Thursday, April 10, 2008

The (Dark) Truth Hurts

Dark Truth
By Lindsay McKenna

What do you get when an evil sorcerer bent on world domination mates with a disguised shapeshifter who has devoted her life to saving the world from his nefarious plots? Meet Ana Elena Rafael, Our Lady of Perpetual Anguish. Ana is a heroine so continuously overwrought that I felt she either needed a strong dose of Xanax or a brisk slap and a firm “Snap out of it!” Unfortunately, neither is delivered, leaving Ana to gasp, sob, vow, cry out, moan, and generally hyperventilate her way through the rest of the book. This is a real shame, given that Dark Truth is the follow-up to McKenna’s Unforgiven, a book with nicely developed characters, a well thought out paranormal storyline and a reasonable amount of action. Dark Truth suffers by comparison and also seems to be a victim of the length constraints of a category romance.

When we first meet Ana, she is on a plane bound for a small city in Peru, where she hopes to learn more about her parentage. Having been orphaned at an early age under mysterious circumstances, she has decided to go in search of her roots, and is returning to the orphanage where she lived for several years as a young child. Little does she know that she is actually the daughter of Victor, the “Dark Lord” whose quest for power has long been prophesied, and who needs to either enlist the help of his daughter or get rid of her. Also on the plane is shapeshifter Mace Ridfort, representing the good guys, on a mission to keep Ana from joining forces with her evil father. Ana, of course, is clueless, and after literally falling into Mace’s arms exiting the plane, decides that he is a really great guy. Mace decides to keep an eye on Ana rather than offing her at the first opportunity, hoping she will lead him to her father. Since she spills her guts at the drop of a hat, this seems like a reasonable plan. Meanwhile, the two must fight their growing attraction to each other.

Between Ana’s quest to find out about her past, and the fact that both her father and Mace are trying to decide whether or not to let her live, there is great potential for action in this story. Unfortunately, the author does a lot more telling than showing. With the exception of a couple of action sequences, we have to suffer through a great deal of tortured thought from both Ana and Mace. When we’re not privy to someone’s internal dialogue, we get to sit through lectures on everything from Ana’s family tree to metaphysics. Most of the secondary characters seem to have been introduced for this very purpose. The result is a cast of two dimensional characters who elicit very little sympathy or interest. If this were a longer book, McKenna would have had the time to flesh out her characters. More interaction between the hero and heroine would have allowed for more emotional development and thus a more believable relationship. The paranormal elements could then also have been demonstrated rather than discussed. The author has developed a consistent framework for the shapeshifting and quest elements, but there is too much shoved into too little space. The result is an unsatisfying novel that serves as nothing more than a bridge between a promising opening volume and what will hopefully be a better executed conclusion to the trilogy.

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