Anyone a fan of the genre will eventually come across, read, and/or love Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series. And to be honest, even if you don't like the Dark Hunters, you can't deny the fact that Kenyon has created an empire and her hunters have reached cult status. Just take a peek at the section of her website where it showcases fans displaying their double bow and arrow tattoos and you'll see what I mean by cult status.
With that said, I'll admit that I didn't start the series with the best outlook. I always heard of the Dark Hunters through Amazon recommendations, but never picked it up because at that time, I was weary of paranormals. But then Ward converted me with those spectacular brothers and when I traveled for Thanksgiving, I was armed with the first four Brotherhood books and Fantasy Lover.
I knew from reading Kenyon's commentary on her website that when she wrote Fantasy Lover all those years ago, she went the "safe" route because at that time (and I'm paraphrasing here), vampires was pretty much an expletive or at least, a no-go area for romance.
So, I knew the premise of Julian being a god stuck in a book with his only purpose of being a sex slave. I wasn't expecting much. My return on investment wasn't much either. The plot was unique but very much romance-y in the sense that it reminded me of some of Harlequin's prince/mistress/virgin stories. The characters were sweet enough and there were enough cute scenes between them that made it endear to me. The quick quips, the novelty of Eros being a biker and all of Julian's relatives were interesting enough. The scene where Julian teaches Grace to eat spaghetti all proper and stuff and the fact that he can't drive without running into something was fun. But the whole premise of them not being able to have sex because of the curse was a transparent way to keep the sexual tension going. Still, it was a fun, quick read.
It was by accident that I picked up the Dark Hunter gift set that contained books 2-4. After I read Night Pleasures, I began to have my doubts about the story. Though Kyrian and Julian were friends in their "previous" life, the two stories were too close for me to consider it separate. Okay, I get it... they suffered a lot in their lives, death, betrayal, etc. All right, drive home the point that they're weary of love and all that...It was too obvious that Kenyon was just doing all that torture stuff to wring out emotions for her characters. And so, I put the books down.
But I had that set. I still had Night Embrace, Dance with the Devil, and various out of sequence Dark Hunters that I had already received free from BookMooch. I couldn't just waste those books. When I had nothing else to read, I picked up Night Embrace with a weary hand. Okay, I enjoyed Sunshine and Talon (though the thought of her name first made me cringe). Her quirky disposition and the whole deal with Talon's affection for Pez was too cute to pass up. I was back on board with the Dark Hunters again. Though I was apprehensive about who many different solutions Kenyon could come up with to somehow unite and give longevity to her heroes and heroines.
Then came Zarek. No longer was the heroine a human who was unaware of the Dark Hunter world, but Astrid, who knew all about Zarek and was sent in to judge him. I also got my first taste of a were, Sasha. Even though the story of Zarek was very much like the previous hunters, with all that betrayal, hurt, and anger, there's something really hard to resist a story like Zarek's. The poor young boy who was beaten and now appears to be a monster but actually does good for his neighbors in secret? Who can refuse?
And on and on the Dark Hunters came and went.
I won't say that I enjoyed them all. In fact, I really didn't like the first four all that much. They had their high points in terms of some quirky dialogue and situations, but the books as a whole didn't do much to truly capture me as a reader.
There were some that got my attention. The story of Wulf and Cassandra did its job at pulling my heart. I mean, the story of the Dark Hunter pairing with the enemy? Not only that but she was destined to die soon. Man, that killed me. The scene with them making memories for their unborn child and Cassandra constantly writing letters to the baby really did a number on me. Who can help but shed a few tears for that?
I got to Night Play with Vane and Bride and now...I felt it was romance first, action plot second. (I'll come back to that point later). It was the "chubby/not so chubby girl who gets the handsome guy" story told in a paranormal setting. I for one, cannot resist such an underdog story. Pardon the pun. The sweetness of Vane learning to date a human, his instinctual need to be near Bride, and all the sweet things he does for her melted my heart. Throw in animals, which always makes me like the story, and the funny situation of Bride's father being the neuter king...well, I loved that.
Same with Wren and Maggie in Unleash the Night. The loner story with the younger crowd, that was original. Seeing Wren as practically a baby, since he hasn't been around for centuries and Maggie being a co-ed, was a fresh view. Plus, who can forget the big surprise when Wren walks into the room, sees a tiger, rushes it yelling, "Dad, how could you eat my girlfriend? She's all I've ever had!" and see Maggie's eyes staring back at him instead? I didn't see that happening. And the fact that the mating mark never appeared until the end with a little help was a new take on things. I loved reading Wren as the outcast and the story of him falling in love with Maggie.
But then, few books go by...things kinda went south.
Kenyon has without a doubt hit cult status. The books now have become more about plot than about her main pair and the romance between them. Now, I understand that once in a while, in a series this large, it's necessary. But recently, as I've been catching up on the Hunters, it's become way too much. With Dark Side of the Moon, the Dream Hunters parallel series, etc...it's obvious everything is becoming a setup for Acheron's book. Not that I'm not totally looking forward to it myself. But come on.
After all these books, we sometimes see Ash in action, helping the hunters in need, his obvious devotion to them, and his equally obvious hatred for Artemis. But how many times do I have to read interludes that have Ash stuck with Artemis needing her blood and only having sex? Frankly, I'm quite over it. I'm getting sick of reading the love/hate thing they have going on, and only the recent disclosure of Kat's parentage did it finally revive some Acheron interest for me. But geez, how much setup does Kenyon need? It's too much of a marketing scheme to make Ash's book a big hit. And coming in at around 1200 pages, (rumored online), no doubt it will hit the best sellers list. Just like the recent Dream Hunters, though they have proven to be flops.
Some readers out there, having been wondering if it's time to throw in the towel. I say, Yes! Hit us with Ash's book, close the series. Go out with a bang (hopefully). But we all know that won't be true. We'll see the Nick/Acheron thing come to a head, and some have suspected that Nick will be the next Ash.
In truth, the only thing I'm looking forward to in Ash's book is to see who the heroine is. And how that relationship will work out. Really, the Acheron/Artemis thing is too entwined that if Kenyon doesn't do a good job with Ash's heroine, I can predict, everything will fail. The female in question will need to be strong with a certain vulnerability to appeal.
In addition, she has to be a hell of a heroine to match up with Ash. And in doing so, will bring on the wrath of Artemis. Really, who doesn't hate Artemis? Even with Kenyon trying to give her a softer side once in a while, with her secretly wishing for Ash to love her like he once did, the commentary offered by Kat on her mother, etc...it doesn't even make Artemis one of those "love to hate" characters. I simply just hate her. And Kenyon, trying to make Ash's relationship with Artemis so twisted has made everything quite the greek tragedy. Pun intended.
I have to say, reading Kenyon is tiring at times. A critic praises her writing as "ironic" but it's not. It's sarcastic. I like sarcasm. But not in every single character. I think that pretty much all of Kenyon's characters, especially the recent ones are so freakin' sarcastic. An ironic tone of writing would be much better. But no, it's the characters who are insanely droll and dry. I thought it was refreshing in the first few books, but then the majority of characters possessed such a wit. I'm fine with seeing Ash's droll humor from book to book, but come on...who can forget the back and forth of Ravyn and Susan and the constant parry of Sin and Kat. Give me a break. Give me some actual humor without that razor edge. Show me, Kenyon, that you're able to write differently.
The problem, even though I myself love a good sarcastic comeback? It feels like her heroes and heroines have now become interchangeable. There's no distinguishing marks on the stories since they have now moved from romance first, action second, to action and doing its job of setting up Acheron's book first, and romance if there's room.
Which books possessed less sarcasm? Well, they turned out to be my favorites. The ones that have secondary characters with the sarcastic remarks and only a few peppered in for the main characters seem to be the ones I favor. Zarek and Astrid, were a good read with only Sasha's witty comments to provide the punch. With Bride and Vane, it was Fury who did the remarking. Like all the neutering comments and his funny antics of going to "rack" Vane in "typical dog fashion." But Kenyon has now seemed to move into an overload of sarcasm. Her main characters, the secondaries, and the villians. Everyone has some sort of comeback armed and constantly ready. Give me a rest here and there, please. Really, Kenyon, it's supposed to be romance first. It's like Kenyon has forgotten her roots in favor of setups and subsequently, book sales.
The Dark Hunters have gifted me a fabulous share of fun reads, a few tears, and some laugh out loud moments, but they've waned. And appears to be on a downward spiral. Now, all I want is to see how Acheron finds his heroine. That's it. Seriously, it's time to call a quits. Just like how I think it's past time for Eve Dallas to hand over her badge, but that's another post for another time...