Nightbound: Lords of the Darkyn
I was a big fan of the first titles of Lynn Viehl’s Darkyn series, and I’ve meant to check out her trilogy of offshoot books, Lords of the Darkyn. While I would have preferred to start at the beginning of the trilogy, I picked up the final title, Nightbound, thinking I would test its ability to stand alone. Sadly, this proved a strategic error because I spent a lot of time flipping back and rereading, thinking I must have missed something that would help the story make more sense.
Dr. Alys Stuart – I was never sure if Alys was a shortened form of Alyssa or an alternative spelling of Alice thus could never properly pronounce it – is an archeology professor convinced that a Templar knight managed to find his way to the American shores after the order was disbanded by Pope Clement in 1312. She’s come to dig in the Florida swamps for proof in the form of a valuable artifact she believes is hidden there. She has no idea what that artifact might be. She only knows that the mysterious benefactor who has offered to fund her dig insists on complete secrecy, even requiring Alys and her team of student interns to work only at night.
Darkyn warrior Beaumaris of York knows that the artifact that Alys seeks is a set of Eternal Emeralds imbued with the ability to convey immortality. The immortal Darkyn leaders fear that mortal traitors are searching for the emeralds and will harness their power and attack the Kyn for reasons that remained a mystery to me until the end of the book. Beau is sent to watch over Alys’s excavation with instructions to snatch up the emeralds as soon as they appear. But when Alys’s life is threatened more than once, Beau’s primary objective shifts to keeping her safe and figuring out who is trying to kill her.
I honestly can’t tell you more about the story because it involves a cast of many and a very complex plot that didn’t truly untie itself until the final pages of the book. The power of the Eternal Emeralds turns out to be far more complicated than simple trust-us-they-are-magical, and I never managed to suss out exactly what all the chemistry meant except that when brought out into the open, the emeralds could potentially blow up a lot of people and things, thermonuclear style.
While the book overall was well written, I had two problems that keep me from giving it a better than average grade. First, the romance between Beau and Alys never managed to engage me. At all. Perhaps that’s because these two characters never managed to interest me at all. Outside of the story, they remained two blank canvases who meet, work together, sleep in the same underground “apartment” that Beau creates to keep Alys more comfortable than she would have been sleeping in a tent, and then are suddenly in love. Along the way, I felt like I missed something crucial because their intense feelings for each other just spontaneously appeared. Even at the end of the story, I couldn’t muster a single smidgen of caring about these two characters.
To be fair, I did get a kind of Temperance Brennan (from the TV show Bones) socially-awkward vibe from Alys, and Beau is given a big secret about his birth that is supposedly so dark and shameful that in his seven hundred years of life, he’s told no one for fear of backlash. When he finally comes clean, first to Alys and then to his adoptive brother, nobody cares. It’s a non-starter, a mountain he’s built in his mind that turns out to be a tiny molehill in reality.
My second issue is that, without having read the two preceding titles in this series, so many of the characters and the majority of the mythology meant nothing to me. Not only did I lack an emotional connection I might have gained from shared history, the extensive world building and need to be familiar with past events and characters – some from as far back as the original Darkyn books – made the plot seem convoluted and confusing. The ending did offer enough of an explanation to answer some of my questions, but for the most part I, again, constantly felt as if I must have skipped some key passages.
One suggestion I would like to make to Viehl and her publishers for any new or reprints of Darkyn books is to include a glossary of pronunciations of the various Darkyn terms sprinkled liberally throughout the narrative. A pet peeve I have across the paranormal/fantasy/Sci-Fi subgenres is the use of words that I cannot mentally pronounce. Unfortunately, a lot of the specialized terms used to describe the various aspects of the Darkyn universe caused this problem. When I encountered a word like suzeraina or sygkenis, I would come to a full, frustrated stop while I mentally sounded out the word.
I’m sure that if I had read the first two books in the Lords of the Darkyn trilogy, my analysis of this book might be quite different. The writing is rock solid, and I’ve very much enjoyed Darkyn stories in the past. The pacing is well done with a serious ramp up to the exciting finish. However, given the fact that I didn’t truly buy into the love story and I spent much of the book scratching my head in confusion, I can’t recommend this book without suggesting that you read the ones that precede it in hopes that you will enjoy it more than I did.