Awaken Me Darkly
Awaken Me Darkly is a futuristic romantic suspense with a wealthy, enigmatic hero and a hardnosed cop heroine who proudly admits she’s a “super bitch.” Many readers will probably be reminded a little of Eve Dallas, although this book is not written at that level. The twist here is that the heroine is an alien hunter and the mysterious hero is an alien. It’s an interesting story with plenty of action, but also too shallow and underdeveloped to satisfy.
Narrated in first person by its heroine, the story takes place in a future version of Earth where aliens live among us. While most of them are peaceful, some are not. In New Chicago, Mia Snow is an Alien Investigation and Removal agent who hunts down and kills any alien who murders a human. She has a very personal investment in her job, as her own brother was killed by an alien years earlier. A tough woman with an attitude, she’s relentless when it comes to tracking down and eliminating her prey.
One night the body of a murdered human male turns up in a local park. The victim was abducted from his home four weeks earlier, the first of five human men to disappear under strange circumstances that led the police to suspect alien involvement. When she arrives at the scene, Mia quickly notes evidence that indicates the killer was one of the dreaded Arcadians, the strongest and deadliest alien species living on earth. Their psychic abilities and capacity for mind control make them very powerful, not to mention hard to capture.
Mia and her partner Dallas Gutierrez soon find a prime suspect for the murder: a beautiful and wily Arcadian woman named Lilla en Arr who was the victim’s former lover. As Mia tracks down the woman, she crosses paths with Lilla’s brother, the mysterious Kyrin en Arr. He proves even more elusive than his sister, and it’s obvious he knows much more about the case than he’s willing to reveal. Then Dallas is mortally wounded during the course of the investigation, and Kyrin’s Arcadian blood may be able to save him. Mia’s only chance to save her partner and solve the case is to get close to this alien who she doesn’t trust, but with whom she shares a potent, unexpected attraction.
This is a slick, fast-paced read that moves quickly. There’s more than enough happening at any given moment to prevent boredom, but it’s also never wholly engaging. The problem is a lack of development that keeps the story from being anything more than moderately interesting. There are futuristics that really manage to bring their setting to life so that the world feels vivid and real to the reader. This isn’t one of them. Although there are many intriguing concepts here, the author’s worldbuilding is too sketchy, especially when it comes to the aliens themselves.
Too many aspects of this universe, not to mention the overall story, are left vague, starting with the premise. The first time she meets Lilla, Mia tells her, “The moment a law is broken, aliens lose all rights…The fact that I even suspect your involvement in a human murder grants me the authority to kill you.” There’s no indication whether this is true or she’s simply trying to intimidate her suspect. If it is true, then that seems very extreme and it’s hard to see Mia as anything more than a glorified vigilante. She can kill whatever alien she suspects of being involved, with no proof of their guilt or innocence? This isn’t like the Buffyverse, where it’s known that all vampires (those without their souls reinstated at any rate) are evil. With it already established that there are plenty of good aliens on earth, the possibility that she’s going around slaying whoever she wants with no evidence required, perhaps killing innocent beings in the process, raised too many questions. The answers, like many unexplained elements of this story, are nowhere to be found.
Though this book is published by Downtown Press, the Chick Lit imprint for Simon and Schuster, it is being marketed by S&S as Romance, and part of a larger “Bad Girls” series. Mia certainly has a “bad girl” attitude, but her character development, like the rest of the story, is superficial. There’s too little to her beneath the attitude. She’s a difficult heroine to warm up to. While her strength and toughness are admirable, she’s also abrasive and sometimes irrational. The dynamic between her and Kyrin is unsatisfying for much of the early parts of the book, as he continually takes the upper hand in their encounters. It kind of takes the fun out of reading about a kickass heroine if the author keeps letting the hero get the better of her, rather than letting her prove she’s his equal. Of course, this would have been more annoying if I’d actually cared about her, which I didn’t. Eventually Mia manages to even the playing field and get an edge on him, but it takes longer than it should to happen.
The secondary characters are even less developed than Mia is, and none of her colleagues at AIR makes much of an impression. This is a book that coasts by on its fast-moving plot and cool premise, without digging deep enough into the characters to make it truly gripping. The story’s final third is both the most compelling and the most frustrating part. There are some juicy developments that are very intriguing and big moments that could be really powerful. But this section of the story is rushed and the author glosses over the key moments, so none of it has much of an impact. It’s somewhat interesting while it lasts, and that’s about it.
That’s a fitting description for the book as a whole. It’s okay for what it is, but nowhere near as good as it should be. The needed development of this world and its characters to make it more than a quick read simply isn’t there. It’s not a bad book. It is, however, an underwhelming one.
|Review Date:||May 24, 2005|