Dark Challenge

Dark Desires

Dark Fire

Dark Magic

Dark Prince

Dark Legend by Christine Feehan
(Leisure, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8439-4952-X
Sure, Christine Feehan writes variations on a theme. I like the theme, and this variation has some different elements in it that I think will please her fans without straying too far from the formula they’ve come to like and expect.

This would also be a good place to start for anyone who’s never read Feehan. It has all her distinctive elements. A passionate, powerful old-world male and a smart, independent heroine in an intense emotional and physical relationship. Good triumphing over evil. Lots of Carpathian lore. And Feehan’s trademark prose, which manages to combine a certain formality of tone with a modern sensibility into quite a compelling fantasy. Legend is also less intricately connected to the chronology of her previous books, so familiarity with them is not essential to enjoying this one.

It begins as Gabriel awakes from two centuries of sleep in a Paris cemetery. He buried himself and his twin, Lucian, because he could not fulfill his oath to destroy the beloved brother who turned from an extraordinary hunter into a vampire of terrifying intelligence. The cemetery is being dug up in the name of progress however, and Gabriel emerges to find a Paris he couldn’t have imagined two centuries ago, and that Lucian is gone.

Knowing that he’s on the verge of “turning,” Gabriel hesitates to take blood from a human because he’s afraid he won’t be able to control his ravenous hunger. Weakly staggering down the street, he is picked up by Francesca Del Ponce who at first mistakes him for a starving homeless person. A well-known healer, Francesca takes Gabriel to her home, where she astonishes him by revealing an underground chamber where he may sleep safely and offering him her blood freely. At the first taste, Gabriel realizes that he can feel again, after centuries of the emotional numbness that affects Carpathian males who have not found their lifemate.

Not only is she Gabriel’s lifemate, Francesca is an ancient Carpathian who has successfully hidden from both her own people and vampires. She was aware centuries ago that Gabriel was her lifemate, but when he left with his brother to hunt vampires and never returned, Francesca elected to leave her culture and live among humans. She has even altered her metabolism so she can tolerate the sun.

Francesca isn’t thrilled to see Gabriel again after all these centuries. His attempts to win her trust, now that he recognizes who she is, complicated by her close connections to humans and his paradoxical relationship with the brother he has vowed to destroy, makes for a very involving read. It is sweetened by the fact that, although certainly an alpha male to the core, Gabriel’s guilt inspires him to court Francesca with a lighter touch than has been shown by previous Feehan heroes. I also found Francesca herself a little more mature (well, she is a couple of thousand years old). Where previous female lifemates showed a tendency to rebel blindly against Carpathian male domination, Francesca picks her battles and has a little more sympathy for her lifemate’s point of view. And did I mention the intense emotional and physical relationship? Hoo-boy.

I do have a couple of quibbles. I have no idea why this book was set in Paris. There’s no sense of place at all, and most of the people Francesca has contact with seem to be Americans. Paris was a great choice of city, but unfortunately wasted.

I also found it odd that, after Francesca contacted Aidan Savage, no one in the Carpathian community seemed to be much interested in them. I would have thought that the sudden resurrection of a legendary vampire hunter, missing for centuries and presumed dead, plus the almost miraculous emergence of an unknown Carpathian woman would have caused a bit of a flutter, but not a single Carpathian materializes to say “hey.”

That said, if you have a taste for intense relationships and the darker side of fantasy, it’s hard to do better than Christine Feehan.

--Judi McKee

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