Undead and Unemployed

Undead and Unwed

Under the Covers

Derik’s Bane
by MaryJanice Davidson
(Berkley, $6.50, R) ISBN 0-425-19997-5
Derik Gardner is a werewolf with a problem – turns out he’s Alpha. Derik’s pack already has an Alpha, his best friend, and two Alphas in one pack is not a good thing. So not wanting to usurp his best friend’s rule, he’s pretty much decided to hit the road. Then a mission comes along that hastens his departure.

Dr. Sara Gunn happens to be the reincarnation of Morgan Le Fay, King Arthur’s dreaded half-sister. Another werewolf tells Derik that Sara (who doesn’t realize that she’s Morgan) will destroy the world if he doesn’t “take care of her.” So Derik hops in a convertible and hits the road for sunny California.

Sara is not having a good day. Her car bites the dust, some robed weirdoes show up at her hospital and try to kill her, and now there’s a werewolf standing in her kitchen who half-heartedly tries to strangle her. Derik naturally cannot kill Sara – not only is she cute, but she’s just too ditzy to be an evil sorceress. So the two decide to hit the road to change her fate and save the world from the robed weirdoes.

Derik’s Bane is book 3 in Davidson’s Wyndham Werewolf series – the first two stories being entries in Secrets anthologies from Red Sage Publishing. While previous characters do make appearances, Davidson doesn’t clutter up this tale with too much back-story. Newcomers will have no problem keeping up.

Unfortunately, enjoyment of Derik’s Bane hinges solely on how well the reader likes quirky. This book is so full of quirky that by the halfway point I had spots dancing before my eyes. Sara, Derik and every other character speak constant wisecrack. In fact, there are so many one-liners, pop culture references, and foul-mouthed asides that it is safe to say there isn’t one meaningful conversation in this entire book. It’s okay and a little fun for the first 100 pages, but by page 300 it strains the seams of credulity.

Somewhere in the middle of all the smart-ass dialogue, the romance gets lost – as in there just plain isn’t one to speak of. Oh sure, Sara and Derik end up together but their courtship leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, one gets the feeling that besides the great sex they have (and really, there’s only one scene where the sex is “great,” the other two instances are rather pathetic) what they really like is the adventure they are on.

Ultimately, this is a very silly book. Silly can be good when it’s done right, and for the first 100 or so pages it’s done right here. But somewhere around the time that Derik tries to kill Sara and she hurls insults and a jar of Noxema his way it started to quickly lose charm. Who defends themselves against an attacker by throwing DVD cases, Noxema and an empty box of chocolates them? Why not grab a butcher knife from the kitchen or run down your residential street screaming at the top of your lungs? But that’s neither here nor there.

Davidson certainly has a very distinctive voice, one that will divide readers. Either you’ll love this book or strongly dislike it – there’s not a whole lot of room for middle ground here. Readers looking for fluff or enjoy silly for silly’s sake will find a lot to like here. It’s not that this book isn’t humorous, there is just absolutely nothing serious tossed in to add dimension and diversity.

--Wendy Crutcher

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