Saturday, March 17, 2007

"Beyond the Pale" by Savannah Russe

Oh, the things I read for you, dear fans! This certainly isn't the worst book I've ever picked up, but it's far, far from the best, either. To top it off, this is the first of a series. Sigh.

Daphne Urban has been a vampire for around 500 years, managing to escape detection and consequent slaying all that time. Or so she thinks. While going to her source for yet another set of documents (she needs to get a new identity every 20 years or so), she is captured by none other than the U.S. Government. They want her to work for them as a spy, gathering intel on a bad guy named Bonadventure, an evil villain who knows no bounds. She is to act as a liaison for an art deal but that's not the only pie Bonadventure has his finger in - there are also blood diamonds and nuclear weapons for terrorists.

While all the James Bond stuff is going on, she meets another agent, Darius della Chiesa. There's an instant attraction there despite the lack of trust on both ends. He won't tell her what agency he's with, he won't share pertinent information with her, and, oh yes, he may also be a vampire slayer. Hard to be completely honest with someone if they loathe your kind and want to kill you on sight. But it makes for some awesome sex, right?

Uh, no, not really. This is a hard book to make a call on, readers. Most of it wasn't all that great, but there were some saving graces, so I can't totally pan the thing. I wasn't all that fond of Daphne; it seemed the author was having a hard time deciding if she was going to be a philosophical-type vamp or more of a Sex-and-the-City bloodsucker. There are a lot of descriptions of her clothing choices, more than I really needed. At times she seems to be repulsed by her nature, at others she's obviously revelling in it. A vampire with issues is nothing new and it can be done well, but here I just felt like Daphne's angst was a put-on, sort of like a teenager acting out.

Then there's some of the dialogue. Phew! I have to share this one with ya'll, because I thought I was going to have to put the book down at this point. Ready? This is Darius talking to our spy gal (obviously before he knows about her "true" nature.....) "Yes, Daphne Urban, I intend to seduce you and love you as certain dark things are to be loved, between the shadow and the soul. I want to find the hidden places within you like a traveler following twisting roads through the mountains that lead higher and higher till they vanish in the clouds." BARF! Sorry, but how anyone could find that romantic is beyond me. Especially when they're supposed to be modern, hip people! Or rough, jaded ex-military, which is exactly what Darius says he is.

Finally, there's the plot development, or rather, lack of. This does have one, but it just didn't feel very well-thought out. Also, I've said this about a billion times, but I'm going to say it again. Lots and lots of sex scenes do not make for a romance. They can be part of it, but they can't make up for a lack of one. The sex comes very early in the book; in fact, Daphne pretty much starts out lusting after most of the men she meets, due to a very, very long "dry spell". Sorry, but that doesn't really endear her to me as a character. She just comes off as horny, which is all well and good, but not really necessary. Also, I just never felt much a spark between her and Darius, which I should have, given that they are the two involved in the said romance of the book!

The things I did like were Daphne's fellow vamp spies, aka the Darkwings. Cormac is a drama queen of the worst magnitude, but a complete hoot as well. I would totally hang out with him any day of the week. Ditto her friend Benny, who hails from Branson, MO, the only vamp to ever come out of a such a place. I would love it if these two had a book of their own - both are funny and much more realistic than our reluctant heroine. Also, I will give Ms. Russe props for her description of the vampires' appearance when they transform - they are basically large bats, although with some of their human qualities still appearant. One of the characters that Daphne changes in front of is described as looking at her as if he's not sure if she's devil or angel - so I'm guessing that means they can be quite beautiful in their bat-forms. Hey, I like bats myself, so I'm all for it!

If you have spare time on your hands, you might want to check it out. And let's face it, pretty much any opinion about a book is subjective, so don't always take my word for it. The Bookbabe's sis has read all the Darkwing books and really likes them, so perhaps they're just not my cup of tea, right?

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