Monday, December 29, 2008

Daughters of Darkness (book) by L.J. Smith

Rowan, Kestrel, and Jade, three vampire sisters, have lived their whole lives on an island meant to be a safe place for members of the Night World to be themselves. Unfortunately, society on the island is highly restrictive and conservative, meaning that women aren't allowed off the island, men are in charge, etc. The three sisters want more freedom, so they leave the island in secret in order to go live with their aunt in a small town in Oregon. Unfortunately, when they get there they discover that someone has staked their aunt. To make matters worse, Ash, the girls' brother, has come to take them back, whether they want to go or not.

Mary-Lynnette is an ordinary human girl who loves astronomy and is a bit protective of her younger brother, Mark. When Rowan, Kestrel, and Jade arrive, it isn't long before Mary-Lynnette starts to wonder what's happened to their aunt and what these beautiful new girls might have done. In the process of poking around for information, Mark and Jade end up falling in love, and Mary-Lynnette discovers to her dismay that she and Ash are soulmates. Now that the girls have told Mary-Lynnette and Mark about the Night World, they've broken one of the Night World's laws (Jade and Mark falling in love broke another law - "don't fall in love with humans"). That means that, even if they did go back, they could be put to death, and Mary-Lynnette and Mark would be killed right along with them. Somehow, they all have to find a killer and figure out a solution that will allow everyone to survive and the girls to stay in Oregon.

I've been suggesting L.J. Smith's books an awful lot in this blog, especially lately, so I figured it was time to post about some of the ones I own (I don't own them all, unfortunately, and some of them are still extremely difficult and/or expensive to get). This one happens to be one of my two favorites in her Night World series - the other is Soulmate. Mary-Lynnette and Ash are my favorite Night World couple.

Although this is one of my favorite Night World books, I admit that it's incredibly short, when you consider all the different characters and the various conflicts that need to be wrapped up. I first read L.J. Smith's books when I was in my teens, and not everything by her has held up to a re-read now that I'm in my twenties. However, this book still brings me enjoyment, and I'm pleasantly surprised at how well the romance between Ash and Mary-Lynnette is done, since they don't even meet until a little over a fourth of the way through this 228-page book.

Actually, if it hadn't been for the Mary-Lynnette/Ash romance, I'm not sure how much I would have liked this book. The "who's the killer?" storyline seemed a little weak (there's maybe two actual suspects, that's all) and, of the three vampire sisters, only Jade gets much significant story time. I remember, when I first read this book, wishing that Smith's Night World books were longer, and that's something I still wish today. She has so many great characters in this book, and most of them turn out to be throw-away characters - Quinn gets his own book later on, but none of the sisters do.

Which brings me to one of my other gripes: this series' lack of an ending. I remember reading that there were some very good reasons that the final book(s) in the Night World series were never written/released. However, it's a little bit depressing to have been waiting for the end of a series for over 8 years (especially since the series ending had ties with the end of the millennium, which would just make it odd if the ending were release now). It wasn't even that I necessarily cared how the series was going to end - what I really wanted was for Ash and Mary-Lynnette to finally get back together. It's very unusual, for any kind of romance, but Ash and Mary-Lynnette don't end up with their happily ever after at the end of Daughters of Darkness. Instead, they both decide to spend some time growing up and, in Ash's case, atoning for past actions and behavior. Although Ash shows up again in the series, he and Mary-Lynnette are left in limbo. Well, unless you look at L.J. Smith's website - there, she posts a story in which the two of them finally meet again. Hurray! Of course, I would've liked to have read that a few years ago, back when I actually could remember everything that was going on in the series.

Well, if I take the book as it is, I have to say that I loved it. The characters are fun and interesting, and the series itself is not yet to the point where there's the whole Apocalypse thing going on (I preferred the series when it was just about vampires, witches, shapeshifters, werewolves, and romance). As a teen, L.J. Smith's books were my first introduction to paranormal romance. It's been a little over a decade since this book was first published, but it's aged well and I'd recommend it to teen and adult paranormal romance fans. Well, I wouldn't recommend the copy I own - the 1996 cover (actually, all the first Night World covers) is pretty awful, with all the characters looking overly made-up and Ash looking like some kind of cheesy stage magician.

I have to say, I'm thrilled at some of the side-benefits of the popularity of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series - it means L.J. Smith's books are finally getting some attention again, since something by her (usually her Vampire Diaries series) is almost always included in library Twilight read-like lists. I don't know for sure, but it might also explain why some of her books are being re-released. At any rate, I hope to buy the ones that I don't currently have in my collection - when I first started reading Smith's books, I got them through my public library, never thinking that there might come a time when I couldn't just put myself on hold for any one of her books whenever I felt like getting another fix. Even after all these years, and even though I'm no longer in the target age-group that Smith's books are intended for, I still love them.

Read-alikes:
  • Twilight (book) by Stephenie Meyer - Bella doesn't expect her move to the small town of Forks to be at all exciting, until she meets Edward Cullen. At first, Edward seems repulsed by her, but eventually the two of them can't seem to stay away from each other. The more time Bella spends with him, however, the more odd things she notices about him, leading her to the impossible conclusion that this boy she is so drawn to is actually a vampire. Those who'd like another young adult romance featuring vampires and werewolves might like this book, the first in a series.
  • Blood and Chocolate (book) by Annette Curtis Klause - Vivian is a werewolf, part of a small community of werewolves living in secret among humans. Vivian's father, the pack leader, was killed when the pack was driven out of its previous home, and all that remains is for a new leader to be chosen before the pack can move to a more permanent home. In the meantime, Vivian doesn't really feel at home with anyone in the pack. She begins dating a human, but how long will their relationship last if she tells him what she is? Even worse, people have been getting killed and Vivian can't be certain she wasn't responsible. Those who'd like another young adult romance involving supernatural creatures and a bit of "who's the killer?" mystery might enjoy this book.
  • Sunshine (book) by Robin McKinley - Rae Seddon, nicknamed Sunshine, lives a quiet, peaceful life working at her stepfather's bakery. Unfortunately, that all comes to an end when she is captured by some vampires and chained up in a mansion as a feast for a similarly chained-up vampire named Constantine. However, Constantine doesn't feed on her, and the two of them eventually escape. They'll have to somehow face the vampires who are after them together. Those who'd like another story involving vampires and a strong, independent main female character might enjoy this book. It's not really a romance, although I remember thinking that it wouldn't have taken much for McKinley to turn it into one.
  • Vampire Knight (manga) by Matsuri Hino - Yuki's earliest memory is of being attacked by a vampire and then saved by another, the gorgeous and mysterious Kaname. Ten years later, Yuki, now the adopted daughter of the headmaster of Cross Academy, spends her time blushing over Kaname and protecting the Day Class students (all humans, unaware of the vampires around them) from the Night Class (all vampires). She is aided by Zero, a brooding teenager hiding a dark secret. Those who'd like another story involving romance between a human and vampire (or someone who's partially a vampire) might enjoy this series. By the way, it has also been made into an anime, which has not yet been made legally available in the US (which, um, hasn't stopped me from seeing the first four episodes - it's a lot of fun).

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