Simone Dubois is a medical examiner who can communicate with the dead. She's been able to see ghosts since witnessing the murder of her mother and brother, and even has one as her constant companion. When a young woman is brutally murdered, her ME friend, Tate, thinks it may be supernatural in nature, and he would know since he's a Dark-Hunter squire. Not to mention, the woman's body got up and walked out in the middle of the autopsy. As Simone tries to figure out where the woman went, she returns to the alley where the body was found. While looking for clues, Simone is attacked by Daimons and then rescued by a tall, dark, handsome man with a huge attitude problem, but they fail to escape before another more sinister Daimon slaps a pair of gold bracelets on both her and the stranger.
Xypher is a Dream-Hunter who turned Skoti. Centuries ago, he was betrayed by a woman, killed, and sent to Tartarus where he's been tortured ever since. Because of a bargain that was struck with Hades, he now has one month on Earth to take care of business and all he wants is to find a portal into Kalosis to kill his mortal enemy. The burning need for vengeance is his constant companion until he meets Simone. The bracelets the Daimon put on their wrists bind their life forces together, and neither can move more than twenty feet from the other without killing them both. The last thing Xypher needs is to be handcuffed to a woman. With time ticking away, all he wants is to be free to finish his quest before he must return to the torment of the underworld. The longer they remain attached, the more Xypher begins to believe that it might be possible to love after all and the more he doesn't want to leave Simone when his time is up. As they search for a way to remove the bracelets, more bodies turn up around New Orleans. Xypher and Simone must work together to find out exactly what creature is on a killing spree and bring it to justice, but when all is said and done, will Xypher be able to give up his quest for revenge before it's too late?
The last few Dark-Hunter books were kind of so-so for me, so it was nice to finally find another story in this series that engaged my attention better. Not to mention, I'm thrilled to finally be caught up to Acheron which is the book in the series I've been waiting to read for a long, long time. Although I've been tempted to skip ahead several times, I didn't want to miss any crucial pieces of the overall story arc. Therefore, I've been patiently biding my time and reading every book and short story in the series in order, hoping it will be worth the effort.
The hero of Dream Chaser is Xypher. He's pretty much a typical Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dark-Hunter hero: tall, dark, handsome, and deeply tortured. After being betrayed by Satara, he was killed and has spent centuries being physically tortured by Hades in Tartarus. Hades made a bargain with Katra in Devil May Cry to allow Xypher out for one month in order for him to help her and Sin stop the Dimme, a particular type of demon that could bring about the end of the world. Xypher is half-god, half-demon, and was raised by his demon mother's family, so he's never really known any gentleness or love in his life. When he took up his Dream-Hunter side and met Satara in the dream world, he was easily manipulated by her false declarations of love. For her, he turned Skoti and did some terrible things before the gods finally 'put him down.' He spent his time in Tartarus nursing a need for vengeance, and now that he's temporarily free, he's determined to find a way to get into Kalosis and kill Satara before his time is up and he has to return to hell. When the story opens, Xypher is pretty much acting like a big jerk, but after all that he's been through is revealed, his attitude is pretty understandable. There are certain aspects of his character that were very sympathetic, such as the fact that he spent his first week on Earth with nothing to eat, only the clothes on his back, and no place to sleep. When Simone starts showing him even the smallest kindness, like buying him a meal, he's completely suspicious of her motives, which really tugs at the heartstrings. However, from there, he seems to turn around fairly quickly, with few repercussions from all the torment he's suffered through the years. I personally would have preferred more focus on Xypher overcoming his past and learning to trust again, but instead we get him and Simone embroiled in a supernatural serial killer mystery which didn't leave a lot of time for exploring his feelings. Most of his turnaround felt like it was being told rather than shown.
Simone is a very sweet, lovely young woman. She is a medical examiner who currently teaches at the university and only works in the field when her good friend and fellow ME, Tate, calls her in. She thinks that she's some sort of medium or psychic, because she can see ghosts and sometimes talk to dead people. This part of the story reminded me a little bit of the short-lived TV series Tru Calling, although if memory serves, Simone's and Tru's powers work quite a bit differently. This is an intriguing ability I would have liked to see her use a little more, but it really only comes into play during the first few chapters. Despite her ability and knowing Tate is a Dark-Hunter squire, her knowledge of the supernatural world is still pretty limited. When she meets Xypher in a dark alley after being attacked by Daimons and suddenly finds herself essentially handcuffed to the guy, she really has no idea what's she's in for but along the way finds out some surprising things about herself. Simone bore witness to the murder of her mother and brother when she was just a child, sometime later found her father's body after he committed suicide, and spent three years in a children's home before being adopted, so she's had a really rough life too. Maybe it's because at some time in the past, she came to terms with her all-consuming bitterness and need for vengeance, maybe it was because she channeled that energy into becoming an ME to fight the bad guys, or maybe it was because she had her ghost friend, Jesse, to keep her company and keep her sane. Whatever the reasons, she didn't really come across as what I would call tortured, but because of her past, she did understand Xypher's burning need for revenge even though initially he's pretty reticent. I also like how she just intuitively 'gets' him and doesn't easily take offense at his barbs. Instead, she usually lets them roll right off her as she keeps trying to reach him.
The secondary cast is interesting and varied with several carry-over characters from other Dark-Hunter books. As side-kicks go, Jesse was a pretty amusing one. He died in a car accident in the 1980's and is perpetually stuck at the age of seventeen. Having come of age myself in the 80's, I couldn't help liking him and his obsession with the pop culture of that era. If I'm remembering correctly, Tate has only come into the story in the past when a Dark-Hunter needed to be removed from a sticky situation during day-light hours, so it was nice to see him at work here, although his job seems to be primarily finding creative ways to falsify reports on supernatural killings. We get to see the Native American, Were-Hunter doctor, Carson, again. I like him and wouldn't mind seeing him as a hero in a future book of the series. Other past and future main characters who pop in for a visit: Julian (Fantasy Lover), Stryker (One Silent Night), Dev Peltier (No Mercy), and or course, Acheron (Acheron), although I have to admit that Acheron has been losing some of his edge lately, even though it pains me to say so. He used to be a major scene-stealer, but I haven't found that to be the case as much in these last few books. I certainly hope this changes in his book and he returns to the Ash I know and love. Last but not least, Dream Chaser introduces Jaden. We don't exactly know what he is, just that he's an ancient being who is very powerful and for a price, can grant his summoner the means to do almost anything. I've heard rumors that Jaden will get his own book somewhere down the line and like with Acheron, it will be a pivotal one in the series story arc. When Jaden first appeared, I wasn't sure I liked him very much, but by the end, I was starting to warm up to him. However, the cynical part of me feels like he's merely being set up as a replacement for Acheron since Ash will presumably be largely out of the picture after the next book of the series. Just enough is told about Jaden in this book to make him seem like an Ash clone, but I'll try to keep an open mind if I decide to continue with the series after Ash's book.
Although I thought Dream Chaser was one of the better books in the series, at least among the more recent ones I've read, it still had some weaknesses. For starters, it seemed a little too similar in plot to the first book in the series, Night Pleasures, which also had the hero and heroine handcuffed together temporarily and a heroine who discovers her supernatural powers. As with all of the Dark-Hunter books, there were things that changed or simply occurred at the convenience of the plot. This is something I've never liked, but it wasn't as egregious in this book as some of the others. Probably the most bothersome thing was what happened with the Dimme. I can't say much more without giving away a spoiler, but after the intense battle to keep them locked up in Devil May Cry, it seemed like a bit of stretch. However, I guess I'll just go with it, because if there's one thing I've learned while reading this series, it's that no matter how frustrating something is, you can't fight it. The other main issue I had was that I didn't feel the emotional connection both between the hero and heroine, and with them as a reader, in the way I would have liked. There were some scenes where it was difficult to stay in the moment, and I think a large part of this was because of Ms. Kenyon's penchant for head hopping. I would no sooner get adjusted to the scene from Xypher's POV, than it changed to Simone's or vise versa. Sometimes the author switched back and forth between them several times within one scene, making it very hard to get into each character's mindset and also interrupting the building emotion of the scene. For me as a reader, it is sometimes nice to see one character through the other one's eyes as they observe their reactions and intuit what they might be thinking rather than always knowing. Otherwise, Dream Chaser is a decent story that mostly held my attention, and like I mentioned earlier, I'm relieved to finally be able to read Ash's book next. After that, all bets are off. Lately, I've been feeling like the Dark-Hunter series is getting a little long in the tooth and needs to be put to rest, but as I understand it, there are gobs more books yet to come. With that in mind, it remains to be seen if I'll be able to stay loyal to a series that only occasionally floats my boat these days.
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