercussions to those around her.
To introduce a character by having her wander off alone into the woods to investigate a strange noise is certainly not the best way, and Gillian never comes across as particularly bright. Likewise, her connection with David is undoubtedly the blandest romance in the entire series (and he doesn’t seem to be a particularly good catch anyway, only noticing her after she’s changed her physical appearance, and almost kissing her whilst already having a girlfriend). Although Gillian does have a connection to the Night World, and we do get a cameo appearance from Ash, it doesn’t make up the bulk of the story, and this story would have been better as a stand-alone novel rather than a book in a series.
But it is the next two stories in this collection in which things really start to get interesting.
The Chosen centers around Rashel Jordan, a young woman whose mother and brother were killed by a vampire when she was just a child. Now she spends her nights hunting down vampires, sometimes with a group of fellow vampire-hunters, but often by herself. However, during a mission to investigate the disappearance of several girls in the area, she is horrified to discover that she’s compelled to let a captive vampire go free after her fellow hunters resort to torture.
Thus she is forced to act alone when she rescues a teenage girl and discovers that the vampires in the area (including the one she spared, Quinn) have been kidnapping humans for the slave trade. Going undercover, she plans to get into the local club, become one of Quinn’s “chosen” and get herself into one of the hidden vampire enclaves. Of course, it doesn’t quite go as smoothly as that, but The Chosen is suspenseful, surprising and even rather poignant at times.
Finally Soulmate really brings Smith’s idea of the soulmate principal to the fore, in the installment that is probably more centered on romance than any of the others (and has the most convincing couple since Ash/Mary-Lynette). Hannah Snow goes to a psychiatrist in order to understand the reason for her nightmares and the strange warning notes that she’s subconsciously writing to herself. Undergoing hypnosis, Hannah travels back through her numerous past lives in which she is apparently the victim of a vampire that stalks her down through the ages.
Despite several plot-holes, Soulmate is one of the better ones simply because we get a large chunk of the Night World’s history as well as plenty of foreshadowing as to what’s to come (namely, our first mention of the apocalypse) and appearances from nearly all of the main characters of the previous books. Smith has always had fun with cameos and namedropping in previous books, but for the first time we finally get a sense of the collective movement of certain organizations and the impact they have on Smith’s created sub-world.
The Night World series shouldn’t be mistaken for anything other than light reading for young teenagers, but there is a certain weight and gravitas to Smith’s stories that lift them above your standard vampire/supernatural/romance fare (or maybe that’s just the nostalgia talking). In either case, the series goes from strength to strength, as by the next omnibus, things get even darker for our assorted heroes. The female characters are intelligent, self-sufficient, and never wait around for their boyfriends to come save them, and the stories themselves are brisk, interesting, and build on a solid-gold premise of mystery and danger.
Although the “soulmate principle” does feel like a somewhat lazy way of bringing too people together without them having to get to know each other (hmm, sounds like another vampire/human girl couple I know…) at least in this case the concept has a purpose in the larger story-arc of the Night World and humankind reaching some kind of peace together, and both parties have to work in order to enjoy their togetherness. Hopefully, our ten-year wait for the final book in the series Strange Fate, will be worth it.
Night World — (1996-2010) Young adult. These have been re-released in omnibus editions, but you can find used copies of the original versions by clicking through to Amazon. The first omnibus contains Secret Vampire, Daughters of Darkness, Spellbinder. The second omnibus contains Dark Angel, The Chosen, Soulmate. The third contains Huntress, Black Dawn, Witchlight. Publisher: The pain was something Poppy couldn’t ignore. The diagnosis was death. There was no hope — until James appeared in the darkened hospital room. James, her best friend and secret love, the handsomest boy in El Camino High. But this was a James she didn’t know, menacing yet irresistible as he offered Poppy the gift of eternal life. Only he could open the door to the Night World, and spirit her into its lonely, secret universe. One dizzying kiss and she can see into his soul. She finds that he has always loved her. They’re soulmates — but can she follow him into death and beyond? It’s a desperate choice, and Poppy’s time is running out…