Monday, January 9, 2012

In the Darkness by Charles Edward

TITLE: In the Darkness
AUTHOR: Charles Edward
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 73k)
GENRE: Gay historical fantasy erotic romance
COST: $7.99

Gareth is a monster. That’s what he’s always been told. He needs to hide away at night, never be seen. But his curiosity about the outside world drives him to watch, and in watching, he falls in love with a beautiful young man named Evin. Evin is the sexual toy to a powerful young man in his village, and when Gareth sees him getting hurt, Gareth breaks all his rules and interferes. In the days after Evin sees him, refusing to acknowledge him as a monster, the two become fast friends…then more…

This book is just further proof that I’ll finish a mediocre read if it targets one of my bulletproof kinks. In this case, it’s the Beast archetype.

Gareth is that Beast. Forced to spend his days in his parents’ cellar, he is only allowed out at night to do the chores. His parents have warned him his entire life that if he gets seen, he’ll be killed as a monster. The reason for that? He’s green and very large and strong. He also learns that he has unbelievable recuperative powers, which only seems to reinforce the monster accusation. His one escape is sneaking away to watch the people in the nearby village, specifically a beautiful young man named Evin. Evin is the sexual plaything for another young man, one with a great deal more power, and one night, when Gareth witnesses Evin getting hurt, he breaks the rules he’s been given to save Evin. He’s afraid to show himself to Evin, but Evin demands it. Though Evin is at first taken aback by his appearance, he soon gets over it, and the two eventually become lovers. But Evin’s so-called “master” isn’t happy about Evin’s shift in attention, and eventually, Gareth and his peace is interrupted.

In a lot of ways, this is two different books. The first half is straight-up romance. Evin and Gareth are all lovey and sexual and the only conflict is internal. Then, halfway through the book, it shifts to an action fantasy story. There’s no smooth transition, and the writing isn’t nearly sophisticated enough to meld the two. The problems I had in the beginning with an incredibly stilted voice morphed into a lack of clarity once the action set in. Much of that is due to being thrust into a fantasy world with such little preparation. There’s new characters, new politics, new dangers, and it took a long time to get it sorted. Too long. It needed more seamless world-building in the first half to make the latter easier to process. (I was also chagrined to see the perspective slip at the very end of the story. What had been a reasonably tight 3rd all of a sudden headhopped in a crucial scene.)

So why did I finish it if I had a problem with the voice? Because of Gareth. The Beast archetype is an exceedingly common one in romance, and is one of my bulletproof kinks. I kept on going because I cared about Gareth, in spite of not being fully invested emotionally in the story. His simple ways, coupled with his unexpected gentleness, go a long way in making up for other shortcomings.

Evin isn’t quite as fully fleshed out as Gareth, mostly because he serves as a foil for Gareth in the first half, and then spends too much time not himself in the second. I kept waiting for more, but when it finally came, it was too late for me, and I finished the story a tad disappointed.

It’s certainly not a bad story, but it’s not a great one, either. Readers who are sensitive to sexual violence should likely steer clear, as well as those who’d rather not see any het contact in their m/m.


6/10 – The stilted voice in much of the first half makes it drag, and the schism between the two halves detracts from it further

Hero #1

6/10 – Tantalizing possibilities with him though not all were realized

Hero #2

7/10 – I’m a sucker for the Beast archetype and Gareth is no exception

Entertainment value

6/10 – Hard to engage because of writing style, then because of disjointed second half

World building

6/10 – It felt like a lot of good ideas that never got the fleshing out they deserved



No comments: