I’ve only just recently started reading Viehl’s Darkyn series, even though I’ve been meaning to for quite a while. For the most part I’ve enjoyed the books, but I was particularly pleased after finishing Evermore, which is the fifth installment. It was by far my favorite of the series and that probably has a lot to do with the main romance and the book’s overall Medieval theme. Just a caution – one should read these books in order to understand all the different storylines, though this one is a bit more self-contained.
Aedan mac Byrne is the suzerain of the Realm, both a stronghold for his household and a money-making, Medieval-themed tourist attraction. The mannerisms of the inhabitants are not for show, however, since almost all of the Darkyn living at the Realm were born in the 13th century. Aedan was a Highland warrior during his human life and continued to fight for his country under Robert the Bruce after he changed into an immortal. His prowess on the battlefield is widely feared, even among the Darkyn, due to what he refers to as his “affliction.” When this affliction overtakes him, Aedan becomes a mindless killing machine. He has battled this particular demon for many centuries, but lately it’s been slipping beyond his control. One night, while visiting a club with his best friend, Robin of Locksley, he finds his seneschal, Jayr, fighting off a group of thugs in an alleyway. When he suddenly has the overwhelming desire to rip apart not only the thugs, but Jayr and Robin as well, Aedan finally comes to the decision that it is time for him to relinquish his hold over the Realm. He asks Michael Cyprien, the seigneur over America, to find a replacement for him during a tournament he is hosting for the Darkyn.
Aedan changed Jayr into an immortal during the Battle of Bannockburn; he’d fallen into a pit trap lined with copper-tipped shafts when Jayr happened upon him. Though she was an Englishwoman in the midst of escaping a convent, she couldn’t leave the warrior to die, so she climbed down in the hole to aid him. She was familiar with stories about the Darkyn and willingly gave him her blood to heal him. But Aedan couldn’t keep himself from taking her in other ways and when they resurfaced several days later, Jayr was in the middle of changing into Kyn herself. Due to her talent of incredible speed, Jayr is Aedan’s best warrior and has served as his seneschal for many centuries, the only female to hold that position. But secretly she’s always wanted to be much more to Aedan. She has no idea that he plans to step down or that his feelings for her and his desire to keep her safe have anything to do with this decision.
Trouble ensues as the Darkyn convene for the tournament; someone among them has murderous intentions. The past is also dug up when a refugee from Italy called Lord Nottingham brings back memories of the horrific jardin wars and the disgrace of Robin of Locksley. This aspect of the book is pretty interesting, since these are characters we’ve certainly heard of before – a vampire twist on Robin Hood. Alexandra and Michael, a couple whose story continues over several of the books, again play prominent roles; she continues to recover from her imprisonment in Ireland and Michael must try to discern exactly what horrors she faced. I’ve actually never liked Alex – and Michael seems like a nonentity to me – but their part in this tale didn’t distract too much, nor did it detract from the main storyline.
All the books in this series feature multiple threads, but here they confine themselves to the characters present at the tournament, which makes for greater cohesion. I enjoyed the Medieval theme, with its jousts and archery contests, and felt it added a layer of depth to the romance, since tradition demanded certain things of Aedan and Jayr, who showed themselves willing to break with it for love’s sake. This book also had the sweetest romance of the Darkyn books (Private Demon was also sweet, but this had the more convincing love story). From the very beginning we can see the love and respect that Aedan and Jayr have for each other and we know that they’ve felt that way for centuries. It’s charming how they come together in the end.
That brings me to another positive aspect of the story. In previous books, the endings have been very rushed and somewhat convoluted, but in this one the mysteries are solved, the loose ends tied, and the romance wrapped up, all at a very acceptable pace. Some of the only things I felt were lacking was a better explanation of how Jayr went from being a sheltered convent girl to the only female seneschal, a better understanding of Aedan’s talent (it’s sort of unclear), and closure over one of Alex’s lingering problems.
Viehl’s talent shines in Evermore. Really good vampire series are becoming harder to find, so I’m glad this author is a reliable source and hope that her books remain at least as good as they’ve been so far. I loved some of the characters in this installment and can’t wait for some of their stories – Robin comes immediately to mind. I also want to see Aedan and Jayr again and bask a bit in their love. Hopefully, I won’t wait too long, since the sixth book, Twilight Fall, sits on my desk waiting to be read.