When I picked up the Dark Warrior series by Donna Grant I was as skeptical as I always am when starting a new series in this genre. Will it live up to the standard by which I hold all PNR books – that of the first 6 Black Dagger Brotherhood books (and it is just the first 6 because after that they shifted into “urban fantasy”, but this review isn’t about those books so I will let that go for now)? Unfortunately, it didn’t. It was kinda a hot mess. I started with the first of the Dark Warriors series, I did not read the Dark Sword series first. That didn’t make things difficult from a plot perspective, but it was surprising in a few ways to discover that there were a number of books that came first. The same way there were two factions (the druids/good and drough/bad) of magicians in this series, my thoughts on these books are split into good and bad thoughts. Hence, the mess…!
Lets start with the good. The books were easy to read. The good characters were generally likeable, even though they were, as usual in this genre, frustrating sometimes. The background, which presumably came from a bunch of other books, is nicely summarized in each book (concise, consistent and usually timed perfectly in the plot of each individual book). In fact, the summaries were so similar that once you realized where they started (it helped that I read these all back-to-back), skimming them was possible without missing any info that would be important later. There seemed to be chemistry between the characters. And, while each story took place over a relatively condensed time frame, it often lasted more than two days. Which, when trying to convince a reader that a relationship has developed is nice. And, the entire series takes place over a few years. This is a nice change of pace from a lot of the contemporaries in this genre which insist on having a life altering relationship “develop” in 30 seconds or less.
Interestingly, the gods weren’t really all that important. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that they existed and made the men in this series Warriors was integral to the overall story arc for the series. But, the details of which god had what powers (etc.) wasn’t something that a reader needed to worry about or remember. Contrast that to the Lords of the Underworld series (which I love), and we have two ends of the spectrum with how much of a role the gods themselves play. I liked the background role they played here versus being front-and-center, in your face, causing all kinds of direct problems with the relationship development that they do in some other series. The ladies were also generally not weak, whiney, pathetic women. They went into battle (albeit magical battle) and I wasn’t questioning them being there. The dialogue, with the exception of the accent (which I will address in the cons section), wasn’t too cheesy and was easy to digest. Overall, the entire story arc was something that was easy to digest and easier to route for the good guys. Finally, it was a nice surprise to get a few other magical beings tossed into the mix – kept things from getting too stale, and let characters die yet live on, without feeling like the author wussed out and contrived some too-easy way out of letting the character get what was coming based on the course of the plot to that point.
The bad. Well, it’s inevitable. Like in all these books where good can’t exist without bad, and vice versa, this series too had its areas for improvement. There were small and large issues. Plot inconsistencies and holes can seem little, but in my mind they are always large. They indicate, to me, a failure in planning by the author or laziness. Small items that are inconsistent seem more like laziness to me (but, I am not an author of anything more than short stories). And there were a number of small items, that really nagged at me the whole way through. For example, Gwen joins the folks in the castle in the first book. But then in the second book, there are statements about it being so long since anyone new came to the castle. But, these two books weren’t exactly set months apart. That one stuck with me, and reared its head a few times throughout the series. Then, the fact that Jason could not know he had magic, study up and practice and learn all that Declan did and more in less than a year? Please…. That’s too much of a stretch of reality, even for a fantasy book for me. Part of the problem is that when fantasy tries to keep a foot in reality, the fantastical aspects should be the only ones that are fantastical. You know, if I am going to suspend reality for the notion that there are gods and druids, but still be required to believe in security at famous places and cars being normal, then I don’t want to all of a sudden have every human be able to teleport their mail. Maybe that’s just me…
There were a few big plot holes too. While I admit it was nice to dispense of Deirdre relatively early on, the how and (real) why of the time travel is lost for quite some time. And the how is never really solved. If folks can time travel, why don’t they do more of it to solve many of the problems here. And the prophecies…? I assume that those are in the Dark Sword books, but that’s the one set of facts that gets glossed over and never really discussed. There’s potential for more there! And, one of the biggest – is how the heck does one god live in two people at the same time? Huh? How? Explain that one to me. Please. Luckily, the gods, as I said earlier, aren’t as important as one might think.
Then, there’s the language: “doona”, “willna” and “wasna”, “no’ going” and “no’ likely”. These made me want to bang my head against the nearest door. Either write everything with the accent or don’t write it at all. I am reminded of Alexander (that awful movie staring Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie) – they all had different accents, and they were speaking English. In ancient rome, do we really think they spoke that way? I’m not an idiot. I would rather ditch all pretenses and just speak English without the fake accents (or better yet, the Hunt for Red October did it excellently, check it out to see what I mean – they used transitions and it was a million times better). So, if you aren’t going to give me the phonetic spelling of all words from the highlanders, don’t give me any. It is distracting.
Finally, there the sex scenes. I don’t mind reading stuff that is pretty steamy. But, these books tend to be a little… softer. So when “rod” is thrown in with all the softer terms its a little shocking. This happens a number of times (same bat-word on the same bat-channel) throughout the series. And, turns out that this author isn’t even all that creative with these scenes. If you want to be explicit, be explicit; if you want to be soft, be soft. But here, it feels like a discombobulated mess. Steaminess on a scale of 5 sits at about a 3. Creativity score on the same scale sits at a 1. Repetitiveness (not to be confused with non-creativity as I mean them in two totally different ways) is a 4.8.
Will I read the other series? Probably. Although I have a few JR Ward, Larissa Ione, Molly Harper, Dakota Cassidy (and others) installments to read first.