Mikhail Dubrinsky is the leader of his vampire-like race, the Carpathians. As a male of his species, he cannot see in color nor feel any emotions, and will drift further and further into utter darkness, both physical and mental, until he meets his true life mate. Female Carpathians are very few and those that exist have had difficulty producing female offspring or any offspring, for that matter, that is able to survive beyond the first year of life. The situation for Carpathian males has become dire, and when the darkness becomes too great to bear, their only choices are to turn vampire or walk into the sunlight. Mikhail has just reached this point and is contemplating suicide, when a sweet voice enters his head, giving him hope and pleading with him to reconsider.
Raven Whitney is a psychic who has spent her whole life feeling like a freak. She has been using her gift to assist the police in finding several serial killers, but her work has taken a terrible mental and emotional toll on her. She has gone to the ancient Carpathian mountains looking for healing and a little R&R, and finds much more when she feels deep despair emanating from someone nearby. She opens a psychic link with Mikhail, only to find him soon coming to the inn where she is staying and whisking her away to his mansion in the forest. They immediately connect with one another in a firestorm of desire, and Raven is pleasantly surprised to discover that sharing touches with Mikhail doesn't hurt her the way it normally does when she touches another human being. He also shares and understands her psychic gift, but Raven realizes that he is much more powerful than her. She may not know exactly who or what Mikhail is, but she senses danger especially after her telepathic connection reveals that Mikhail's sister has just been murdered. The assassins are closer than they think, putting both Mikhail and Raven in grave danger. Mikhail also senses that Raven is his life mate, but no human woman has ever been successfully turned Carpathian, making Mikhail reluctant to try, but he may not be given a choice.
In all honesty, I had been looking forward to trying Christine Feehan's books for quite some time, so the fact that Dark Prince did not resonate with me, is incredibly disappointing. I freely admit that perhaps my expectations were too high. The positive ratings for Ms. Feehan's books seem to far outweigh the negative, and I've seen many paranormal romance fans rave about her stories and hold them up as being among the best and brightest that the genre has to offer. Unfortunately, even though I truly thought I would enjoy this book, Ms. Feehan's writing style simply did not work for me. Most authors use page breaks to indicate scene or point-of-view changes, but Ms. Feehan tends to run everything together. There are significant jumps between activities where they might be doing one thing in one paragraph and something else in the next, or you might be reading one characters point-of-view and in the next paragraph it suddenly changes to a different character. The dialog is incredibly flowery and lacked a natural flow. The manner in which the characters speak to one another is nothing like the way anyone I know would ever converse. It never came alive for me, and I have to say that these discourses were some of the dullest I've ever read in any book, not just romance. The prose is also far too verbose with a flood of words present, but not much actually being said. In my opinion, the book probably could have been pared down by at least a third and most likely told a much stronger story. In addition, the entire novel has an extremely passive voice which did not lend itself well to me as a reader being able to relate to the characters. I recently read a writer's tip which said that in order for an author to avoid the dreaded "telling not showing," he/she should minimize the use of "be" verbs. Apparently Ms. Feehan nor her editor were aware of this rule, because I would estimate her use of "be" verbs to be about twice that of actions verbs with a particular affinity for the word "was." The result was a book in which there was minimal action and worse yet, very little plot, and that which existed never really pulled me into the story. In fact, it completely failed to engage my imagination or intellect in any meaningful way, leaving me pretty bored throughout nearly the entire novel.
Before beginning my reading of Dark Prince, I had found the things I'd heard about the Carpathian world to be rather intriguing and thought that it would be a fun and stimulating mythology to delve into. The concepts certainly had a great deal of promise, but unfortunately, I found the execution to be lacking. For all of the author's excess wordiness there was still an appalling lack of details on virtually everything, characters, setting and plot. In my opinion, the whole Carpathian mythos was relatively ill-defined, mainly consisting of vague, fuzzy notions instead of good, solid world-building. The actual age of the Carpathians is not revealed (they are simply said to be centuries old), and I never fully understood how everything worked as far as the differences between Carpathians and vampires except that apparently vampires are Carpathians gone bad. Also, except for one theory that was very briefly stated by Gregori, there is no real explanation as to why Raven is able to be turned Carpathian when they had never been successful in turning any other human woman in all the long centuries of the past. I additionally felt that a bit too many supernatural abilities were afforded to one single species, with the Carpathians being vampire-like creatures who are also shape-shifters, psychics and can control both the elements and animals. I thought that this only added to the muddled nature of the Carpathian legends rather than helping to define them as a race. The Old World European setting should have been rich in both history and beauty, but the environmental descriptions were another thing that lacked detail. This part of the narrative was minimal at best, making it very difficult for me to imagine the settings.
I can't say that I ever really warmed up to Mikhail and Raven as the hero and heroine either. Mikhail is probably one of the most (if not the most) arrogant and quite frankly, frightening heroes I think I've ever read. Initially, Mikhail virtually acts like a stalker. If I had a guy saying and doing things to me like the things he was saying and doing to Raven, I'd probably be scared to death and running the opposite direction, rather than trusting him implicitly and doing everything he said, especially after barely meeting. I might have been able to forgive Mikhail's pretentiousness if he showed a little more vulnerability, but in my opinion, he never did. I realize that he is supposed to be a centuries old vampire who seems to have rather archaic beliefs, and ultimately his heart seemed to be in the right place, but he was simply way too dominant and chauvinistic for my taste. Just because he was born and raised in another century doesn't mean he can't change with the times and come into the 21st century like other age-old supernatural beings I've read stories about. As to Raven, I was initially rather fascinated by her and how she used her psychic gift to track serial killers, as well as how that work had all but killed her both emotionally and spiritually. I thought that this was the most interesting thing about her, yet sadly, this part of her characterization was never fully explored. At first, Raven seemed like a strong woman who wouldn't let Mikhail walk all over her, but in the end, she almost always gave in to his will anyway. She spent a lot of time protesting both the things Mikhail told her to do and the things that were happening to her, but acquiesced to everything pretty easily, which I found to be contradictory. Ultimately, the elements of both Mikhail and Raven's back-stories and the depictions of their feelings surrounding these things (such as Mikhail not being able to see in color and being ready to kill himself or Raven's mental torment after being inside the heads of serial killers) weren't given enough depth for me to feel connected to either one. I thought both of them should have been terribly tortured individuals, but they never came off as being particularly tortured at all to me.
Probably due in large part to my inability to connect with Mikhail and Raven as separate characters, I also was not able to care much about them as a couple either. I realize that they had a telepathic link to one another, but that alone did not make me feel any sort of love or even desire building between them. It was only the author who told me that these things supposedly existed. I felt that they made love and declared their love for one another far too quickly. Having read several paranormal romances in which supernatural creatures typically have an unquenchable fiery sexual attraction for their mates, I'm used to that, but again, it was more like it was being told to me rather than me actually being drawn into the story and feeling it. Also the rather animalistic ferocity in Mikhail's love-making, especially the first time when Raven was still a virgin was not quite my cup of tea and something I didn't find particularly romantic. It was also quite disappointing that for the longest time, Raven didn't even fully know or understand who and what Mikhail actually was. In my mind, this made Mikhail's saying of the ritual words to bind them together a non-consensual act for Raven which made me rather uncomfortable. Typically, I like it when the hero uses endearments with the heroine, but I didn't really care for Mikhail calling Raven "little one." It reminded me too much of the way one would speak to a child, which further played into the whole idea of him being more powerful and trying to bend her to his will, and also left a bad taste in my mouth. The only good things I can say about their relationship is that Mikhail eventually lightened up and for the most part treated Raven with more gentleness and care later on, and it was nice that she had found someone who could understand and share her gift without bringing her the physical and emotional pain that touching another person usually did.
Although it is almost unheard of for the hero and the heroine of the same book to be TSTL, I thought that Mikhail and Raven both were on more than one occasion. Mikhail had spent a lot of time warning Raven about the dangers of the assassins who were staying at the same inn where she was lodging and had said he wouldn't allow her to return alone, but then he did anyway with no explanation. I could see trouble brewing as a result of that folly from a mile away. Then less than a week after that trauma, Mikhail left Raven alone again (why he didn't have some of his men guard her, I'll never know) and she, once again, wandered off, leading to more bad things happening. In my opinion, their brainless mistakes served as nothing more than weak plot devices to create danger and force confrontations with the bad guys.
As for the secondary characters, I found most of them to be pretty one-dimensional. There are several other Carpathians, mostly males, who are introduced, but for the most part very little information is given about any of them or their individual situations. Mikhail's brother, Jacques, becomes the hero of book #2, Dark Desire, and Aidan, another male who doesn't come into play until very late in the story becomes the hero of book #3, Dark Gold. Gregori is Mikhail's right hand man, and the only secondary Carpathian character who really caught my attention in any way. He has extraordinary healing abilities and powers that seem to equal or exceed Mikhail's. He becomes the hero of book #4, Dark Magic. There are also a lot of villains in this book, but with the exception of the vampire, Andre, I didn't find any of them particularly compelling, nor did I understand any of their motivations. The murderous intent of the vampire hunters just seemed to be rooted in some kind of radical fanaticism, and I still don't really know what Andre's vendetta was against Mikhail. Not to mention, the alliance between the vampire and vampire hunters seemed to completely fly in the face of reason. All in all, the villains just seemed to keep popping up out of nowhere, have no real reasons for the things they did, and only served to constantly injure and cause trouble for the protagonists. If there had been some kind of mystery surrounding the identity of the assassins or their motives, I think it would have been a much better story. In addition, I couldn't help wondering what was up with the young human males' penchant for rape. Every time Raven was in their vicinity, they seemed to start fantasizing about forcing her.
Try as I might, there were only a few things about Dark Prince that I can actually say I enjoyed, but none were developed in a way that truly brought these elements alive for me. Aside from the couple of things I've already mentioned, I was intrigued by the idea that the Carpathians were apparently created by God like other creatures, and that Mikhail regularly counseled with a priest. I also liked Mikhail's huge library of books which I thought would have been fun to explore. I'll admit that the story did hold some kind of strange, enthralling attraction for me, but overall, I found it to be entirely too dreary, foreboding, morose, and utterly humorless. Even the action and love scenes fizzled for me. Christine Feehan's writing style in general reminds me of Judith Ivory's (the only author so far to receive a one-star rating from me), with the only difference being that it was marginally less frustrating. The only reason Dark Prince got a 2.5 star rating from me is because I was somehow able to power through and read it, beginning to end, without having to set it aside temporarily in favor of some other book. Dark Prince was Ms. Feehan's first published novel, and in my opinion, her greenness as a writer definitely shows. It was also my first read by her, and the first in the Carpathian series, but I can't say that it has engendered any particular interest for me in continuing with either the series or any of the author's other books.
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