You know, as a reader, I don’t need or want to see an author’s do-overs. I mean, sure, if there’s a demand, re-issue the book, but the work is already published and out there, and probably has been for a while; let it stand on its own. The very idea of an “Author’s Cut” has bugged the crap out of me ever since Katherine Kurtz did it with her first Deryni trilogy… and I can’t say that the brand-new Author’s Cut of Dark Prince, Book 1 in Christine Feehan’s long and hugely, depressingly popular Dark Series, made me a believer in the practice.
Dark Prince introduces us to Raven, a telepath who works with the police to capture society’s most vicious ilk. It’s soul-draining work, so she decides to take a little R&R in the Carpathian Mountains, where she thinks she’s unlikely to be bothered. One night, she telepathically picks up on the psychic torment of one Mikhail, leader of the local vampire aristocracy, who haz a sad because his race is dying out and he’s dreadfully lonely. Moved by his pain, Raven comforts him. By way of thanks, Mikhail proceeds to stalk her, spy on her, dominate her with the AWESOME POWER OF HIS MIND, molest her as she sleeps, and inform her of his intention to bend her entirely to his will. (I’ll give him this much: At least he’s up front about things.)
So that’s about your first 20 pages right there. Some other stuff happens — bad guys are killing Mikhail’s family, who just can’t believe that he’s taken up with a mere human, and there’s an awful lot of floridly-depicted sex. Eventually, Mikhail ritually binds Raven to himself without her consent or even her complete understanding of what’s going on, and it was at about that point that I threw in the towel for good. That’s right: I shirked my editorial responsibilities, backed down from a challenge, and just plain Gave Up.
So I can’t comment on how things turn out for Raven and her Masterful Creature of the Night, but here’s what I can say with confidence: The writing? Terrible, unless you’re a disciple of the Steel Rod and Silken Sheath school of prose, in which case this should be right up your alley. The characterization? Tedious; Mikhail is pretty much the way you think he is, and Raven spends a lot of time protesting that she’s a strong, independent woman, but you know, I can say that I’m the reincarnation of Anne Boleyn, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the case. Also of note is the considerable attention paid to Raven’s diminutive stature, narrow waist, and tiny frame — in fact, Mikhail usually addresses her as “Little One,” leading this confused reader to wonder just exactly how old Raven is supposed to be. (To any authors who might be reading this: if you absolutely must publish an Author’s Cut, at least make sure it’s an improvement over the original. I shudder to think what the first version of Dark Prince looked like.)
With its hulking, sulking alpha hero, simpering ninny of a heroine, and overheated prose, Dark Prince is a literary artifact, a throwback to the good old days of the 70’s and 80’s when men were Men, women were girls, the sex was largely nonconsensual (because a nice girl would never choose to have actual intercourse), and the plot mostly consisted of the hero and heroine running around in an exotic location having tons of sex but few actual conversations of substance. Which is why it’s puzzling that there was sufficient demand for this sort of thing to publish it to begin with (as late as 1999, no less), let alone republish it. Are readers nostalgic, or are there people who actually enjoy this sort of old-school romance writing?
Fans of Christine Feehan’s Dark Ones series — you know who you are, and apparently you are legion: you probably read Dark Prince the first time around, or if you haven’t read this particular volume, you’re at least familiar with Feehan’s 40+ other offerings on the altar of Literature. You already know everything you need to about this one, and only you can search your heart and know whether it’s worth even the current price of $1.99 (on Kindle) to access an additional 100 pages of Feehan’s deathless prose. Feehan newbies: For basically the same story told within the context of a worldview that won’t make you want to tear out your hair (or put Buffy on speed dial), check out J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood books, or possibly Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark. And all readers: If you’ve paid for a book once, you don’t need to pay for it twice. Best-selling author Feehan, with her 40+ books and ambitious annual publishing schedule, will not starve if you give this one a miss.
As, in a perfect world, everyone would.
Dark Prince: The Author’s Cut Special Edition by Christine Feehan
Paranormal Romance | William Morrow | 2011 (1999)