I am as amazed as you.
Such is the power of the crack, and specifically the crack that is Dark Prince. I’ve written before about the Carpathian series, which I gobbled until I began to see the “psychic chick makes dude see color commence doggy style” pattern and had to stop. Dark Prince, however, rocked my world when I read it, and when people talk about Christine Feehan as the author whose work established the paranormal vampire romance genre, I nod and agree.
The edition that arrived (THUNK) on my doorstep is bigger than the original edition. Touted as an “Author’s Cut”, it has 100 extra pages of material, and that frilly deckled pages thing, and new cover art. And it’s a hardback. So it’s huger than big – or, at least, bigger than I’m used to (snort).
Ahoy, plot summary, if you’ve never read the first of the Carpathian series: Mikhail Dubrinsky is on the verge of ending is very, very long existence when he is contacted telepathically by a human woman, Raven, who reached out to him because she could psychically sense his misery from across town. Those Carpathians, they do everything big, if you know what I mean (and I think you do). Mikhail goes to find Raven, who has journeyed to the Carpathian mountains to hide and recover from her last job assignment as a psychic who specializes in tracking serial killers. When Mikhail first encounters Raven, he sees in color for the first time in hundreds of years, a signal that she is his lifemate – and he’s completely confused and alarmed by the fact that she’s human, not Carpathian. Add to that some vampire hunters in town for some vacation hunting, and some locals spreading rumors, and there’s a lot of tension to unfold between and around Mikhail and Raven.
The first question you’d probably ask is, is it worth buying if I already own the previous version? If you’re asking the question at all, you’re probably not the type of fan who will buy it without question, for such is your devotion to all things Feehan (and if you’re that type of fan, more power to you. Go on with your bad self). I would have to say, in a nutshell, no, the extra pages didn’t add much to the book for me, though I couldn’t have told you which scenes were added. I read Dark Prince (The Original not the Uncut Version) (Bwahahahaha – are Carpathians circumcised? Not in the Uncut version!) (Actually, as hundred-plus-year-old European males, they probably aren’t.)(This is too many parentheses. Sorry) so long ago that I couldn’t have identified the extra scenes if you held a colorblind blood-sustained otherworldly creature to my head. But I can say there were details and scenes that dragged 3/4ths of the way through, to the point that I skimmed until the final chapters.
But even with the draggy part and the doggy style part, I couldn’t stop reading. This is a Book That Contains The Crack. Seriously. I couldn’t put the damn thing down. I was toting this big hardcover around the house and reading a few pages every few minutes I could. Why? I was both transfixed by the storyline, and curious about why the characters and the plot worked for me, even as they irked the shit out of me.
Case in point: The heroine, Raven, is immediately identified by Mikhail as his lifemate, and he makes a few ill-advised decisions that affect her greatly (in a mortal sense, even) without her consent. He Knows Best. The plot follows the traditional alpha-male “release everything, let go of your old life, I know best, also you’re hot, nom nom can’t control myself, whoops you’re all vampy now, too, isn’t that great?!” motif that frankly makes me irritated beyond measure. There’s no question He Has Found the Right One because he can see her jibblies in COLOR. The complete absorption and acceptance of Mikhail’s worldview, which we, the reader, are assured is the Right One by virtue of His Being The Romance Hero, is still bothersome, but at least in The Dark Prince Raven has something of a spine. She isn’t as deferential as his family and the other Carpathians (his subjects, I guess, since he is the prince and all) and she tells Mikhail off more than once, though I wish she’d have told him to stop calling her “little one.” At least it wasn’t “ma petite.”
I was most irritated when Mikhail didn’t tell Raven some of the side effects of his blood exchanges with her, leaving her for many, many hours in a state of near-catatonic misery, without any type of warning. I’d have kicked his ass all over the mountains for that, but Raven is merely relieved that he is ok when he returns to her side, and there isn’t nearly enough asskicking or groveling to satisfy my irritation with his high-handedness.
YET STILL I could not put the book down. The despair, the hero struggling literally with overwhelming emotions. Even with the perfectly perfect perfection of Raven and her inner strength that contrasts with her vulnerable mortal body, I had to keep reading. Despite being overdrawn on the Bank of Vampire Romance and unable to generate any interest (heh) in the genre as a whole for awhile now, I was fascinated by the world in the book, the autocratic ruling style of Mikhail and the holy moly homoerotic behavior between himself and his family and the other Carpathians, and the manner in which they behaved toward one another and toward mortal and Carpathian women. I also love how Feehan plays with male power dynamic: despite Mikhail being The Prince And All, there are other male characters who have power and authority he does not, yet it doesn’t diminish Mikhail in the present story – though it leaves plenty of room for sequels, of which there are many, as well you know.
The opening scene remains one of my favorites, and I have re-read it every now and again even before I received this new copy.
I’m going to try pasting an Amazon embed code with the first chapter below the fold if you’d like to read it.
(Holy hell, did that Amazon widget bork the server. I’m sorry!) Mikhail is crushed by misery, is contacted telepathically by Raven and only then does he realize that, after feeling no emotion for hundreds of years, experiencing them again is so overwhelming, it’s nearly impossible to control himself.
The idea of the chosen female, the predetermined fated One True Mate causing some sort of physical change is a very common motif in vampire and paranormal romance. The female causes sight to return, colorblindness to vanish, hearts to beat, wants (and other spiffy parts) to rise, control to be regained – any number of things. She tames him, restores him to life, and in exchange must be absorbed entirely into his keeping – good thing he’s immortal and wealthy, I guess.
Dark Prince was the first of these types of books that I read, and I am still somewhat baffled as to why I find it so fascinating, even in a larger edition, in a hardcover, for the third or fourth time. I can only surmise that a book like this, something that was so new, so powerful and so different, even after it’s been imitated countless times, doesn’t diminish with time. The powerful innovation of the forerunner of a genre doesn’t lose it’s effect. At least, it doesn’t on me.