Sunday, March 15, 2009

Children of the Night by Mercedes Lackey

I read this book relatively quickly and perhaps not as thoroughly as I could have. Not because it was bad, but because I wasn't really in the mood for it, but it's due back at the library shortly and I didn't really feel like I was going to be in the mood for it later, either. But it turns out I have a bit more to say about it than I thought I did.

I didn't take it back without looking at it (as I have been known to do with books that just don't quite meet my requirements of the moment) because I wanted to remember what happened, and see whether or not it lived up to my memory's standards.

Happily, it did. I don't remember it being an absolutely amazing book, and it's not. But it's definitely a good, fast, tense read.

Mercedes Lackey doesn't tend to shy away from ugliness; bad things happen to her characters, and due to her penchant for switching points of view, sometimes we see characters who we have grown attached to get really messy endings. And sometimes pointless endings. And you know what? In this book, it really works. It makes you hate the villains more (and these are villains with nothing to recommend them, no sympathetic points whatsoever) and it makes you feel that something big is at stake.

Children of the Night is the last Diana Tregarde "mystery" that Lackey wrote, and I don't believe she has plans to write any others, for various reasons. I read the story on her website quite a while ago. It's a shame, because Diana is a great character, but as the author Lackey does get to decide when to cut things off and I'm not one of those fans who demands that authors "finish" things to my satisfaction.

This story follows both Diana and Dave, her ex-boyfriend from her college days. Diana is tracking something that is eating souls, usually in a very messy way. She gets involved with a charming and sexy vampire (see, long before Twilight I was into sexy vampires), who is also tracking the soul-eater, and together she and Andre have to find it and stop it. Dave, unfortunately for him, is on the other side of the fence, and it's through his perspective that we start to see what Diana and Andre are up against.

The plot in this story, quite different from The Lark and the Wren, is incredibly solid, not too cramped, and leads up to a grand climax that is totally satisfying. I did put "mystery" in quotes up there, because we know all along what's going on, so it's more of a suspense read than a genuine mystery. Unlike in some suspense books where the narrator is omniscient, I was never frustrated with Diana for not figuring things out sooner. She's a smart, kick-ass heroine, but she's human and though she does her best, she doesn't have a lot to work with, especially at the beginning. My only complaint was that her weakness -- debilitating panic attacks -- was dealt with in far too pat a way, and in such a way as to seem almost offensive to those real people I know who suffer panic attacks because curing it is not that easy. Which is interesting, because Lackey is usually pretty careful about that sort of thing. I'm not sure what she was aiming for with her resolution of that particular character point, other than a way to advance the plot or very quickly grow Diana's character.

I'd recommend it as a fast, suspenseful read without any real lasting impressions (although I did remember it after all these years, so I guess that says something). And you don't have to read any of the other Tregarde books to follow the story or the characters. If you have a queasy stomach or don't like it when bad things happen to good people, steer clear. I think I was in grade 10 or 11 when I first read this, and that was fine for me. I don't think I would have liked it if I was much younger (or it possibly would have given me nightmares for weeks), but that depends on the person, I'm sure.

What this did do for me was make me feel a little relieved, that I can still enjoy Mercedes Lackey's writing on some levels. This is a much better book than The Lark and the Wren overall, and I'm glad that I read it, even if I did skim through parts of it.


Jill said...

Oh, I'm glad you still enjoyed this! I've been thinking of doing a reread when I finish up with Tanya Huff's "Blood" books, which I remember reading and enjoying at around the same time as this series. I was disappointed not to see more of this series, too. Diana is a very likable character.

Unknown said...

Isn't she, though? She's one of my first favourite ass-kicking heroines. I think there was a lot of potential for development -- but I also don't feel that as a reader I was hung out to dry. The book finished solidly and though there were unanswered questions, they weren't of the nail-biting, cliff-hanging variety.

Actually, she reminds me a bit of Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs' novels, although I think Mercy is a more complex character. Luckily I think we'll be seeing a lot more of Mercy than we saw of Diana.

Jill said...

I agree - and it is impressive to think that Diana was really an unusual kind of character in her time, and that now there are so many (wonderful) butt-kicking strong heroines out there. It's good to see that she still holds her own.