Nightkeepers by Jessica Andersen
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Although Dr. Jessica Andersen has my admiration for undertaking such an ambitious series, I have to say I was disappointed with this book. It took me the better part of the month of February to read, and that's rather unusual for me. There were issues that I had with this book that made it hard to keep reading, quite frankly.
For one thing, I never really came to like the hero, Striking-Jaguar, or the heroine, Leah. I did come to respect them, eventually. But I was not in love with them, or their love story. Strike was in a tough situation, as the reluctant King of a dying race, the Nightkeepers, who were the only surviving members of the Maya culture. He did feel a connection with, Leah, a cop whose life he saved, but wasn't free to act on it. There should have been more drama in that, but it never really affected me to the degree that I hoped for. I didn't find their romance all that romantic. Although I'm not found of insta-sex in a romance, that wasn't even the problem. I just never felt a strong buildup or connection between them. At least not until the end. I thought at the end, well, that's cool that they love each other and will rule together. But that's about as excited as I got about this couple. At times, they both annoyed me with their personalities, and how they approached things. I found Leah to be a strong heroine, but she came off as abrasive, and foolishly stubborn in other moments. However, she played a very important role in helping Strike to come to terms with his identity, and in urging the Nightkeepers to form a bond as a team. I did admire her for that. Strike was in over his head, and he had to get out of his head to able to take on the role he was called for by his destiny.
The mythology was interesting, but at first, it was hugely baffling. There were a lot of terms thrown around to get used to. Now, I normally love a paranormal series that is built upon intricate worldbuilding. But there was something about the execution that left me cold. Frankly, all the auto-sacrifice aspects were, well, disturbing. Every other scene, someone was cutting their hand, stabbing themselves in the tongue, or cutting some body part. It was really hard to take at times. Having said that, I wondered how she would get past the sacrificial aspects of this culture, and this was a good compromise to having the heroes in a story sacrificing people and cutting out their hearts, to let blood for their magic rituals.
I felt that there was a lot of info-dumping in this story. It was a lot to wrap my mind around, and with all humbleness, I am a big fan of folklore and history. I guess I wanted to see the story unfold in a more natural way. The abrupt shifts in narrative, and characters being introduced, but then pushed to the side to cover other aspects of the story was rather frustrating for me to keep up with. However, I do admit that I am intrigued with a few characters I met: Lucius, Jade, Michael, and to a lesser extent, Anna, Sven, Nate, and Alexis. The Rabbit storyline was a source of annoyance to me. His teen angst is understandable, but it seemed like a plot point to me. I hope that his storyline comes to full frution in an enjoyable fashion in future books.
One big, huge pet peeve I had with this novel, was the hip tone that Dr. Andersen went for. It was fairly annoying. There were times where I would get sucked into this story, and then she'd start with the hip lingo, and I would grit my teeth. I think that colloquial language is like salt in a recipe: you need it there for the recipe to taste good. But too much, ruins it. That was what happened with me and this novel. I really didn't need that hip vibe to feel that these were modern characters. It just seemed contrived to me.
Another issue I had was the pairing up of characters sexually, but then their breaking up. I didn't mind so much with Strike and Leah, because you know they would end up together. And the same with Nate and Alexis (Book 2: Daykeepers). But what was the point of Jade and Michael getting together, and you know that they're going to be with other people in the following books? That was very undesirable to me. It just seemed tawdry to me. I'll be the first to admit that a tawdry, casual sex vibe is a huge turn-off for me.
I had another issue I won't get into, because it's a personal thing for me, and I don't know that it would bother the majority of the readers. I imagine it might bother a few who read paranormal romance and come from the same belief system as I do. Or maybe not. But I'll keep that out of this review.
And then there was the obligatory killing off of a character. Why kill that person off when you clearly didn't like him anyway, and made him as big a jerk as possible the whole book? His dying didn't add to the story, and it seemed like a compromise in writing: I have to kill off one character, why not the one that everyone hates? What sacrifice is that? Either kill off someone that I've come to love (which I really don't care for), or don't kill anyone off who's pivotal to the storyline. The point that I'm trying to make is, I don't think that this death really served anything. I guess we'll find out in the next book.
So, as much as it pains me to write a less than flattering review, I have to be honest. I did not love this book. I barely liked it. Well, I can't say I did like it. I didn't hate it. I will continue to read this series, because I'd like to see what she does with this concept, and I am curious to read about the other Nightkeepers. I hope that the issues that I had with this story will be less bothersome to me in the ongoing books. And I have a feeling, I will probably like the romance in the following books more.
I can't really recommend this book, unless you are really curious to read a book using mythology of the Americas. It's something different and interesting. Whether it's a good foundation for a paranormal romance, at this point, I can't say.
Overall rating: 2.5 out of 5.0 stars.
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