Customer Reviews: Darkness Dawns (Immortal Guardians series Book 1)
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on January 17, 2013
Since I took a chance on Charlaine Harris's "Dead Until Dark" in an Audible "paperback" sale, I have been strangely hooked on supernatural female heroine books.

This is a guilty pleasure which I am reluctant to admit, being a typical man.

However, many of these books are well done, entertaining, and even hysterically funny (like Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate or Darynda Jones' Charlie Davidson series). I think that men who overlook them are missing out. Sure they all have romance novel elements, but I can fast-forward through that stuff if I have to.

"Darkness Dawns", however, is different breed of cat. It had enough going for it that I wanted to see how it ended (and I did pay for it, dammit) so I was determined to slog through.

But really -- this book is just sophomoric.

The two main characters, Roland and Sarah, are just perfectly perfect. They are perfectly handsome or beautiful, perfectly built with rippling muscles or hourglass figure, have perfect skin, perfect hair, are incredibly sensitive, unbelievably self-possessed, -- and humorless, smug, shallow, vapid, and intolerant in that special way that only the terminally self-righteous can be. They eat only organic foods, wear natural fibers, eschew homophobia, drive Priuses and carefully recycle their cat food cans. (I only hope that Nietzsche the Wonder Cat -- the only character I really liked in this book -- gets to eat real tuna and not some vegan slop.)

Our hero is an incredible fighter. He can beat twelve vampires at a single thrust and then cook perfect organic eggplant parmesan without missing a beat. He eats no meat -- except for that blood drinking thing. He is a perfect lover. He is a fabulous interior decorator who works exclusively in earth tones.

Roland is also a Nobel laureate, physicist, neurosurgeon, test pilot, and rock star, out to save the world by defeating a band of inter-planetary vampires from the ninth dimension. OK -- that last sentence is not exactly true, but it would have been totally in character with the book. Dianne Duvall probably never got the memo that Buckaroo Banzai is parody, not role model.

Sure, as a kid I fantasized about being a muscle-bound, square-jawed space jockey who could smite aliens while curing cancer and make the ladies swoon. But I outgrew pulp fiction when I came to realize that perfect is BORING. Perfect people lack character and dimension.

This book is chock full of unimaginative and improbable fights, cheesy deus-ex-machina rescues (would you believe Amazing Healing Touch and teleportation?), gratuitous environmental correctness, tedious erotica (not sex -- as a typical man I have no objection to sex), and interminable "relationship chats" as Nicole Hollander might put it.

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on July 15, 2011
There are many directions you can go with vampire books these days, but this one will take you far off the beaten path. It heads into a direction no man, or vampire, has gone before. Many of the characters in this novel, whether human or not, are environmentally friendly and health conscious. Now, I'm not against such things in real life, but I didn't expect to find it in a paranormal romance. I like my blood suckers to be dark, dangerous, and generally uncaring (until the right woman comes along and brightens their otherwise depressingly long existence). To be fair, the author makes her "vampires" to be bad, but she also includes another blood sucking race called "immortals". Rather original, I must say, but I digress. These guys are supposed to be the defenders of humans and enemies of vampires. Therefore, they can go "green" and that is okay. This is in addition to the main human character, Sarah, who also follows these tenets heavily.

So, to clarify some of this, I will list some of the fascinating topics covered in this novel. First, you will see some rather lengthy dialog on the benefits of organic food. It is tastier, after all. Then comes the religious conversation on whether drinking blood, in any form, is acceptable to God. Sarah will list all the old testament rules (which were debatably nullified in the new testament) about how you can't eat animals with blood still in them. Also, rabbits, pork, shellfish, birds of prey, and scavengers are also banned. Just to add to this already fun conversation, she points out how pigs and rabbits eat their own feces, yum! Don't forget shellfish are full of toxins. It all makes me want to run out to Captain D's for the seafood platter right now! That is, after I order the meat lovers pizza topped with all kinds of pork from Papa Johns.

Back to the blood drinking front. It should be understood that "Immortals" don't actually "drink" blood. At least, it doesn't really go into their stomachs. Rather, they suck it right through their fangs and it goes directly into their bloodstream. Surely the pesky few drops that go elsewhere don't count against them? At least, they hope God will understand. Personally, I think the author missed an ideal opportunity here to campaign for Brita Fang Filters. That way, any toxins from the blood of non-organic eating humans can be removed before ingestion. The excess waste can then be spit out into an appropriately labeled hazmat container. Really, if vampires ever did come out of the closet, I would be the first to invest in such a product!

Anyway, moving right along, the environmentally friendly characters do go to great lengths to prove their resolve in saving the planet. Considering the longevity of immortals, this does make sense on some level. They do have more at stake (no pun intended) than us short lived mortals do. So using "green" dish soap and, of course, driving low-emission cars makes a lot of sense for these ruthless killers. Being earth friendly isn't quite enough for the author, though, as the evils of alcohol had to be attacked as well. You see, the "Immortals" must filter out impurities in anything they eat or drink (it isn't just blood these guys need but food as well). The more unhealthy stuff they intake, due to their lack of Brita Fang Filters, the more blood they must suck to stay healthy. Yes, it is all very confusing, but the author does her best to explain. So avoiding harmful substances, such as alcohol, means less need to partake of human blood. Since the Immortals are there to protect humans from vampires, this consideration is important.

In summary, if you are looking for a dark paranormal romance novel that has no additional agenda, this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a bloodsucker "light" novel that spends plenty of time discussing todays health risks and environmental problems, then you may like this novel. Oh, by the way, let us not forget that cell phones will give you brain tumors. Just a parting word of caution. The main character, Sarah, will verify this for you!
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on February 1, 2011
Ah yes... Roland, one who was thought to be anti-social and a royal pain in the.. uh... hiney is very swoon worthy! He "meets" a young music teacher, Sarah who is strong, independent and a bit weary of others herself. Roland finds himself wanting to protect the young mortal from danger he feels he brought upon her and as the danger progresses she finds out exactly what he is. Now the question becomes is if they both can trust one another to find out what is sparking between the two.

Some may find the relationship between Roland and Sarah a bit fast. However, I found it completely refreshing. There was not a frustrating amount of me yelling at the book saying... "Tell HER!" or "Tell HIM!" when it came to any secrets. They both laid their souls bare and dealt with the consequences. This is probably one of the reasons I forgave Sarah for stealing my book boyfriend. She also gave as good or better than she received even when some things were hard for each other to understand.

I'm not going to say much more because I'd be tempted to completely spoil the book and I won't! I give this book 5 stars and I flew through the book. I can't wait for the next in the Immortal Guardian series! If you love PNR, you will enjoy this book. Can I have the next one now? Seriously, can I? *bats eyelashes*
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on February 2, 2011
When the very normal Sarah bravely acts to rescue an injured stranger from torture and certain death, she is drawn into a world she never dreamed existed - for Roland is not truly the undercover agent he first claims to be but actually an immortal protector who guards humanity from predation by insane vampires.

I actually really enjoyed this debut effort. Even though I am no longer a huge fan of vamps, author Duvall brings some science and enough of a twist to the vampire mythos here to avoid some of the 'same old same old' in the romance along with a sweetness to the relationship that I really liked. Sarah is capable and caring without being one of those stupidly suicidal heroines who refuses to acknowledge that being independent doesn't mean taking on an enemy who outmatches you. Roland, is pretty much everything you'd want from a vamp leading man - minus the arrogance. Plus, his history brings Roland a good amount of vulnerability without making him emotionally crippled, so that it is the Sarah's kindness and sense of humor that wins his heart instead just the sizzling physical attraction between them.

I actually really liked all of Duvall's immortals. While the starring pair did get most of the screen time, there was a nice amount of development/introduction to other characters in the world. Roland's friend Marcus has a particularly poignant story, and the most ancient of the immortals, Seth, was intriguing as well.

So, good new world, a sweet and steamy romance, enough vampiness to make vampire fans happy and enough deviation from the old standard vamp romance formula for those who aren't. I am definitely ready for more of Duvall's world, looks like the next book  is tentatively scheduled for December 2011, I can't wait to see who's up next.
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on March 2, 2012
1.5 stars

It's a bad sign when before you get to 5%, you are already hitting your head against something hard - and if you end up pissed and frequently ranting for 95% of the book. Granted, this was partially due to my general crankiness for the majority of the time I was reading this, which may have affected how I perceived this book, but it also had to do with the things I've read previously. Or maybe it was just the book.

Within the first 5%, I immediately saw the world's resemblance to the world of Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series:

Fanged night-walkers who kill innocents? Check.
Fanged night-walkers who killed the killers? Check.
The good fanged night-walkers led by the oldest and most powerful and omniscient (or nearly so) good fanged night-walker? Check.
The good fanged ones supported by humans in the know? Check.
The organization's use of the Internet and message boards to communicate? Check, check, check, dammit!

I think I have a headache.

Given the fact that I have for a few years now been tired of the Dark-Hunter series (although it mostly had to do with the distinct author's voice), this resemblance was an unwelcome surprise to me.

My first thought? Not creative.

In the interest of fairness, I will say that I really liked the author's efforts to explain vampirism/immortalism in terms of science and whatnot. It was pretty interesting, and on the surface, made a bit of sense. So, this explanation to make her fanged ones extra speshul? 0.5 star. At least they don't sparkle.

1 star for entertainment value. There were a few funny parts, and when things didn't irritate me or reminded me too strongly of the Dark-Hunters, I enjoyed it.

Aside from the irritating similarity to Kenyon's Dark-Hunters, there were several other factors that kept me from enjoying this book - and close to DNF'ing it (and I really try not to DNF books).

1. The author seems to think heroines should be small and delicate. The heroines, not just the main one but the other ladies of interest - at least the more human ones - are all described as being small. Small hands this, tiny feet that, small and delicate bodies. I remembered reading other readers' opinions complaining of this phenomena in romance novels but had never really came across it until now. Nearly every single time a body part was mentioned, it was accompanied by the descriptive words synonymous to small. What-the-hell. Heroines apparently should also weep in sympathy for the hero's pain when they don't even know said hero to show just how good she is. Eye-roll moment here.

2. The author used this book as a vehicle to preach about vegetarianism and eating organically. When I read a paranormal romance, I don't want to be lectured and told I eat artificial crap, thank you very much. It puts me in a bad mood, makes me have very unhappy feelings about the book, and encourages me to write a very ticked off review accompanied by a really low rating.

Roland stared down at it as she sliced it. "That pizza is organic."
Here we go. "Look, I know it doesn't contain artificial crap, genetically modified organisms, irradiated vegetables, recombinant artificial bovine growth hormone, pesticides, or other harmful chemicals, but if you'll just give it a chance--"
"I don't have to give it a chance," he interrupted. "I eat this all the time. It's delicious."
As Sarah gaped at him in astonishment, he grabbed a goat cheese - and vegetable-laden slice and practically swallowed it whole.
Holy crap! This man might very well be perfect!

But the part that made me this close to toss in the towel?

"There are a lot of commandments regarding diet in the Bible. Not drinking blood is just one of them. So if you two are damned for drinking blood, then anyone who eats rabbit, pork, meat with blood in it, shellfish, things that swarm, and birds of prey or scavenger birds is damned too. And those are just the restrictions I can remember off the top of my head."
It was a surprisingly logical and pragmatic approach to take.
Marcus raised his eyebrows. "Do you eat any of those foods?"
She wrinkled her nose. "No. If you ask me, that crap just isn't healthy, which is probably why it was banned in the first place."

The author also felt it was important to mention that the Immortals used "environmentally safe dishwashing soap". When I read this part, I was cranky and hadn't had my morning coffee yet. You can imagine for yourself how well that particular line was received on top of all that organic crap I was being lectured on.

The way everything fell in to place was not unexpected. After all, it was a paranormal romance, and an HEA was a requisite. But silly me, I'd hope that there was another way to resolve this than a deus ex machina in the form of Sarah's abilities that had not been mentioned in the entire book until the very end. And the mention of time traveling in this world? Not a bonus since I am not fond of that plot device, and the author never explained it - guess she was waiting for Marcus's book, which I most likely will not be reading.

This review was cross-posted from Goodreads.
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on May 11, 2012
Where to start. I've slept since finishing it, so all of the myriad things that bugged me so greatly yesterday have had time to settle and hide in my brain...

Well, I will start with Roland. He is supposed to be 936 years old but there really is no hint throughout the book to that affect - unless you count using the word "trencher" or referring to his kids as "babes." Otherwise, he was like any other man from the 21st Century. Not to mention he is supposed to be this reclusive, antisocial type who is angry with the world... And yet he is written as uber polite and thoughtful from the first. Having no problems socializing whatsoever. And he reveals ALL of his deep, dark secrets to Sarah so easily. Roland just felt totally flat and one dimensional.

And Sarah. Nothing really wrong with her other than I found her to be completely uninteresting. And the things she said often made me roll my eyes. And she fell in love so incredibly quickly. I think the whole book spans maybe seven days. I just couldn't buy it.

And the plot. Nothing much happens. Someone with a vendetta for Roland is pursuing him, trying to kill him. And when they aren't fighting, well, they're doing it. It's like, "Hmm nothing is happening right now, good time for a sex scene." Then a few pages later, "Pace is kind of slow, they might as well have sex again." I'm usually not a complainer when it comes to the intimacies in a book, unless it's to say there aren't enough, so for me to complain about gratuitous sex - that's saying something.

I'm not going to pick on Dianne Duvall's writing... It wasn't bad. There were a lot of redundancies in descriptions, though. Particularly when describing Sarah's "full breasts." There are many other adjectives to be used, no need to repeatedly use "full." Other than that, I just didn't feel there was significant character or plot development. And, honestly, the difference between an "immortal" and a "vampire" did not intrigue me. Not enough to try the next book, unless my trusted friend Paula tells me to give it a go.

I had to give this book two stars. After reading such wonderfully crafted books by the likes of Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Kresley Cole, Larissa Ione, and Jeaniene Frost... This book falls way short. And since two stars represents that "it was ok" - that's truly all it was, in my opinion
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on June 22, 2011
No point in going into the storyline for this book. 112 people have reviewed it other than me. Even though the author held my attention throughout the book, I felt it followed too much of a formula instead of being innovative. Still a decent read. That said - I have one huge beef (using that word deliberately).

Ms. D: - Certainly you have the right to be vegetarian, organic, homegrown or anything else you want; however, don't take a book on paranormal romance and force your personal views on organic food down my throat. I also am not interested in your views on cell phones. Don't care - Don't want to read about it - Won't buy another.

If I may make a suggestion - write an informative/recipe book about organic food and give recipes to others and explain the reasons you feel so strongly about organic food. A book like that may interest me, and when I spend my money on it, I know completely what I am purchasing. Heck, even throw a blurb in on the last chapter about cell phones, but don't use a romance novel as your own personal platform - it just ticks people off.
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on July 8, 2012
I loved the characters and there was great worldbuilding in the book with a unique storyline. The sex scenes were ehh and I can't believe it, but I even skipped over some because I was more interested in the storyline. I want to read the other books and will, but I pray that some of the issues and core details and writing techniques that drove me nuts are not in the other books. Roland was broody, but hardly alpha, which is more my cup of tea. I like my fictional boyfriends to have some umph and take charge to them and Roland was just okay, but way too lovey-dovey for me.

Tea. THAT word. Naturalistic, holistic, organic, non-drinking, non-bloody meat eating immortals who have to drink blood to survive anyway? Really? Come on. And, the author is the first I have read by a major publisher who uses parentheticals. Talk about shocking you out of a book every few pages or so. Sometimes they were like author notes, other times they were about the characters' thoughts. If they are notes, please, come on, you take the reader out of the book and it irritated me to the point I wanted to stop reading several times. If they are character thoughts, please, please, just put it in another sentence. Fiction should not be laced with shock-absorbing writing habits that take you out of a book. Ugh. Sorry, there is my rant. Despite these issues, the world is an interesting one that I will pay money to continue reading about.
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on May 5, 2011
I am going to skip all the warm fuzzies and go straight to the point. Sarah's character is sweet and rather boring; Roland is gentle and boring. The love between them is very sweet and flows easily. The plot of the story was not exciting by any means. If I am capable of putting a book down multiple times without thinking about it, then it isn't all that great for me. I have read other authors like: J.R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood), Kresley Cole (Immortals After Dark), and Gena Showalter (Lords of the Underworld). Dianne Duvall doesn't even come close to their writing ability, nor creativity. I cannot say I hate the book because the story was so 'gentle', but it was a waste of money. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
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on February 15, 2011
I downloaded the Kindle version of Darkness Dawns for free, and was rather glad that I didn't pay anything for it. The premise is a tried and true frame for a vampire story -- very similar to Sherrilyn Kenyon's Darkhunter series. The plot and characters were interesting enough, if typical, to keep my attention -- I loved the addition of the immortal cat. The idea that the immortals are aliens or from a different species of humans is a twist that I appreciate. Several secondary characters, particularly the antagonist, Bastien, are great characters that could definitely handle their own story. All in all, this book is a great beginning, except for one huge flaw.
My only issue with the story is the main female character, Sarah. There might be a few spoilers here, but I want to back up my opinion with why I believe it. Sarah's character has a lot of potential but she remains very one dimensional to me. She is too perfect, written without one flaw given to the character, making her completely unrealistic and difficult to relate to. Sarah is a 30 year old music professor with a doctorate. I imagine it is unusual to receive a doctorate and full professorship at such an early age, but since her profession doesn't really play into the story, it can be overlooked. However, keeping in mind she is an academic with no real medical or military training, her responses to the continual bloodshed, wounds, and general mayhem are unreal. Knowing how to handle a gun and being a good shot is one thing, but Sarah doesn't react at all to those dieing around her, even when she kills a person for the first time. Even soldiers trained have some fallout from taking a life! It's not even mentioned - just her worry for Roland. Beyond that first freak out when confronted with vampires existing, Sarah immediately accepts the immortals, right down to their drinking blood and Roland mentioning he wants to bite her during sex. Accepting that Roland doesn't want to kill her is a far cry from accepting their lifestyle - there is no thought on her part about it, no real introspection. She offers the two suggestions that turn the course of the battle against Bastien. After three days of training to fight vampires, where she is of course a natural, she wants to go fight with the rest. In the end, she is of course a gifted one with prophetic dreams that were never before's too tidy an ending for something that had no groundwork previously. Sarah has no flaws, no real trust issues despite her horrific upbringing, no areas where she needs to grow. Without room for growth, she's a static character and utterly boring. I found myself skimming the parts with her and Roland so that I could read more about Marcus, Bastien, Seth, or Ami.
This series has potential despite my problems with Sarah. While I'm glad I didn't pay for this book, I'm still curious about the author's next story. Hopefully, she'll develop her heroine a little better next time.
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