Dark Guardian

Christine Feehan
2002, Vampire Romance
Leisure, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0843949945
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Hot

There are two reviews of this book. (We don't usually do dual reviews when the grades are the same, but both reviews approach this book differently.)

Dark Guardian is the eighth book in Christine Feehan's series about a long-lived, psychically gifted race called Carpathians. The book's hero, Lucian, is a two-thousand-year-old guardian of the Carpathian people. Lucian is supernaturally gifted, sexy, intelligent - and predatory. He is the perfect example of a male Carpathian. He is also an example of one of the series' greatest strengths and weaknesses.

Carpathian males are predators whose instincts are tempered by their strong sense of protectiveness and affection for their people. After a few hundred years they begin to lose the ability to feel emotions. The only thing capable of restoring this ability is joining with their lifemates. If a Carpathian male does not locate a lifemate, he eventually becomes so distanced from any type of emotion that he turns vampire and starts killing just to be able to feel something again. Vampires are hunted and killed by guardians such as Lucian. When a Carpathian male finds his lifemate he is compelled to claim her and protect her. If she is human, he must then transform her to become a Carpathian with his blood.

While the "lifemate principle" is an easy way to explain the characters' instant attraction and attachment to each other, it has also been a limiting factor in the series. All of Feehan's heroes are your basic uber-alpha in leather pants. Very sexy, very good looking, they have lots of charisma, lots of paranormal abilities, and are very, very predictable. If you know what one Carpathian male is like you can rest assured that there are several back home in the mountains just like him. To match her heroes, Feehan usually created heroines who I think of as "pseudo-feisty." They put up a token resistance to having their lives taken over but then cave in after a show of resistance and some intense lovemaking.

Happily, the character of Jaxon Montgomery moves the series away from the compliant heroine and introduces a stronger female lead. Jaxon is a law enforcement officer, the head of a team that specializes in investigating and arresting drug traffickers. She is also the obsession of a psychotic stalker, and this constant threat has prevented her from forming lasting attachments outside of her police unit.

Lucian and Jaxon's paths cross during a drug bust. While tracking a vampire in the area, he rescues Jaxon and her partner when the mission goes awry. Realizing that he has found his lifemate, Lucian immediately goes into overbearing protective mode. He then learns that the woman who is his lifemate is not content to be his follower but insists on being his partner.

Refreshingly, Jaxon is not stupid about her strengths. Most of what Lucian introduces into her life is completely unfamiliar, and her transformation into a Carpathian is both upsetting and fascinating. While many of the changes are not what Jaxon would have chosen, she is intelligent enough to realize that she is gaining new abilities and survival skills. She is also smart enough to realize that while she needs time to learn to use her new talents, she is still a highly trained police officer who knows her enemy and has the ability to handle herself in dangerous situations. She expects to be part of the decision-making process and her arguments with Lucian over the role she will play in facing their enemy add depth and realism to their relationship.

The psychic abilities of the Carpathians are intriguing and fun in a Saturday-matinee fashion. The Carpathians can change to animals or mist, call storms, move earth, use telepathy, heal, materialize and dematerialize physical objects (including those sexy leather pants) and a host of other special effects. Watching Jaxon first get over her disbelief and then learn to use her new skill adds a humorous touch to the story.

As someone who has read this series from the beginning, I was getting tired of the compliant heroines and the overbearing heroes being repeated book after book. The characters Christine Feehan has created in Dark Guardian have revived my interest in reading future books in this series.

-- Shelley Dodge

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