Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Fever Series – Part I

A Captivating Partnership of Two Unsympathetic Protagonists in the Fever Series.
February 19, 2011
Books: First three books in the series.
  • Darkfever (2006)
  • Bloodfever (2007)
  • Faefever (2008)

Author: Karen Marie Moning  
Narrator: Joyce Bean    

Summary: MacKayla Lane is a 22-year-old, all-American girl, whose happy-go-luck life takes a turn for the worse when her older sister, Alina, is killed in Dublin while studying abroad.  When weeks later Mac discovers a frantic voicemail Alina left her just hours before her estimated time of death, Mac hops on a plane to Dublin to solve Alina’s murder and to take revenge. Little does Mac know that her world is about to change forever.

Shortly after arriving to Dublin, Mac starts thinking she’s losing her mind.  She sees creatures – some gruesomely hideous, some fatally gorgeous – walking among humans undetected.  In her quest to decipher Alina’s voicemail and to discover what in the world is this Sinsar Dubh (pronounced “she-sah-dew”) that Alina wanted her to find, Mac runs into a mysterious, rich, and attractive book store owner, Jericho Barrons, who explains to Mac that she is a sidhe-seer (one who can see past the glamore of the fae), a null (one who can freeze the fae), and an “oop” detector (one who can sense fae “objects of power”).  The Sinsar Dubh is such an object of power, and Mac is the only known person who has the ability to sense it.  These three gifts make her highly valuable to Barrons, who wants the Sinsar Dubh for reasons unknown.  They also make her a target for others who thirst for the Sinsar Dubh, including V’lane, a fae death-by-sex prince, and the “Lord Master,” Alina’s former lover and probably her murderer.

Comments:  I hate ice cream.  I hate coffee.  But I love coffee-flavored ice cream.  I don’t know why, that’s just how it works.  That sums up how I feel about Mac and Barrons separately and how I feel about them together in the first three books of the Fever Series.

Mac is a well-adjusted blond, tanned, big-breasted, good-looking bartender from some podunk town in rural Georgia, whose greatest worry prior to her sister’s death is whether Revlon will disconnect her favorite shade of nail polish.  No, she is not Charlaine Harris’s famed Sookie Stackhouse simply because she has a deep South accent.  She doesn’t have that hard edge that comes from poverty, orphanhood, and social shunning that Sookie has.  Instead, she is Blanche DuBois of Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire.  She’s an old-fashioned Southern girl who loves pink and rainbows, and genteel manners.  Mac isn't so much interested in saving the world as making it a prettier place. She plans to get married, stay home in the South, and have babies someday. When Mac has to decide between cutting and dying her hair and, well, dying, she has to think about it.  

In the first three books, Mac finds herself in Dublin, desperately try to cling to her pre-Dublin life and its social mores that no longer apply, much like Blanche does when arriving in an industrial, working-class New Orleans.  Like Blanche, Mac may have a certain appeal to the listener, but it is not particularly sympathetic with the exception of her feelings for her sister.  Unlike Blanche, Mac changes, adepts, and survives in her new world.  It is within this change that the listener connects with Mac, and this change is only brought about by her partnership with a most unsympathetic character of Jericho Barrons.

If Mac is Blanche, Barrons is Stanley Kowalski.  At first, Jericho Barrons appears to be a man of 30 years old.  However, we learn in Faefever that the man is centuries old at least.  Karen Marie Moning doesn’t tell us much about Barrons in the first three books, which makes connecting with him difficult. We know tidbits about him here and there. We know he has money, power and influence. We know he steals things and kills people without remorse. We know he’s mean, stronger than a human, has the Druid power of voice and the ability to cast wards.  We know the shades don’t hurt him, V’lane fears him, and the Lord Master acquiesces to him.  But in these books, we don’t know the how and the why. Barrons just is. 

Separately, these two characters are either static.  Together, they are downright interesting.  The chemistry between Mac and Barrons is synergistic. From the beginning, Karen Marie Moning makes no secret that her narrator, Mac, finds Barrons attractive and extremely suspicious.  She also makes it clear that Barrons, who insists on calling Mac “Ms. Lane,” purposefully seeks to distance himself emotionally by pretending that he is only interested in Mac for her oop-detecting super sidhe-seeing powers. Their relationship grows and changes throughout in a way that makes both characters more sympathetic and very appealing to the reader. Like in Jane Austin's Emma, the heroine and the love interest bring the best out of each other. Their interaction drives the stories, from Barrons’s increasing possessiveness (the man tattoos Mac without her knowledge, for crying out loud!), to Mac’s feelings of home for Barron’s book store and her feelings for the man himself (she lights a birthday cake for Barrons aware that she has no idea how old he is or whether Halloween is really his birthday).

Other Comments:  Take a good, hard look at this early cover for Darkfever, the first book. 

Now be honest: Is this what you’re interested in?  The romance fantasy rather than the urban fantasy?   Then do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to book 4: Dreamfever. There is, as Chris Rock puts it, No Sex in the Champagne Room, and no sex in the first three books of this series (except for the very end of Book 3, but again, if that’s what you’re looking for, just grab Book 4).

The first three books are written in a style where Mac is basically talking to the reader.  This means she will make comments like, “and right now, I’m about to have the second worst day of my life,” and “if I only knew then that that was the last normal day I would have.”  These tension-breakers go with Mac’s character as whole, and some, like “others would later use my phrase” when she starts calling sections taken over by the dark fae as “the dark zones,” foreshadow Mac’s influence in the future.  However, as noted above with Barrons, a lot is simply not explained in the first three books.  This means that some of these lines, like when Barron comes in with blood on his hands and a story about a dying pet he returned to its owner and Mac says “I’ll later learn the blood was human” – well, later never comes, so don’t wait for an explanation.

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