Born of Night
Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Born of Night, first book in the League series, was originally published as Born of the Night in 1996, went out of print for a time, and has now been reissued in an extended version including scenes edited out of the original version. I haven’t read the old version; so this review is only about the 2009 edition.
Kiara Zamir is both a professional dancer and daughter of a political leader, thus styled “princess.” When she was eight years old, her father’s enemies kidnapped her and her mother. She watched her mother die after days of torture and barely escaped with her own life, but she is determined to live as normal a life as possible. This changes when she is kidnapped again, carried onto a spaceship and, just as she is about to be raped, rescued by a band of mercenaries.
The mercenaries are lead by “Nemesis”, a mysterious, powerful being who, together with a small group of colleagues, has set himself up as a kind of counterweight to The League, the all-powerful assassins guild that comes close to ruling the universe. “Nemesis” is really Nykyrian Quiakides, a former League career assassin who quit after refusing to kill a child. Nykyrian has long admired Kiara from afar, and now that a contract is out on her, he agrees to her father’s proposal he serve as her bodyguard.
Nykyrian is definitely Larger Than Life. Talk of damaged! Abandoned by his family at age five, he was raised first at an orphanage and later at a League commander’s house. In both places he was tortured systematically. He is a hybrid, half-human and half of the predatory race of the Andorians, habitually reviled by both races. As a result, he is a walking tank who never smiles. I found him really over-the-top and took a long time warming to him.
Kiara worked much better for me, once I got over clichés like her “amber” eyes and “mahogany” hair. She is, in turns, brave and cowardly, controlled and putting her foot in it, wise and stupid, and all this gave her far more depth than Nykyrian.
So while I spent quite a bit of time rolling my eyes as I got into the book, after a while I found myself hooked. This is due to two elements: One, although there is plenty of action in the book, the characters get to spend a long time together. They share meals, they are bored, they get to talk even though Nykyrian definitely doesn’t want to. This made the development of their relationship believable and drew me in as a reader. Second, Sherrilyn Kenyon has a great eye for detail. She really considers what her characters are like, and gives them items or idiosyncrasies that reflect this. Lovely!
That said, the science fiction element is underdeveloped and the world-building a bit shoddy, with a number of components – laws for example – obviously introduced because they fit the plot just so. The sex scenes are both hot and moving – here Nykyrian’s side was handled in a far more believable manner than Kiara’s. And I really liked the secondary characters.
So, in spite of an inauspicious beginning, Born of Night turned out to be a novel to enjoy, although it remained a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I will probably read more of the League novels.