Derik's Bane, by MaryJanice Davidson

>> Friday, August 18, 2006

I've heard mixed feedback about Derik's Bane (excerpt), by MaryJanice Davidson, but since it's part of her Wyndham Werewolves series, and I loved the first story in that series (Love's Prisoner, in the Secrets Vol. 6 anthology), I thought I'd give it a try.

Derik's a werewolf with alpha issues - and a body to die for. Sara is the personification of evil. Now, if they could just stop drooling over each other long enough to save the world...
My reaction to this one is basically "meh". It's a fast, undemanding read, and it's got some nicely funny parts, but ultimately, it was empty calories. A C+.

Derik Gardner is part of the Wyndham werewolf pack, headed by Michael (hero of the short story I mention above). Michael's an excellent alpha, and Derik has no complaints about the way he's been heading the pack (actually, the man's his best friend), but lately he's been feeling very clear indications that he's an alpha, too. He knows that if he doesn't get out of the way, he won't be able to keep himself from challenging Michael and one of them probably wouldn't survive that.

So when one of the members of the pack, a foreteller who has never been wrong before, prophesies that the end of the world is approaching, unless Derek goes off to California and takes care of a woman who happens to be a reincarnated Morgan Le Fay, Derek agrees to go.

But when he arrives at the house of Dr. Sara Gunn, the purported evil sorceress who will destroy the world if left unchecked, he can't kill her. At first he does try, and he literally can't, but it's a half-hearted attempt at best. After that, he can't kill her because he's too attracted to her for that, plus, the whole story doesn't feel right. So these two simply join forces (even though Sara doesn't really believe the preposterous story, there have been too many weird coincidences in her life lately) and travel accross the country, where they will supposedly get to the bottom of things.

On the positive side, this was a very entertaining read, which moved along quite nicely. The banter was fun, full of witty one-liners, and I did like the humour, especially because MJD has a sense of the absurd that is quite appealing to me.

But... this basically worked MUCH better for me as comedy than as a romance. I just didn't feel the romance at all. It felt to me as if MJD was barely skimming the surface of what these two were feeling, never really giving us any depth. I know, I know, this was probably intended that way, intended to be more zippy plot than character-driven romance, but such shallowness in the romance didn't work for me at all.

Plus, her characters have began to sound all alike to me, even though I've been consciously trying to space her books out (and I don't mean a couple of weeks... I try not to read more than one of her books every few months). This is especially bad with her heroines. Her heroes have managed to retain some individuality, but her heroines are all like one mind in several different bodies.

Another negative is that the plot really went out of control at the end. I know it was meant to be fun and crazy, not anything that would hold up to close scrutiny, but this was too much. Crazy or not, it had been working for me up until then, but by the end of the book, I was left wondering what the hell had happened.

I will probably still read a MJD book every now and then, because in the end, this wasn't a bad way to spend a couple of hours, but my expectations keep going down.


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