Drawn into Darkness by Annette McCleave
As you can tell by the cover, Drawn into Darkness is a paranormal romance. When I read the excerpt, I thought it was urban fantasy-ish. I used to be a bit fuzzy on the difference, but now it is absolutely clear to me. The first clue is the cover. Such covers aren't usually to be seen here at Fantasy Debut. Ab muscles abound. I usually go for arms and legs. And since I'm a product of the 80s, a little hair on a guy's chest is actually a nice thing.
Due to the cover, I never would have picked up this novel if I saw it in the store. Which means I'm probably pre-judging a lot of good books. I do wish romance publishers would stop making such embarrassing covers. However, I've figured out--so I'm slow--that these covers are kind of like a code. The lower the guy's pants, the steamier what is inside. These pants are only kind of low.
Before I go any further, a caveat. I don't really feel qualified to write this review. I read fantasy and mystery, and I feel qualified to review both genres. I haven't read romances since the 80s. So I'm just going to write what I think.
Lachlan McGregor is a soul gatherer. It's his job to grab a newly-dead soul and keep it safe until an agent of Heaven or Hell arrives to claim it. Problem is, Hell wants to claim all of them, and a soul-gatherer often has to fend off demons until the busy angels can arrive. The novel starts in Lachlan's point-of-view, and for the most part, the story focuses on him, because where he is, the action is. When the book starts, he habitually wears the disguise of a priest. This disguise sets the tone for the Christian aspects of the novel, which are partially Catholic in origin.
Rachel is a divorced mother of a fourteen year old named Emily, and she has her hands full. In the first scene of the book, Lachlan saves Emily from a bus accident. Ever since the bus crash, Emily has undergone a marked personality change. It turns out that Hell has a greater-than-usual interest in her, and they've sent one of their best lure demons to "lure" her into a spectacular death-suicide. And it turns out that this particular lure demon has a history with Lachlan.
Lachlan is a great dude, with a tortured past and rock-hard pecs from all the sword fighting he does to keep in shape and battle demons. The only problem I had with him is he was once a Scottish laird, which I'm starting to find a bit tiresome. Surely, there are lords of other nationalities who might be just as interesting. I liked him better than Rachel, who isn't even up to an argument with her daughter. I do feel for Rachel--having a rebellious teenager must be a horrible thing to go through. But she's just so danged weak. She doesn't even call the police when her daughter is dating a 22 year old man. I wanted to shake her. Part of the point of a novel is to have the character grow, and Rachel does grow, but it was hard for me to develop true sympathy for her--rather than just pity--when I found her actions so infuriating.
I don't mind a novel that draws on Christian themes as long as it is respectful. Ms. McCleave is respectful, but she imposes odd restrictions on the power of God that at times defied logic. For example, there's a Trinity Child, whom God creates every thousand years or so, and who can visit all three of the "planes", Heaven, Hell and Earth. However, God himself cannot visit Hell -- even though he created the child. Another logical problem was that God could not reverse a death mark, even though a certain resurrection is one of the basic tenants of the Christian--and Catholic--faith.
There are only two sex scenes in the novel, of which I was glad. We fantasy fans don't read for sex scenes. Even urban fantasies tend to keep sex scenes to a page or less. Fortunately, Ms. McCleave didn't give away any plot secrets in the midst of the sex scenes, so I was able to skip past them without feeling like I missed out on the story.
All in all, the pages just flew by and it was a nice way to spend a Saturday when I didn't feel well. The originality of this story might work well for lovers of urban fantasies who are tired of the usual mythologies.
This novel releases on September first. I'll link back to this review when I do the Debut Showcase, at which time I'll do my usual linkfest.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Drawn into Darkness by Annette McCleave