Midnight's Daughter
by Karen Chance
(Onyx, $7.99, PG-13 for violence) ISBN 978-0-451-41262-1
****
In the first of a series that offshoots from her Cassandra Palmer books, Chance introduces us to Dorina Basarab. Dorina has a bit of an unusual history and lineage: her mother was a human servant in the house that would spawn Dracula; and her father, Dracula's brother, is a vampire fans of Chance will recognize: Mircea.  Mircea is a powerful Senate member accustomed to everyone jumping when he snaps his fingers, expecting the same of his dhampir daughter, who makes her living killing vampires.

Five centuries of a strained-to-say-the-least relationship between father and daughter, however, doesn't leave Dory with the same compulsion. When he shows up at her home to request a favor, Dorina immediately denies him. Then she reminds him that the last time she went after Uncle Drac for him, she was nearly killed. Mircea is relentless; he offers to use his resources to locate her roommate, Claire, who has been missing for a month. When Dory learns of the stipulations, she is considerably less than pleased. Firstly, he is forcing her to partner up with a member of the European Senate, Louis-Cesare, who appears to be nothing more than a bit of fluff. Secondly, Vlad is not to be killed. Again.

Dorina quickly learns that Louis-Cesare can hold his own, though it takes a bit longer for him to overcome his attitude about dhampirs. Dory's used to her status as an outcast, but beating some sense into Louis-Cesare is entertaining, and the bouts and verbal spats between the two provide many of the best scenes in the book.

Tracking Dracula and eventually locating another uncle to use as bait compose a fair portion of the book, with many bloody fight scenes along the way. The Fey, with whom no one in the book has an easy relationship, also play an occasional part. In fact, a band opposing the current rule have Dory confused for her roommate, and have been chasing her down with the intent of killing her. The fey interference begins to make more sense when a warrior named Caedmon shows up to help them out, much to the disgruntlement of Louis-Cesare. A little too much fey wine throws everybody's minds into turmoil, and suddenly wicked bad memories are being spread around like jam.

Okay, so the plot(s) is a little confusing, and that's one of the very few complaints about this book. Probably it could easily have made two novels, if the fey storyline and the Dracula storyline had been separated and fleshed out. The way all of the threads twist together will occasionally trip readers up, and the endless violence will probably turn some away. The action sequences drive the book through its rough patches, however, and dialogue that varies between meaningful, wry, and humorous insures an ongoing interest in the characters.

Fans of paranormal suspense or urban fantasy will be thrilled either way. Die hard romance readers beware: Midnight's Daughter is often cruel, very bloody, and though there are several meaningful relationships in the book, most of them are familial. There is definitely a potential hook-up for Louis-Cesare and Dory in the future, but the two alternate in their reluctance. Also, Louis-Cesare is not Dory's only possibility nor is she the woman occupying his mind.

Midnight's Daughter is only the first book of the series, and I believe purposefully leaves things unsaid and characters rough around the edges. While this may be disappointing to some, it's sure to have those who enjoy the book dying to read the next.

--Sarrah Knight


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