Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Title: Darkfever
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Series: Fever Series, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 31 October 2006

"My name is MacKayla, Mac for short. I'm a sidhe-seer, one who sees the Fae, a fact I accepted only recently and very reluctantly.

My philosophy is pretty simple - any day nobody's trying to kill me is a good day in my book. I haven't had many good days lately. Not since the walls between Man and Fae came down. But then, there's not a sidhe-seer alive who's had a good day since then."

When MacKayla's sister was murdered, she left a single clue to her death - a cryptic message on Mac's cel phone. Journeying to Ireland in search of answers, Ma is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to master a power she had no idea she possessed - a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae...

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister's death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysteriou Jericho...while at the same time, the ruthless V'lane - an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women - closes in on her. As the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac's true mission becomes clear: to find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book - because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control both worlds in their hands....
You want to believe in black and white, good and evil...but I've learned in the past year that things are rarely so simple.

If anyone hasn't read this series yet (WHY?!) I'm not going to spoil you here. The Fevers are best read, experienced, as they occur. So if you're thinking of diving in (and you really, really should), I recommend you don't even read the blurbs of the future books.

This series. Even now, 7 years since I first read it, I'm still in absolute awe of the brilliance of Karen Marie Moning. So much so that this is the first time I've ever tried, and been semi-successful, in revirwing it. She's created a truly epic story here. I picked it up on a whim. The title got me, the blurb hooked me.

My philosophy is pretty simple – any day nobody's trying to kill me is a good day in my book. I haven't had many good days -lately.

So started an incredibly tense, fascinating, speculation-filled four and a half year journey. I'll never regret picking up that first book when it was initially released. But I will also say that those of you starting it right now, are very, very lucky. The waiting was...intense. KMM ends some of these books with such horrible cliffhangers. And while I had to wait a year between each book, now everyone can devour from book 1, Darkfever to book 5, Shadowfever in a haze of sleepless nights that doesn't lift until you've turned the last page.

The story is told in first-person retrospective POV – definitely my first experience with that type of storytelling, and still probably one of my only. The 'retrospective' part of that description means that Mac is telling the story after she's finished, and there's comments of the 'if only I'd known' sort. I personally loved this, it gave me depth and more to think about, but I also think it will take others a lot of getting used to. The further I got into the story, the more sure I was that this series was going to make me think, and re-read for many years to come. On re-reads something is obvious that may not have been on my first read; KMM had this series so tightly written that clues and asides, notes and building blocks are there from the very start. Five books later I finally realized the significance of some things I'd learned in Darkfever. And even on this time there were little things that struck me anew.

Mac, short for MacKayla Lane, starts out an innocent, na├»ve, girl from the provincial, rural area of Georgia. A lot of people look at her and think Barbie, and they're not entirely wrong. Mac herself doesn't do a lot to subvert this opinion and frequently – in the beginning – doesn't think much beyond this of herself. She likes pink, sunning by the poolside, tending bar, eating her mom's home-cooking and generally leading as simple of a life as possible.

Then her sister, Alina, dies in Ireland. And Mac finds out there's a whole lot more to her. She has steel under the pink, frilly clothes and attitude. Watching her evolution, which is one that takes time, is so absolutely relatable. Her struggles as she comes to accept these new things happening, what she can do, and even what she needs to do, really drove the story for me. What we might not have realized at the beginning is that Mac is smart. More than just her looks, she's loves her family beyond any recognizable point, would do anything for them, and has the brains, the guts, and the sheer nerve to continue to push herself past her comfort zone. See Mac bluff… is a frequent thought of hers in this book, a necessary one to keep her alive and able; letting her continue her mission to find her sister's killer.

You may get sick of hearing about the Iceberry pink nail polish, or the pearls, skirts, and sandals Mac wears or misses wearing. You might be annoyed by her wishing she hadn't been pulled into such dangerous and trying times. Or when she goes somewhat reluctantly down this path she didn't even know existed. Maybe you'll want to smack her and make her see what's right in front of her. All reactions I've seen. Not mine though. Mac's reactions to what's around her felt utterly and completely real to me. From a normal world, like you and I live in, to suddenly seeing fae – monsters – sitting at a table in the same bar as her. Everything makes sense, has an order, and suddenly she's dealing with things from myth and legend. Faery tales, worse than any you could ever imagine. She may not always like what's happening to her, she may balk at the changes that are thrust upon her, but she always, always ends up doing what needs to be done. It's not easy, but she's still there. With every single experience she has you can see how it's changing her, affecting her and making her into the person she's to become. Her evolution, metamorphosis from pretty-in-pink Mac is done perfectly right. We get to see as she's pared down, each thing honing, shaping, sharpening. You start to see the person she is under all the glamor and polish. And I love her, too. It all makes me respect her; I don't think there are too terribly many people that could go from the sheltered life she started in, to where she ends up.

"Sometimes...one must break with one's past to embrace one's future. It is never an easy thing to do. It is one of the distinguishing characteristics between survivors and victims. Letting go of what was, to survive what is."

As Mac delves deeper into this complex world, we're right along with her. One of the beautiful bonuses with this is that there's never a moment that feels like an info-dump. Information is doled out, some of it even off-screen, and Mac then records it in her notebooks. Determined to keep an intricate, detailed record of what she's doing in case something happens to her, we see everything from her thoughts on the major players, to the fae species and their history – maybe even some things they forgot. Each piece intrigues; every single bit of information just makes you want more. By the end of this book, I had at least a dozen theories on what was going on, where things were, and who people were. Some of them contradictory, and every one could be supported by the text. One of my favorite things to do during the year wait for the next book was speculate, make grand theories, piece tidbits together. I had some doozies.

You heard me mention those 'other players'. Here's where Jericho Barrons comes in. None of them is more intriguing than the enigmatic Jericho Barrons. I don't even know where to begin. Damn. This man. From the very first moment he walked on the page I was in love with his arrogant, cocky, unapologetic, domineering, alpha male self. He's very used to getting everything he wants, when and how he wants it. Then Mac barrels into his bookstore one dusky evening. Little did they both know that meeting was a line of demarcation – as Mac is wont to call it – in both their lives.

He didn't just occupy space, he saturated it…

Barrons is a man of few words. He doles out information as if it's precious, and won't offer excuses, or reasons for why he does what he does, to anyone other than himself. There are explicit reasons for each action he takes, though. He's very precise, and calculating, someone that plans. He's a strategist at heart, you can tell he enjoys a good game of chess – on and off the board. He's absolutely never going to change to be what you want, he is who he is and makes no apologies, doesn't care what anyone thinks of him. Accept, or go the hell away. And even while I'm wondering if he can be trusted, all I want to do is sidle up closer to him.

He wasn't handsome, that was too calm a word. He was intensely masculine. He was sexual. He attracted.

All of that, all these words in this attempt at a review, and I've barely scratched the tip of the iceberg. This book, this series, is intricate and complex. It's filled with mystery, drama, questions and treasure hunts. There's danger around nearly every corner, and surprises mixed throughout. It's little wonder this is one of my favorite series.

On this re-read, finally, I'm attempting to review each book. Hopefully you'll be seeing the rest of them here soon.

Amazon | BN | kobo | Sony | Goodreads

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