Pleasures of the Night
Sylvia Day introduces an intriguing new paranormal world in Pleasures of the Night, but the overall lack of development prevents it from having the impact it should have – or much at all.
The story takes place in a world where dreams are real and Nightmares can be deadly. Aidan Cross is a Dream Guardian, a warrior whose duty is to battle the Nightmares that drain the life force of human Dreamers. Centuries ago the Nightmares invaded the world where he and his people lived. Aiden’s people managed to escape by opening a fissure into a dimension between their old world and the human world. But the result was that it also gave the Nightmares access to the human world, so it is up to Aidan and his fellow Guardians to protect humans from the Nightmares. They enter the sleep of human Dreamers to provide good dreams and fight off the Nightmares. At the same time, they are ever watchful for the mythical being known as The Key, a human said to have the power to break down all the fissures between worlds and give the Nightmares free rein.
After centuries as a Guardian, Aidan has become restless, facing both his own loneliness and his growing questions about his task. Then he meets Lyssa Bates, a human who can’t seem to get any sleep. Somehow she managed to construct a massive door that has prevented the Nightmares from entering her sleep, but also kept the Guardians from entering and granting her good dreams. Aidan manages to convince her to open the door to him, only to discover a woman who affects him more than any human woman ever has. As he gives her some of the most sensual encounters she’s ever experienced in her dreams, he finds himself just as satisfied by what they share. It’s clear there’s something different about this woman, perhaps too different. Besides the strange door she built, Lyssa seems to be able to see him – not the image he presents, but the real him – which she shouldn’t be able to do. Aidan begins to fear she might be the mythical Key, who he and any other Guardian is duty bound to destroy.
If I had to describe the book in just a few words, they would be “Not Good Enough.” There’s not really anything wrong with it. It’s just that what’s here isn’t all that it should be, so instead of being good, it’s simply decent. It’s a very easy read. Day’s prose is generally smooth and her story moves quickly. For the most part, it’s consistently interesting, and the world-building is very cool and original.
In the end, though, the story is simply too shallow. As I wrote the summary above, it occurred to me that I said a lot about the hero and very little about the heroine. There’s a reason for that. She’s fairly close to a nonentity. The character development overall is minimal, but at least Aidan’s background and motivations are laid out early on. Plus, he’s interently interesting enough to make his lack of development slightly less of an issue. But Lyssa isn’t developed at all. She seems nice enough. She’s not dumb or annoying, which are two pluses right there. But we learn next to nothing about her (she’s a veterinarian, her mother’s bossy, her sister’s pregnant…and that’s it). About the best I can say is that she’s inoffensive. On the plus side, Day manages to build a convincing connection between the main characters, so I bought into their feelings in some of the more emotional sections. If only I’d actually cared about them as people.
While I liked the concepts Day presented, there’s a certain lack of detail to her writing that prevents them from really coming alive. The Guardian world is painted in broad strokes that only describes it in a vague sort of way. Her prose is never lush enough to make the dream sequences as vivid as they should be. This looks to be the beginning of a series, and some of the world-building is purposely kept ambiguous, most likely to be explored further in later books. At first it didn’t bother me (too) much, because this story in and of itself was generally easy enough to follow. But my tolerance hit its limit in the climactic scenes, which were somewhat difficult to follow and where too much was left unsaid and unexplained. As you would expect, the book gives Aidan and Lyssa a happy ending together. But the way everything is kept so purposely vague is simply frustrating and left me unsatisfied in the end, happy ending or not. Frankly, I’m not sure I care enough to follow onto the next book to find out more.
Sylvia Day has some good ideas in Pleasures of the Night, but my final impression is that she could have done so much more with them. I’m not sorry I read it, but I am glad I didn’t pay for it, which is a sure sign I can’t recommend anyone else do so.