Cassandra Peters is the last of her family's bloodline. It has been prophesied that when she dies all her people, both Apollite and Daimon alike will finally be freed from their curse. Because of her Apollite heritage, Cassandra will most likely die at the unnaturally young age of 27, but has spent the better part of her life running from both races who are trying to hasten the process by hunting her down and killing her. Just when Cassandra thought she was leading a more normal life, a group of Daimon assassins appear at the nightclub where she is enjoying an evening out with friends. To her surprise, a man she recognizes as a Dark-Hunter, the mortal enemy of her people, shows up just in time to save her life. Cassandra feels drawn to him, and in the aftermath of the battle, follows him out to the street where they share a passionate kiss, but a few minutes later, she can't remember why she came outside.
Wulf Tryggvason was a Viking warrior who was turned into a Dark-Hunter centuries ago. There is a curse upon him that makes everyone forget he exists five minutes after he leaves their presence. Only the other Dark-Hunters and humans from his family bloodline can remember who he is, and Wulf only has one family member left. It is a lonely existence, so when the beautiful blonde comes running after him following his routing of the Daimons in the club, he can't help but wonder what it might be like if she could just remember him. Wulf begins having strange dreams in which he is making love to her, and unbeknowst to him, Cassandra is having the exact same dream. When they meet again, Wulf is shocked to find that Cassandra actually does remember him. When Cassandra is attacked again by a group of powerful Spathi Daimons, Wulf is, to his dismay, ordered by his leader, Acheron, to protect her. As they find themselves on the run from their would-be killers, Wulf and Cassandra begin to develop feelings for one another, but it seems almost impossible that two people who are sworn enemies could ever have a successful relationship. Even if they can work out their differences and avoid being killed in the process, Cassandra is fated to die on her birthday in just a matter of months, and no one seems to know if there is any possible way to extend her lifespan besides her becoming one of the hated Daimons that Wulf is honor-bound to kill.
Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series has been rather hit and miss with me, and although I can't say that Kiss of the Night was the best book I've read in the series so far, it was pretty good overall. That's not to say that I didn't do quite a bit of eye-rolling during the first half of the story, because there were certainly some things that provoked my incredulity even for a fantasy world. There are things that happened which I felt stretched the bounds of credibility, even of what had previously been revealed about Dark-Hunter mythology. Ms. Kenyon seems to have a penchant for making things occur for the convenience of the plot that she then does not explain very well. I don't really care much for this as a story-telling style, because it seems too lazy to me. While it is readily apparent that Ms. Kenyon has a vivid imagination, I sometimes wish she would reign it in a little to give her world a bit more clarity.
Normally, I avoid giving away major spoilers for the books I read, but I had serious issues with two of the main plot points in Kiss of the Night that I felt needed to be addressed, so if readers don't want to be spoiled, don't read this paragraph of my review. ************SPOILER ALERT************* First, Wulf apparently did not become a Dark-Hunter in the usual way (ie Artemis became the keeper of his soul upon his death, and he is given one act of vengeance and immortality in exchange for a lifetime of service to her). Instead Wulf apparently never died but made some kind of soul switch with a Dark-Huntress who he slept with all those centuries ago. This never made any sense to me at all, because Dark-Hunters don't have a soul to switch in the first place. Then it was stated that Wulf still had a soul which is why he wasn't bound to Artemis in the same way as other Dark-Hunters, but in the end Acheron said his soul was being held by the Norse god, Loki. All this was incredibly confusing to me, and I finally gave up trying to figure it all out. The second thing I took issue with is the first two love scenes of the book that resulted in Cassandra's subsequent pregnancy. Wulf and Cassandra's love-making was apparently completely engineered by Artemis and took place inside their dreams without them knowing that it was "for real." Since neither of them was a consciously willing participant, this kind of weirded me out. The other thing that bothered me about all this was that Wulf was able to impregnate Cassandra in a dream (How on earth did that happen?). Also, Wulf believed himself sterile since all Dark-Hunters are supposed to be, but he conveniently had one of those loopholes I mentioned. The idea that he didn't know he was able to father children, and had likely had numerous unprotected sexual encounters for the last twelve centuries yet had never gotten a single woman pregnant really stretched the bounds of my ability to suspend disbelief. I was also a bit annoyed that early in the story Ms Kenyon's answer to Wulf's soul-switch was merely, "some things are inexplicable," and as to Cassandra getting pregnant in a dream, she had a secondary character make a flippant comment about this being fantasy not reality. I began to wonder if the author was just poking fun, but I really need for things like this to make sense even in the fantasy realm and not just be left unexplained. ************END SPOILER ALERT*************
By the second half of the book, there was less focus on the two above issues, so I was able to put them on the back burner and just enjoy the rest the story for what it was. There was quite a bit of excitement with Wulf and Cassandra going on the run from the evil Spathi Daimons, the occurrence of a blessed event, and the quest to find a "cure" for Cassandra's curse that would leave her dead on her next birthday which was only a matter of months away. I thought the action scenes improved a bit and weren't quite as B-movie cheesy as they had been earlier, and with Wulf and Cassandra's consciousnesses fully engaged, the love scenes were much better for me too. I loved how Ms. Kenyon brought back all the main Dark-Hunters from the previous books to help Wulf in his hour of need, but what I liked most about this half of the book is all the depth that was added to the Apollites and Daimons. Up to this point, they have been the mortal enemies of the Dark-Hunters, and somewhat demonized as the bad guys. With Cassandra being half-Apollite, readers get a whole new perspective on her race and are given a lot of food for thought about what constitutes true evil versus someone doing something that seems evil for the sake of survival. It made me wonder if this union between an Apollite and a Dark-Hunter may be the beginning of something bigger happening in the overarching plotline of the series.
As for the hero and heroine, Wulf and Cassandra, I liked them, but I thought they needed a little something more to make them stand out. Wulf was a Viking warrior who has some regrets about certain choices he made before becoming immortal, and has had to bear the burden of watching all his brother's descendants (his only blood kin) die for the last twelve centuries until he now only has one relative left. Wulf also bears the curse that no one can remember him five minutes after he leaves the room except the Dark-Hunters and humans who are related to him by blood, so he has lived a pretty lonely existence. Once Cassandra was able to remember him (another one of those convenient loopholes), I felt like the author dropped the ball a bit on this, and it might have been interesting to see more of how this curse affected him. Although it was another of those things that was sketchy and confusing to me, apparently Cassandra is the last direct descendant of Apollo's bloodline and there is a prophecy that if she dies all Apollites and Daimons will be freed from their curse, hence why they are both hunting her. What they don't know though, is that if she dies, the world will end too. Cassandra has lived her entire life running from the Daimons, and has watched all her family members except her human father die at their hands. Now she is trying to find a way to extend her unnaturally short lifespan of a mere 27 years. Cassandra is also a brave warrior in her own right, and takes an admirable "glass-half-full" approach to life. Overall, Wulf and Cassandra's relationship was nice with some tender moments between them that I liked, but I still wasn't able to entirely buy into their love connection. I think things just happened too quickly in the beginning, and there weren't enough deeper relationship building scenes to really make their romance spark off the pages for me.
As with all the Dark-Hunter books, there are tons of secondary characters both old and new. The characters from previous stories who appear in Kiss of the Night include: Acheron, Simi, Artemis, Talon (Night Embrace), Spawn (first seen in Dance with the Devil), Julian (Fantasy Lover), Kyrian (Night Pleasures), and Zarek (Dance with the Devil) who I was glad to see has not lost his anti-social nature and sardonic wit. Two new characters who become the heroes of future stories were introduced: Dante, a were-panther, whose story can be found in Winter Born (from the Stroke of Midnight anthology); and Stryker, the leader of the Spathi Daimons, whose story is One Silent Night, although he behaved so evilly in Kiss of the Night, it will be interesting to see how the author manages to redeem him. There were several other interesting supporting characters who made a first appearance. At this time they don't have their own stories, but I hope to perhaps see more of them through the course of the series: Urian, Stryker's son; D'Aria, the first female Dream-Hunter; and Kat, Cassandra's mysterious bodyguard whose real identity was left hanging. I reread the ending more than once, but it seemed that she simply disappeared not long after Ash had said something which put her true alliances into question. Last but not least was Chris, Wulf's squire and last living relative. I loved him because he's funny, geeky and totally irreverent toward Wulf, and since I adore geeks, I wouldn't have minded seeing an HEA for him too.
In my opinion, Sherrilyn Kenyon has a tendency to introduce a lot of new characters and mythology instead of more effectively utilizing what she already has on the canvas, often making me feel like I need a Dark-Hunter encyclopedia to keep up. I can't say that I'm really getting used to it being this way, but I think I'm coming to expect it which may be making it a little easier to take. The plot of Kiss of the Night was a little thin especially during the first half making it a little slow-moving, but the second half held my attention well and made me warm up to the story and characters. I think this was meant to be something of a transition book with it's main purpose being the addition of details to the Apollite and Daimon mythology. I actually enjoyed this, because unlike some of Ms. Kenyon's other myth add-ons, I felt like this greatly expanded the character development of these races rather than just being there for the sake of the plot. Kiss of the Night is book #4 in the Dark-Hunter series, but it essentially takes place simultaneously with Night Embrace and Dance with the Devil and then expands upon that time frame. In fact, Kiss of the Night has a near word-for-word replay of the phone conversation between Wulf and Talon from the beginning of Night Embrace, as well as the mention of some of the major events from those two books. Even though I had some problems with Kiss of the Night, it was entertaining enough to be generally enjoyable, and I plan to continue with the series. In any case, I'll likely keep going at least until I reach Acheron, because I simply must know the mystery behind the enigma that is Ash. There are currently a total of 19 full-length novels in the Dark-Hunter series and quite a number of related novellas and graphic novels as well, with more still to come. A complete list of all the books and their recommended reading order can be found on Sherrilyn Kenyon's website.
Note: Ms. Kenyon has changed the ordering and organization of her Dark-Hunter series twice this year (2009). We will endeavor to keep up with any future changes as well, but readers are advised to check her website for the most up-to-date information on the series.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook