Beyond the Pale: Stupid heroine ruins the plot

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Savannah Russe The Darkwing Chronicles . Beyond the PaleBeyond the Pale by Savannah Russe

Savannah Russe starts with an original premise: What if a vampire became a spy for the U.S. government? Daphne Urban has survived five hundred years and schmoozed with royalty and Romantic poets. These days, though, she’s suffering from ennui. When the government makes her an offer she can’t refuse, she’s resistant at first, but soon realizes her new job is the most excitement she’s had in over a century.

Trouble is, Daphne makes a rather bumbling spy. I realize she’s new to the whole secret agent thing, but this is a character who supposedly has a genius IQ, and who has hundreds of years of experience disguising herself as human and navigating court intrigue. I’m no master spy myself, but I’d like to think I’d know better than to start mouthing off about my mission to a near-stranger just because he looked like Brad Pitt and claimed to work for a government agency. She trusts people when she shouldn’t. She goes it alone when she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Most importantly, her brains fly right out of her head whenever an attractive man is present.

Maybe I’d have liked Beyond the Pale better if Daphne’s mistakes had resulted in disastrous consequences and she’d learned from them. Instead, everything gets wrapped up too neatly, and Daphne gets to pat herself on the back at the end.

Savannah Russe’s prose is perfectly serviceable, and her ideas are creative. I’d consider reading other books by Russe… as long as they’re not about Daphne.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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