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Book Review: Stay the Night by Lynn Viehl

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If you’re a fan of paranormal romance/suspense and you haven’t checked out Lynn Viehl’s Darkyn series, you are missing out on some of the most original and well-told stories in the genre. Her seven books — If Angels Burn, Private Demon, Dark Need, Night Lost, Evermore, Twilight Fall and the newly released Stay the Night – have spun a new and very interesting take on the vampire legend that blends historical figures and events, modern medical research, and conspiracy theories with a whole bag full of plot twists and turns.

Stay the Night has only been on book shelves for a few weeks, and already two things are crystal clear. The first is that Viehl is tying up a lot of the questions and storylines presented in previous books – for what purpose, I can only speculate. Second, she’s simply written the best book I’ve seen from her so far.

The basic premise of the Darkyn mythos is that during the Crusades, the Templar knights who went to the Holy Land to fight for king and country picked up a “curse.” Upon their return home, a plague swept through Europe, claiming thousands of lives, including many of the medieval warrior priests and their families. Because of the “curse,” those who went to the Holy Land and those closest to them rose from the grave three days after death. They were in most senses vampires, needing to feed on blood and being nearly indestructible, not to mention seemingly immortal.

Considering the time period in which this took place, it’s logical that those who witnessed this phenomenon instantly condemned the newly risen Darkyn as agents of the devil. Soon the Catholic church took up the torch of the masses and formed a secret society called The Brethren. This group has spent centuries breeding fanatics whose sole purpose is to torture and murder Darkyn and those who are allied with them. They don’t care that the Darkyn have long stopped killing humans for food and can no longer change anyone else to grow their ranks. Though the Brethren have long since been banished by the church, they still pose as Catholic priests and monks as a cover for their agenda and pursuit of Darkyn prisoners.

Fast forward to the 21st-century Chicago and the offices of Dr. Alexandra Keller. She’s the fastest plastic surgeon in the world. The series’ first book, If Angels Burn, establishes how she’s the first human to make the change to Darkyn in a millennium and sets up her romantic relationship with Michael Cyprien, the Darkyn ruler of America. She becomes the only modern doctor the Darkyn have ever known and figures out that the “curse” is actually some kind of pathogen that infected those who returned from the Crusades and was passed to others. The pathogen is the cause of the vampirism, and Alex is determined to find a cure.

Throughout the rest of the books, both Alex and Michael play a key role in advancing the ongoing story arc, which reveals the crumbling leadership of the Darkyn king, Richard (due to a strange physical transformation from being forced to drink cat blood for years) and the escalating war between the Darkyn and Brethren. Along the way, each book centers on a new couple and almost always a new human who is turned, which also serves to advance the overall picture Viehl is trying paint.

In Evermore, the fifth book of the series, some familiar characters are introduced: Robin of Locksley, Guy of Guisborne/Lord Nottingham, Will Scarlett, and Lady Marian. I was very skeptical of this addition because of its potential to come off as being cheesy. However, Viehl gave a new spin to the Robin Hood legend that was refreshing and oddly believable. All of the aforementioned characters had turned Darkyn, with the exception of Marian. Robin has become suzerain (local Darkyn ruler) of Atlanta and is the bitter enemy of Nottingham. Both men blame each other for Marian’s death and try to kill each other throughout the course of the book, among other storylines.

Stay the Night continues this story by centering on Robin and his quest to acquire an ancient tome, The Maiden’s Book of Hours, and establishes him as the world’s greatest thief. True, he’s stealing mostly artifacts that belonged to Darkyn throughout the centuries, but the humans don’t know that and his notoriety has captured the attention of a certain female FBI agent who is looking to clear her partner’s name. Chris is distraught that her partner killed himself in Atlanta, where the book is supposed to be, and needs to prove that he wasn’t suicidal and was in fact trying to catch this thief and hand over the book he sought to the authorities.

While there trying to trap the thief, she falls for a mysterious stranger she meets in a club. The man turns out to be Robin, a consummate ladies man who is affronted by her abrupt departure and determined to recapture her attention. Then he finds out who she really is and what she’s after, and has to decide exactly how to play her in order to get what he wants.

Circumstances change as a new foe enters the picture and blackmails Robin into finding the The Maiden’s Book of Hours, which was stolen by Nottingham during Chris’ sting. Robin kidnaps Chris and takes her to Italy in pursuit of the book, all the while fanning the fire developing between them. More turns and twists unfold, including betrayals of all sorts, a short-lived alliance between Nottingham and Robin, a plot to destroy the world and a miracle that ends Alex’s quest to find a cure for vampirism.

While all of this is going on, Alex and Michael attend a summit of the world’s Darkyn leaders. The main decision to be made: should the Darkyn declare active war on the Brethren? The summit’s outcome and a discovery Alex reveals to the whole group affectively changes the course of the whole series, and quite possibly makes this book the last of the Darkyn stories.

At the end of the book is an excerpt from a new series Viehl will debut in November called Shadowlight, which will be the first in the Kyndred series, an apparent sequel to the Darkyn series. I don’t think that this is the end of the Darkyn series, though, because Stay the Night sets up at least one final story that needs to be told. I hope that Viehl does at least wrap up these loose ends, if not in one last Darkyn book, then in Shadowlight.

Viehl’s storytelling style is really enjoyable to read. She tells all of her stories in dribs and drabs through various perspectives that keep the reader turning every page to see what happens next. Having read all of the Darkyn books, I can clearly see how her style and storytelling has evolved over the years. Each book is more engaging and intricate than the last, making Stay the Night by far the most interesting and surprising story of the whole series.

My only complaint is the cover art. All of the other books have used jewel-tone colors that add a vibrant compliment to the rich storytelling that goes on within the pages. Stay the Night has wash of white and pearl blended with purples. While this certainly makes the book stand out from the others, I think it does not reflect the story inside.

For paranormal and vamp fans of all kinds, this whole series is a must-read. Lots of action, history, sex, intrigue and plot twists make for very satisfying reading.

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