2008, Fantasy Romance
Signet Eclipse, $6.99, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 045122566X Part of a series
Savannah Russe’s Dark Nights, Dark Dreams is the first in her new Sisterhood of the Sight series about a team of paranormal CIA agents. Sounds interesting, right? Unfortunately, this book was so not enjoyable, I won’t even think about looking at the next three.
Sam Chase has a gift; a voice in her head tells her when she’s in danger, and sometimes gives her visions of the future or things that are happening at that moment. When the CIA picks up on this fact, after her multiple narrow escapes from death while stationed with the foreign service in Iraq, they coerce her into joining a special task force for paranormal crimes, along with three other women. Their first mystery: A suspicious body snatch/grave robbing from Arlington National Cemetery.
Paired with her is Department of Defense investigator Lance “Bear” Rutledge, a skeptic kept in the dark about the CIA’s paranormal suspicions. Sam comes up with excuses when her visions lead to breakthroughs in the case and works in secret with the three other women to discover what is happening. However, as the truth behind the disappearing bodies comes out, it gets harder and harder to keep it from Bear, especially as he’s being framed for a murder related to the case. He has to accept the truth about the paranormal aspects of the crime – and Sam.
First of all, Sam and Bear have zero chemistry. None. Love scenes between then were stale and flat, despite the facts that Russe tried to spice them up and that Sam and Bear’s relationship hinges on their physical chemistry. I felt no connection between them, no love, and their HEA felt unbelievable.
The paranormal aspect of the plot also fell completely flat for me. Do not be surprised when you read this - the book is a zombie story. I certainly did not expect that, and wouldn’t have picked it up had I known. I tried to put my general aversion to zombies aside, but there were other things that just made me roll my eyes. Sam has a voice in her head, one woman talks to animals and is a Wiccan, another is a voodoo priestess, and the fourth practices some sort of Native American magic. In addition to these details, other myths and paranormal creatures pop in with little to no connection to any of these practices, with the result being a disorganized mess of magic rather than concentrated world-building. I would guess the author was trying to give each woman her own expertise, and thus originality, but I found it too much. For diversity, Russe sacrificed unity among the fantasy elements. I would have preferred a consistent methodology, rather than this mixed-up pile of magic.
Russe’s writing felt clumsy to me as well. Every other page she reminded us how hot Washington D.C. was. I get the symbolism of the heat, but by the first third of the book, I was sick of hearing about the oppressive heat, the steaming pavement, the sweaty people, the dozens of other phrases she used to express how damn hot it was in D.C. Another thing she did was repeatedly reference locations in Washington – streets, neighborhoods, metro lines, suburbs, etc. – which, as a D.C. resident, I enjoyed; however, I imagine anyone who doesn’t live inside the Beltway wouldn’t get the references, and would find them unnecessary. It goes one step too far over the line of giving an air of authenticity to being overkill.
Dark Nights, Dark Dreams does very little to make up for these missteps. Quite simply, I didn’t like the characters, the relationships, the goriness of the story, the plot, the conclusion, or the writing. And there wasn’t much left after all of that.
-- Jane Granville
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