|Writing a book series presents a unique challenge. The writer must not only entertain continuing readers of the series, but must also provide enough background for new readers. Night Play is part of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series, and I suspect it succeeds more in the first regard than the second. As a new reader of the series, I felt like I was playing catch up throughout the book. Despite this, Night Play’s humor and fast-moving plot make the game worth playing.
Vane Kattalakis is part of an ancient race: “He was a cursed hybrid that belonged to no real group. Half Arcadian, half Katagaria, Vane had been born in the native form of a wolf pup only to find his native form changed to human once he hit puberty.” Now Vane can take the form or a wolf or a human at will, but he feels more comfortable in his animal skin, as it were. He finds humans to be complicated and confusing.
When Night Play begins, Vane and his brother Fang have been beaten and left to die. Vane is ultimately able to free himself from his bonds. Fang, however, is left in a coma. Vane is familiar with loss. Both of his parents wish he were dead, his beloved sister was murdered (before the action of this book), and now Fang is in a coma. He knows that he will continue to be hunted. The one bright thing in his life is his memory of the brief glimpse he had of a woman, Bride McTierney.
Bride is experiencing similar feelings of despair. Her fiancé just broke up with her via letter, saying, “I need a woman more in keeping with my celebrity image.” Devastated, she is vacuuming her shop and crying when Vane walks in. This meeting leads to a passionate encounter neither will forget.
Vane expects to make love and walk away. After all, “He was a wolf under a death sentence and she was a human.” Instead, a symbol appears on his hand, indicating that he has just found his mate. Now Vane has three weeks to find a way to make Bride accept him. He’s told, “Your three weeks are ticking. Either you claim the human or you’ll live out the rest of your life without ever feeling another female’s touch.” In other words, he’ll essentially be a eunuch.
First meetings that end with a couple in bed together (or a dressing room, as the case may be) aren’t always convincing. It works here because Kenyon establishes the reasons on both sides and makes them real: Vane wants tenderness and Bride needs comfort. Though they don’t want the experience to end, neither believes the encounter will lead to anything permanent.
Bride is a difficult character to describe. I appreciated the fact that she is not a stereotypical skinny beauty; instead, “she was a good, solid size eighteen.” She does have the stereotypical relationship with a man who treated her badly. She adjusted her life to make others happy: “Fear and responsibility had ruled her life from the moment of her birth.” With Vane, things are different — he accepts her as she is, and she develops more confidence.
Vane makes a similar journey of self-acceptance. In his case, he must accept his human side. Sex has been black and white for him in the past: “In his world, sex had no emotional meaning.” With Bride, he knows sex isn’t enough. He must build a relationship, and he discovers a human need for tenderness and other emotions along the way. His confusion about human dating rituals is charming, and his attempts to woo Bride are the best parts of the book.
A number of secondary characters make appearances in the middle of the story. Keeping track of them bogged down the story for me. Knowledge of the previous Dark-Hunter books might have come in handy here.
Night Play is at its best when it focuses on Vane and Bride. If enjoy stories with interesting characters and a paranormal plot that doesn’t take itself too seriously, you’ll like it, too.