King of Darkness

by Elisabeth Staab

3.5 Star Review

The King Stumbles a Bit

King of Darkness by Elisabeth Staab

Reviewed:   March 13, 2012

Genre:   Paranormal Romance

Series:   Chronicles of Yavn, Book 1

Rating:   3.5 Stars

Length:   352 Pages

Formats:   Print, eBook

Disclosure:   An ARC of this book was provided to me by Sourcebooks Casablanca publisher Sourcebooks via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.

What I Read...

Newly ascended vampire king Thad Morgan has spent weeks searching for the female who is prophesied to rule by his side as his queen. The last place he expected to find her was in a crowded industrial dance club in Orlando, a club stuffed with sweaty, writhing humans doing all manner of shocking things. Wait. Scratch that. The very last place was on an upper floor in said club, specifically the VIP room - surely some horrific euphemism for a porn palace given what's going on in there. Still, that's where he finds her, sitting on the lap of a human woman, running her hands over the woman's body and feeding from her neck as the woman writhes in pleasure.

Well. That's definitely...unexpected.

Regardless, Thad can't be dissuaded. The warlocks are a growing threat with their never-ending attacks and attempts to steal vampire power and destroy his race. His parents are dead, he's new to the throne, and the prophecy indicated he would come into his power only when he found and mated with his destined queen. Now more than ever, Thad needs to lead his people in the coming battles and he has to have her to do it.

Isabel Anthony sure as hell isn't royalty. In fact, she's spent her life living in the human world after her parents left their people to shelter her from the discrimination they experienced because of their lack of power. She's made a place for herself among humans, and she likes that place.

Facing the king of her kind and hearing all his wild talk about Oracles and prophecies only makes her want to run as far and as fast as she can away from it and him. But Thad has a point. Vampires are teetering on the edge, outnumbered by humans by the billions, hunted by warlocks. But that doesn't mean she's ready to toss away life as she's known it to rule by the side of a stranger, to be his mate. No matter how imposing and intense Thad is, and no matter the undeniable attraction she feels for the male. The best she can offer is to give him a chance to convince her.

Thad can only hope he can do so before the next wave of warlock attacks decimate more of his brethren. Including the female he's destined to pledge himself to forever.

What I Thought...

Though the story elements of this book fall into near perfect alignment with several of my most favored reading preferences, and the beginning of the book was particularly delightful with several nice twists on an old theme, King of Darkness left me with a feeling of, "I liked it, but..." as a whole. The opening chapters at the club were definitely a nice change. I can't even remember the last vampire book I read that didn't portray vampires as a highly sexual and voyeuristic race. To open the book with two strong warrior vampires being completely thrown by the salacious and sexual scenes they were witnessing struck me as both funny and unique. And I got more than a chuckle from Thad's abject confusion and horror over finding his future queen there.

Unfortunately, I had trouble sinking into the world that was being built and difficulty truly embracing the story, despite that. From the beginning, the narrative bounces around between several different character points of view and a couple of different plot threads. Readers have not just Thad, Isabel, and their storyline to focus on, but two or three other secondary characters, their storylines, and a few ancillary ones on top of that. Meanwhile the world-building is kept to the bare minimum and little in the way of exposition is provided to flesh out backstory and the main character development. It made it hard for me to get a handle on everything.

I would have loved each and every one of those other characters and their threads had they been introduced a bit later, or woven into the book's main plot with a bit more subtlety. There was a lot of great story in this book, no doubt, and I love complex, multi-layered stories with depth. The problem I had is that for me, the way they were initiated and interspersed throughout the book didn't heighten or elevate the main story arc of Thad and Isabel. They practically eclipsed it.

To be honest, a small part of that may also have been some minor disappointment in Thad and Isabel's characters. I had some trouble really getting a solid feel for either of them and was left thinking that Isabel was a bit inconsistent and Thad came off as an overly-emotional girl one time too many for my tastes. I mean, seriously, I'm an alpha-male-loving, kickass-heroine-favoring chick, and Thad's teary collapse into the fetal position when a growing pile of bad things start to overwhelm him didn't exactly make sit up and scream, "Come to mama, you bad boy, you!"

I thoroughly enjoyed the story elements surrounding Anton and Tyra, though. And I think Lee and Alexis have tons of potential for future development. I'm fairly sure I wasn't supposed to prefer reading about those four characters and how their lives intertwine as the story progresses, but I have to places, I kinda did. Total points to Staab, though, for giving me the only romantic lead character I've ever read in mainstream fiction who had to verify...with all manner of trepidation and concern...whether his destined mate was sexually attracted to his gender. So funny!

Though the world-building and the wizard's backstory in particular could have used some further fleshing out for my tastes, and I had some issues with the main characters here and there, the secondary characters and the introduction of their storylines offer a huge incentive to continue with this series. I think there's room for improvement in the way the book was pieced together, but the building blocks are there to help facilitate that as the series progress. I'm looking forward to seeing what Staab comes up with next.

Happy Reading! ~ Tracy

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