Darkfever: Don’t judge a book by its cover

fantasy book reviews Karen Marie Moning 1. DarkfeverKaren Moning DarkfeverDarkfever by Karen Marie Moning

I am embarrassed to admit that for years I have judged Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series by its covers (and even by the covers of Moning’s other books), dismissing it every time I saw it. Then Kelly, whose opinion I esteem, recommended the Fever series and, simultaneously, Brilliance Audio sent me the last volume to review. So I decided to get the first book, Darkfever on audio, and give it a try.

MacKayla (Mac) Lane is a delightfully shallow Southern girl who we meet as she’s tanning herself by the pool in her pink bikini. She works as a bartender, takes some college classes, loves her parents, eats a lot, and adores her Juicy Couture purse. The biggest stressor in Mac’s life is her fear that Revlon might discontinue her favorite pink nail polish.

But reality hits when Mac finds out that her big sister, who’s also her best friend, has been murdered in an alley in Dublin. Devastated by her loss, frustrated by the lack of closure offered by the Dublin police, and spurred on by a cryptic clue on her voicemail, Mac sets off for Dublin to get some answers. She leaves behind her grieving and panicked parents.

When Mac arrives in Dublin, her pink princess life suddenly turns into a dark underground world of deadly shades, life-sucking faeries, dangerous black-market relics, and powerful magic. When she meets Jericho Barrons, a wealthy and mysterious bookstore owner, he warns her to leave, but Mac is determined to get answers and the more she learns, the scarier it gets.

I was immediately drawn to Mac, understanding the culture she comes from and being completely convinced of her authenticity. Mac is charming and funny, is concerned about maintaining decorum, and expects to receive Southern Hospitality wherever she goes. Her personality, manners, and wardrobe worked well for her debutante life in Georgia, but when she hits the wealthy and sophisticated section of Dublin, she seems like a Barbie doll. As Barrons puts it, she’s “a walking, talking catastrophe in pink.” But she’s so real — grieving over her sister, concerned about her frightened parents, realizing that she’s shallow, and knowing she doesn’t have what it takes to save the world.

Also impressive is the complete lack, so far, of a romance. I know it’s coming, but it’s not at all obvious that it’s being set up. At this point the focus is firmly on the plot and the world-building. While I welcome a romance, I find that fantasy novels that are set up around the romance (often what we get from books found next to Moning’s on the paranormal shelf) are usually weak in the areas of plot and world-building, and this is why I had dismissed the Fever series for so long. But I was wrong about this one. Darkfever is a fast-paced, compulsively readable novel with a relatable heroine, a wonderful setting, and a plot that’s full of tension of the non-romantic type. Now that this solid foundation has been laid, adding romantic tension on top will be a bonus to the plot instead of a burden.

This audiobook was read by Joyce Bean whose voice and acting skills easily range from Sweet Georgia Peach to Cultured Irish Alpha Male. Really impressive. I’m looking forward to the next audiobook, Bloodfever.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. I’m so glad you liked this one! I’m convinced Moning puts some sort of addictive drug in the ink…

  2. I started book 2 this morning. There is something mesmerizing about it.

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