Dance in the Dark (Dance with the Devil #2) by Megan Derr

Standard

Rating: 5 stars

All Johnny’s parents had ever wanted for him was to live life as a normal child.  And with the life he has been given, all he has ever wanted was to fit in and be anything but normal. After his parents were killed by a vampire in the throes of a blood lust, Johnny was adopted by The Dracula Desroseiers and raised along side his vampire son, always aware that he was normal in a family of abnormals and a member of the ruling class. Now at 23, he is considered by most “more vampire than the other vampires”, more coldly beautiful, more arrogant and as well as brilliant. Not quite accepted in either human or vampire society, Johnny spends his days with his books, his studies, and mysteries.

Then his best friend needs Johnny to solve a mystery of a pair of magicked Cinderella slippers, that dominos into a succession of mysteries, increasing in complexity and danger until the final mystery Johnny needs to solve is one that involves him and his family. Then Johnny has to wonder if it is better to dance in the dark than be devoured by it.

Dance in the Dark is the second in the Dance with the Devil series but follows the same format as the first, each chapter is a series of detective cases that Johnny solves.  But unlike the first novel with Chris and Sable Brennen, this takes place in The Dracula Desrosiers territory and John Desrosiers is the Sherlock Holmes type sleuth. Although quick to comment on his normal status, he is also proud of his ability to deduce the solution to the mysteries presented to him, using just his mind and powers of observation. In other hands, Johnny could come off as cold, proud and plain unlikeable. However, this is Megan Derr and in my mind, I automatically equate her with complex characters with real emotions and dimension, and with Derr as his creator, Johnny is completely understandable in his prickly behavior.  He may hide behind his spoiled rich brat front but there is true kindness and the loneliness of a orphan behind all his actions.  I adored him immediately, including his habit of using quotes from poetry to answer questions put to him. Johnny is also the Beau Brummell of his day and I looked forward to the descriptions of his garb and matching jewelry as much as I did elements of the case.  His dress said as much about him as does his manners, beautiful details I have come to expect from a Megan Derr character. All that  lonely brilliance needs balance, and Derr provides it with a host of wildly different characters and beings, each unique, each endearing and all memorable.  This includes Eros, a being of darkness who visits Johnny in the dark for sexual encounters that  quickly turn into more for Johnny, as he needs the intimacy but Eros keeps his identity and physical self hidden to Johnny’s increasing frustration.

If you are not familiar with the books of Megan Derr, I will tell you that every name, every object or event that comes up has a hidden meaning that will be revealed later in the story.  It may not seem like much at the time the information is introduced, but I have learned over many books to take nothing for granted and take great joy in the many traps she springs and surprises that  lay in store.  Here Derr plays with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and other fantasy childhood stories such as  Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty but with a much darker take on them then the current Disney versions and much more in keeping with the original folktales.  Each chapter is such a tale as in Case No.004 The Bremen, as in The Town Musicians of  Bremen. And with each case, layer upon layer is added, eventually connecting all the mysteries to one enormous event that will amaze you with its depth and devilry.

In Dance in the Dark, you get the added bonus of meeting with Chris, Phil, Sable and other characters from Dance with the Devil as a case of Chris’ from that novel is the focal point around which the cases here revolve.  All will be involved in the final solution. How I loved visiting with them again and of course, it caused me to return to read that story once again.

Along with great characters, Derr gives you such wondrous stories filled with complex settings of such vivid description, I often wanted to be a pixie myself riding on their shoulders to experience it all myself. Here they be dragons, and imps, witches and succubus, demons and alchemists – all at play, all none as they seem.  Every time I think Megan Derr has outdone herself with a book, she ups the standard with the next one until my mind boggles over her gift with the language and her ability to tell a story.  In olden times, she would have been a Bard of Legend, her tales told far and wide.  Read Dance in the Dark.  You will find yourself believing it too.

Start the series at the beginning, to get the full understanding of the characters complex backgrounds and world building:

Dance with the Devil (Dance with the Devil #1) read my review here.

Dance with the Dark (Dance with the Devil #2)

Midnight (Dance with the Devil #3) – review coming soon.

Cover art by London Burden.  Love the covers for this series, simple, elegant and perfect.

Review of The Wizard and the Werewolf (Mixed Mate Series#1) by Amber Kell

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars

Peter Moore, Alpha of his pack, doesn’t expect to start his day with a request from his sister Anna’s new Mate, Cyrus Kane.  Always shy in his presence, Cyrus seems especially nervous now.  Cyrus has a request to make of Peter and their pack.  Cyrus’ half brother Justin needs a place to stay for a few days and Cyrus suggested that he stay with him. Which wouldn’t be a problem except that Justin is a wizard, someone not always welcomed by shifters.  Justin also is a bit of a trouble magnet.  Still after granting his request, Peter is not prepared for the gorgeous man on a motorcycle roaring up his Pack’s driveway.  One look, one sniff, and Peter finds he has his Mate in Justin, something neither man is prepared for.

Justin is on the run, a small fact he has kept from his brother.  Justin has stolen a powerful talisman from Tom Frells, member of the Wizard Council and Justin’s exboyfriend. Tom has promised to track him down, retrieve the artifact and make him pay.  Could the timing be any worse on finding out that he has a Mate? Now not only must Justin keep his Cyrus and Anna safe, he has a possessive Alpha as Mate and a psychotic ex-boyfriend chasing him.  Justin must use all his wits and power if there is to be a future for them all.

The Wizard and the Werewolf is the beginning of a new series by Amber Kell and it has the makings of a good one.  This book sets up the story, the characters and the quest/conflict that will involve everyone in the books to come.  I like the cast of characters Kell has presented us with starting with Cyrus and Justin, half brothers superficially opposite and completely similiar inside where it counts, including giving shy, submissive Cyrus a core of steel.  The pack also has characters of note, from Peter Moore and his dominant sister, Anna to Gregory, his beta in the pack. Kell throws a demon and god for good measure.  But at 117 pages, there is just not enough time to satisfactorily and realistically accomplish all she has set down in the first book, which is such a shame. I find that the characters could have been more fully developed and a little less stereotypical.  Peter is a Alpha we have seen before as is the Gay for You element here. I wish she had given Peter her own twist to this character and the same goes for the bad boy  wizard, Justin.

Then there is the plot. We need a little more backstory here, why do the wizards and shifters not get along to the point of extermination? Tell us more about Gaia and her son. The narrative needed more polish and more depth than the length and Amber Kell was able to convey. All the questions brought up by the events in the book never received any answers by the end.  In fact, the book was more of a cliffhanger than anything else, a technique that, in my opinion, only belongs in a free serial story.Yes, one aspect was cleared up but so many more were left hanging. Leave hints, lay a trail or two to set up the next book in the series but finish what you start and leave the reader satisfied with the book they just finished.

Unfortunately the book came across as more of a hastily scribbled book outline that the author wanted to get off to the publisher to show what they were working on next.  I just wish Amber Kell has take the time to flesh out the story that she has created for us.  All the elements are there, including the mixed mates element which I really love.  This book gives us two mixed mates and several cross bondings, all of which adds the potential for this to be a great new series if the author brings the promise I see here to fruition.  I am looking forward to the next book, but if loose ends and cliffhangers leave you irritated and unsatisfied, perhaps you should wait until the series is further along to pick this one up.

Cover:  Nice design by artist Reese Dante but the  models look a little generic for me and nothing speaks to the storyline inside.