KMM: Darkfever

As I was reading and writing about Karen Marie Moning’s “Highlander” books, I kept seeing things out of the corner of my eye about the Fever series.  Things about how absolutely incredible it was, how much people loved it, how amazing it was, omg.  I smiled indulgently, thinking how nice it was that readers were so very loyal to KMM.  I had the first book, Darkfever, sitting by waiting for me to get to a stopping point with other books, and I expected it to be as much fun as the other KMMs, more urban fantasy than fantasy romance, and enjoyable. 

It was incredible.  I loved it.  It was amazing.  And, yes: omg. 

My mind is very slightly blown by how good it was, and how thoroughly it exceeded expectation.  Oh, it wasn’t perfect – not by a long mark.  But it ranks among some of the best urban fantasy, I think.

MacKayla Lane’s life is pretty and nice, and she loves her parents (with whom she lives) and her sister Alina, who has gone off to Ireland to study.  Mac fits the KMM heroine mold – pretty and blonde and petite, though Mac knows how pretty she is, not something common to the others – and I settled in with the expectation of more of the same.  She loves makeup and clothes and her iPod to a point that I can see how some would come to hate her – but the poor thing is perfectly happy being shallow and superficial, and she is after all very young.

(I love that on KMM’s website Mac is represented by Kristen Bell, of Veronica Mars fame.  It’s perfect – the blonde blue-eyed wide-eyed appearance, and steel within the magnolia.  That would be awfully nice casting.  There are breadcrumbs out there leading toward a movie adaptation of the series.  Dear Casting Director: Kristen Bell please.)

Then word comes from Ireland that Mac’s sister has been murdered, and most of the pretty and nice goes out of her life.  She finds a strange, cryptic message on her cell phone – abruptly, ominously cut off – and the guilt of the idea that she could have at least talked to her sister before the end drives Mac to go against her parents’ wishes and head to Ireland to put a living face on the investigation, which isn’t going anywhere.  So, young, naive, clueless, never having been out of America before, off she goes – and promptly gets in over her head. 

In the cell phone message, Alina mentioned something that has to be kept out of “their” hands, and that’s part of where Mac decides to start.  Problem is, the word Alina uses is completely unfamiliar, Gaelic perhaps, and Gaelic is never a good language to try to spell phonetically; internet and library searches are fruitless.  Mac wanders about trying to find a tiny crack in the impenetrable wall of Alina’s death, and in her wandering tries out the possibly-Gaelic word on a few native Gaels, in hopes that someone will recognize it.  It’s a realistic plan, for someone in her position; it’s logical.  Unfortunately, first a stop in a pub in which she has trouble keeping her eyes off a particularly gorgeous man results in a very strange and rather frightening tirade from an old lady – and then the query about the Gaelic-sounding thing in a bookshop at the outskirts of a weirdly empty neighborhood results in a rather more startling reaction from the shop owner. 

This is Jericho Barrons, and he fits the mold of the KMM hero pretty well: he’s huge, and saturnine, and handsome … but there it ends.  While there is some off-kilter chemistry between him and Mac, it does not develop – and this is a good thing.  Mac is very young, and very naive, and deep in mourning, and really really hates Barrons from the beginning, with good reason, though a partnership develops – keeping their relationship professional is necessary.  For now, at least.  Barrons isn’t what he first appears, or what he secondly appears; that’s something to be explored in the series. 

In fact, there isn’t a sex scene in the book, as such.  I was amazed by that almost as much as I was by how I enjoyed the story, given every book KMM has put out.  The closest the book comes is in Mac’s encounters with one of the Fae, Vlane, who exudes lust – his mere presence leads to catastrophic loss of clothing by any female he singles out, and it’s only by chance and sheer will that Mac doesn’t succumb to his siren call.  The scenes describing their encounters have a strong element of farce – but at the same time they’re disturbingly scary.  
The story was good, though it was a little annoying that the origins were not anything the “Highlander” series accounted for (unless I seriously missed something).  It’s the beginning of something (and I chuckled at one review I saw out there in which the reader was steamed that there were no neat resolutions.  “Series”, dear heart.  Look it up.)  I like that the good guys’ team seems very small so far, though there is room for expansion, while the bad guys are numerous and very, very dangerous: what they are capable of is horrifying.  (I.e.: That wasn’t parchment.)  There is a lot of room to grow in the series – and having said that I need to riff on it, because growth is what has occurred since that first “Highlander” book.  That series was play, practice, prologue.  The Fever series is what grew out of that.

I came within half an inch of spending money I didn’t have to get the rest of the books in the series, but reined it in.  The income tax refund is coming, and I can wait.

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