Having never read Donna Fletcher, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Of most interest to me about Dark Warrior was its setting, along with an outside obstacle to the romance: the Church. These draws all too quickly became drawbacks. Church persecution of supposed heretics is much discussed but rarely seen and the setting comes across as wallpaper more then anything. Those facts coupled with a perfectly perfect heroine and purple prose just about sent me over the edge. When I realized I was marking every other page, I knew the book was going to be a lost cause. The only thing that kept this from a straight F was the twist in the end. It was far too little, too late – and I wasn’t convinced it worked – but it was there, and that was something.
Years ago Mary’s parents were accused of heresy by the leaders of the Church and were put to death. Mary was hidden by Magnus (Legendary Warrior) and grew up alone and isolated in a village in Ireland. Her peaceful existence is shattered when she is captured by men who work for Decimus, the most feared investigator/torturer the Church has. Though Mary is choked and thrown in a dungeon to await Decimus, all is not lost. Magnus has put the Dark One on the case. He rescues those caught by Decimus and keeps them safe. Mary is now tops on his list.
Michael, the Dark One, wears a mask for his rescue operations and leads a double life. He is emotionally tortured by the knowledge that he didn’t save his family from the Church and will do everything in his power to protect other innocents from a similar fate. When he rescues Mary he is quickly drawn to her beauty and sweetness. As they journey Michael is increasingly torn. He’s determined to continue his work, but is falling for Mary more every day. Reconciling the two is increasingly difficult.
From the very beginning Mary grated on every nerve I ever possessed. She’s goodness and light and purity and courageousness and beauty, and perfect in every way possible. And though she can’t speak (that throat injury, you know) she has entire conversations with Michael. At times she began to seem like a cross between Snow White and Lassie.
“Mary woke to the sun kissing her face. It felt glorious, and she was suddenly excited about starting the day. There would be no more endless walking in the black of night. She would once again know the beauty of the blue sky, the gentle wisps of clouds, the sweet smell of flowers, and plants fresh with morning dew.”
Later she wants to sing about the glorious day. A problem when you can’t speak.
“Mary shook her head and waved her hands frantically. She went to him, took his hand, and led him back to the front door. She knocked on the door, waited a moment, then opened the door and walked in with Michael in tow. She released his hand, turned to face him and smiled, spreading out her arms. He understood. ‘You feel that by using the front door, though the walls have crumbled and we could have easily entered, the castle appreciates our respect and welcomes us.'”
We readers complain about lack of communication between a hero and heroine. No chance of that here. Mary has the power of her hands. Even Michael knows how fabulously wonderful Mary is.
“Her tenacious nature, her smile, her endless attempts to speak with her hands, her willingness to trust him when he was nothing more than a shadow, made her a remarkable woman.”
As you can probably guess, Michael and the villain, Decimus, don’t fare much better in the realm of character development. Michael is sad and tortured and loves his perfect Mary – and Decimus is evil incarnate, at least that’s what the reader is told. We’re told he tortured this person and that he killed Mary’s parents and wants to torture and cleanse her. None of that appears on the page. With some reason I’ll admit, but still it makes him little more than a cartoon character for much of the book.
As I mentioned, I did give the author points for the twist that occurs near the end of the book. And I will also admit that her characters stayed true to who they were throughout. Mary remains angelically innocent and Michael protective and tortured. I guess consistency is something.