{Review} Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series is a favorite of Urban Fantasy fans—and I can see why—but I was left both intrigued and frustrated.

The Fever series has been recommended to me by a number of folks, most recently Tatiana of The Readventurer and Goodreads fame, who answered my desperate plea for a good adult read (I get sucked into the YA rabbit-hole easily). Darkfever follows southern bell, aspiring Barbie MacKayla (Mac) as she travels to Ireland to pressure the local authorities to further investigate her sister’s murder. She stumbles into a hidden side of Dublin, and eventually (albeit under duress) teams up with the mysterious Jericho Barrons. Together, they seek out the seediest of Dublin’s fae underbelly while Mac discovers her own unique abilities.

The world, atmosphere and setting in Darkfever is top-notch. 

If I’d known that this novel was set in Ireland, I would have likely read it a long time ago. I went to grad school in Dublin, and the city is absolutely perfect for a creepy urban fantasy. It’s wet, it’s dark, it’s old, it’s full of legends and weird cobbled streets. Dublin has a quality that’s just plain eerie, and with Moning’s fabulous description, I completely believed that evil fae were wandering around creating havoc on Dublin’s streets. 

Who knew what lurked behind those broken windows? Who knew what crouched beyond that half-opened door?

Seriously eerie, right? Whenever the narrative focused on description of the city, of its environment, I was completely swept into the story.

Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time wanting to shake some sense into Mac.

Mac is younger than a lot of Urban Fantasy leads—early twenties—so it’s expected that she’d be lacking in some maturity. However, she drove me nuts all the time—it felt like her brain was full of rainbows, unicorns and Aqua Net. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, but the book is written from Mac’s point-of-view, and as a result, I felt stuck in a headspace that wasn’t entirely enjoyable.  

I couldn’t wear a bra because the underwire hurt too much, so I’d layered a lacy camisole trimmed with dainty roses beneath a pink sweater that complemented my Razzle-Dazzle-Hot-Pink-Twist manicure and pedicure. Black capris, a wide silver belt, silver sandals, and a small metallic Juicy Couture purse I’d saved all last summer to buy completed my outfit. I’d swept my long blonde hair up in a high ponytail, secured by a pretty enameled clip. I might be feeling bruised and bewildered, but by God I looked good. Like a smile that I didn’t really feel, presenting a together appearance made me feel more together inside, and I badly needed bolstering today.

I get it Mac, you’re blond, attractive and braless. [*eye roll*] Internal monologues like this about hair, clothes and nail polish fill the pages of Darkfever and it drove me absolutely nuts. With that said, it does set up the series in terms of character growth—Mac’s got nowhere to go but up, right? [*fingers crossed*] And that was my biggest problem with spending time with Mac—really, really bad stuff happens and she didn’t grow or change at all through the book. 

While much of the writing is quite good, there are the occasional breaks in the narrative in which Mac addresses what Future Mac thinks about the present circumstances. This is a narrative technique that invariably bothers me, and it was quite disruptive as I was reading, because it never added anything to the plot or to my understanding of Mac’s character. And, even more annoyingly, Mac stops and addresses the reader, which is doubly infuriating, 

I shut up. I told you pride is my special little challenge.

 

I was also left perplexed as to how to feel about “mysterious” Barrons.

From stalking Goodreads reviewers, I knew that Barrons was a favorite Urban Fantasy character and after reading the first book in this series, I just didn’t get it. We get very little insight into his world and when we do, he seems controlling and cagey. While Moning tells us (later in the book) that Barrons is trying to help keep Mac safe, I never really believed in his motivation,  

He nodded. “Obey me, Ms. Lane,” he said, “and I will keep you alive.”

I’m assuming that eventually Mac and Barrons get together, and if that’s the case, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with this as the foundation of their relationship. Even if Mac is a bona fide ditz, there’s something in this initial dynamic that leaves a bad taste in my mouth,

And I suspected this had been part of Barrons’ plan all along: to shave down my options, to whittle away my choices until he’d left me only one—to need him to survive. 

Isn’t this the definition of abuse?

Those of you who’ve read this series: How am I supposed to feel about Barrons? Have I missed something completely?

There is absolutely no resolution to any plotline within the pages of Darkfever.

Even when a series is five novels long, I tend to expect some level of closure on something, even if it’s minor plot points. However, so much is left open-ended that the book really reads like a prequel, setting up the next four books. Not knowing this when I started Darkfever, I was pretty frustrated by the time I reached the end. 

(Oh, and one more thing: The scenes with Vlane grossed me out. You know what I mean if you’ve read the book.)

Ultimately, I loved the setting and atmosphere Moning created in Darkfever, and though I didn’t care for any of the characters, my interest was piqued just enough that I’ll pick up the second book, Bloodfever. 

Verdict: Meh, verging on Recommended; I’ll definitely check out the second book, however.

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