Book Review

The Dark Heroine by Abigail Gibbs:  A Guest Review by CarrieS

DNF

Title: The Dark Heroine
Author: Abigail Gibbs
Publication Info: HarperCollins Publishers 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-224873-2
Genre: Paranormal

Book The Dark Heroine The Dark Heroine reads exactly as though it was written by a very talented teenage Twilight fan.  That's because it was, in fact, written by a very talented teenaged Twilight fan.  As an adult, I found the content to be almost unbearably bad, but the technical quality of the writing was good and my fifteen-year-old self would have snarfed it down quicker than a pan of brownies.  Spoilers ahead, but not for anything, including every facet of the ending, that you won't be able to predict from the first page.

Violet is a seventeen-year-old London girl who witnesses a group of pale, fanged men kill a group of tanned, normal-teethed men at Trafalgar Square in the middle of the night.  The fanged people kidnap Violet because she is a witness to the attack.  Violet has a hard time grasping the concept that a bunch of pale, super-strong, super fast, fanged guys that bite people to death in the dead of night might be vampires, but eventually she manages to comprehend that they are.  The vampires are all gorgeous, very rich, and live in an enormous mansion.  Even Kaspar, the vampires' leader, cannot say why he kidnapped Violet instead of killing her.  She's just special, somehow. 

But now the vampires are stuck with her, because her father is the Secretary of Defense.  England's rulers know about the vampires and tolerate them, but there are always a lot of tensions.  The vampires don't want to kill Violet or force her to turn into a vampire, because that will annoy her Dad, who is already annoyed that his daughter is being held captive.  But they also won't release her, because she KNOWS TOO MUCH (even though she seems to know less than everyone else on the planet).

Poor Violet.  She has to stay in the mansion, moping around her enormous bedroom and taking showers in the red marble bathroom, provided only with the clothing of a vampire girl who is one size smaller than Violet.  This means all Violet's clothes are too skimpy, but it's not her fault, she is totally not a skank like a rival vampire girl who dresses in skimpy clothing on purpose.  It turns out that Kaspar is the Vampire Prince, and sometimes he wears contemporary clothing, but sometimes he swoops around in a cloak.   There is a cute child vampire who wants to play with Violet all the time and various other mysterious vampires getting together for royal meetings and politely menacing each other while sipping blood out of goblets.  My fifteen-year-old self would have totally swooned at this.  My friends and I spent many happy hours playing “Vampire:  The Masquerade” while sipping red Kool-Aid from wine glasses.  We were made of pure class back then.

As I mentioned, Violet was kidnapped by Kaspar, the vampire prince (not to be confused with Caspar, the friendly ghost).  He is very sexy and her body is attracted to him but her mind says, “Nope” because he is mean and calls her “Girly” and keeps forcing her up against walls and threatening to bite her.  Kaspar has a brother, Fabian, who is also gorgeous.  Fabian is nice to Violet but she is not drawn to him with the same magnetic force that she is to Kaspar; also her vamp friend who loans her the too-tight clothing has a thing for Fabian and Violet doesn't want to mess it up. Violet is forced, forced I say, to put on a beautiful dress (it's violet in color, because her name is Violet) and go to the ball with Fabian, and that icky Kaspar makes her dance with him.  And everyone stares at her because she is special, and my adult self is outraged by the thought that Kaspar is super rape-tastic but clearly destined to be THE GUY, while my fifteen year old self is all, “Ooooh…look at the dress!”  For God's sake, fifteen-year-old self, calm down, you're embarrassing me!  I don't care how many sparkles the damn dress has!  Get ahold of yourself!

Then she's attacked by another, super-villainous vampire, and she becomes a dhampir, and then both brothers attempt (separately) to “seduce” her, and since by seduce I pretty much mean “rape”, I gave up.  I would have given up sooner, but I have to admit that Dark Heroine has a cracktastic appeal that just kept me sneaking back to it.  Much like Violet, I kept casting it aside because of my self-respect and then surrendering against my will to its ruthless advances.  That lasted until there were three rape attempts in two chapters, only one of which is acknowledged as such.  There's a limit to how much I can take, even for you guys.

Honestly, I just can't even cope with trying to convey how utterly and horribly objectionable the sexual politics are in this book.  For one thing, the slut-shaming is not to be believed.  Plus, the book is all about vampires, and in keeping with the standard vampire tropes all violence has a sexual undertone, and all sex has a violent undertone, and Kaspar is constantly saying things like, “You will give in to me.  I will make sure of it” and “C'mon, Girly, just a little drop of blood.  I'm so hungry.  You'll enjoy it”.  There were scenes of such unrelenting sexual violence, involving forced biting, groping, and kissing, that I felt physically ill.  I understand that people are capable of separating fantasy from reality, but I also remember how much fifteen-year-old-self confused pressure with love, and I am not amused.

I peeked ahead to the ending, and my fifteen-year-old-self, the one who has not yet learned that guys who pressure you into doing things you don't want to do are not actually nice, is thrilled to discover that Kaspar is actually a REALLY NICE GUY with whom Violet is destined to experience TRUE LOVE as a Heroine in Fulfillment of a Prophecy.  I have to admit that the author can certainly keep the reader involved in a story, because I made it much father into the book that I would have expected given its old-school quality.  Her use of language is good, and it doesn't surprise me that this book is popular.  But anyone who objects to controlling relationships (which, frankly, bloody well ought to be everyone) should give this one a pass.  This is the first book in a series, so expect an ending that resolves the Violet/Kaspar relationship but leaves a ton of other plot stuff hanging.


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    cleo says:

    “Spoilers ahead, but not for anything, including every facet of the ending, that you won’t be able to predict from the first page.”

    I love you CarrieS!  I almost didn’t need to read the rest of the review after that (rocking) sentence.  But I’m glad I did, because you hit on the main reason I don’t read vampire romance – I can’t stomach the combination of sex and sensuality with death and violence.

  2. 2
    LG says:

    So is this another one of those P2P fanfics? Then definitely nope, just for that alone. Otherwise, the “cracktastic appeal” bit in your review might at least make me consider it. “Cracktastic appeal” is part of the reason why I flew through the Twilight books, even when I had problems with them.

  3. 3
    Clbevill says:

    What is wrong with me that I am now compelled to read the damn book?  Oh CarrieS and your supremely snarkiness have brought me over to the dark side.

  4. 4

    The crack appeal of the review makes it intriguing but no. Just no. I can’t take another he’s a jerk but in reality he’s really nice fics.

  5. 5
    Bridget Baker says:

    I’d like to know what there’s always “dark” or “darkness” in the title of these PNRs.  When I was new to the romance titles like that were exciting and made me want to read the book, but now I roll my eyes and think “yeah, so what?”

  6. 6
    Arloa says:

    Brilliant review technique, to argue with your 15-year-old self.

  7. 7
    Kristina says:

    Now I’m happy that the ridiculous names made me put this back on the shelf at the bookstore. Carrie, you are my heroine for enduring this for us. ;D

  8. 8
    StarlightArcher says:

    Thank gawd that apparently my 15yr old self isn’t the only idiot on the block. Yeah, she and I get into shouting matches over stuff all the time (bad books, bad movies, bad food, fanfiction reading). Pretty much everything is grounds for an argument with a naive moron who thinks price charming is seconds from swooping in and “doing adult things” with me. *facepalm* How I managed to live past 15 I’ve no idea. We should all win awards for evolving into beings less stupid.

  9. 9

    You need ask SB Sarah for (virtual) combat pay, the way you keep taking ‘em for the team! Thanks for sharing this. I loved the dialog with your 15 yr old self.

  10. 10
    katherinelynn_04 says:

    I love this review so much I can’t even tell you.

  11. 11
    Amy Raby says:

    Love this review, especially the reactions of the adult self vs. the 15-year-old self.

  12. 12
    Darlynne says:

    “Much like Violet, I kept casting it aside because of my self-respect and then surrendering against my will to its ruthless advances. “

    CarrieS, if this isn’t THE (snarky, honest and very funny) definition of overwrought romance reading, I don’t know what is. In one sentence, you’ve pinpointed what happens to us as readers, just as it’s happening for the character. And I’m not bashing romance, please don’t think that, but, good grief, how many times have we all done/read this?

    Bonus points for arguing with and honoring your 15-year-old self. You both rock.

  13. 13
    MaddBookish says:

    I just don’t get how you can have a dude get all rapey with a girl and then toss them together for an hea. Were I the heroine of such a story, there would be stabbing, possibly in the face, the next time the “hero” got within arms reach.

  14. 14
    LadyRoy says:

    I’m always incredibly happy that this whole internet serial- or fanfic-to-book thing did not exist when I was 15 because I was putting out a whole lot of overwrought ridiculousness that I could only inflict on my friends. (Sword-wielding Mary Sues of dooooom!)
    This review is priceless. To the point. Brilliant, and yet respectful of that somewhat universal 15-year-old girl experience.

  15. 15
    Tessa I. says:

    Oh boy, this brings back memories! I took would have lapped this up at fifteen; I was going through a ~Darque~ phase and was sure the most desirable beau was one who’d pin you against a wall ‘cuz he wanted you that badly. God, I was dumb.

    At least this book gave us a wonderful snarky review, though. Thanks for the laughs!

  16. 16
    ridiculousspider says:

    I picked this book up at the store the other because of the cover (black, white and red – I’m a sucker) and the name (The Dark Heroine – much more used to it being The Dark ::insert male related noun here::).  Then I tried to read the summary on the back of the book and was like “yea, no.”  Good to know I made the right choice in putting it back on the shelf.  (I really wanted it to be about a dark heroine – like maybe the girl was the vampire and fell in love with a mortal and angst and drama ensues.)

    Aren’t dhamphirs like…the children of vampire/human procreation?  Or is that just in Vampire Hunter D?

  17. 17
    Vicki says:

    It took me a while to realize that 15 yo self read these type of books addictively because they so reflected my life experiences and allowed me to believe that they were normal. Eventually, I knew that rape-tastic or coercive males were not good or normal and I became able to believe that I could and would fight to the death, if necessary, to protect myself and/or my children. Then these “old-skool” books lost their hold on me – now I have trouble reading them. I do, however, enjoy dark, troubled heroes, especially if they grow and change, and I might very well have been tempted by this book. Thanks for “taking one for the team” and saving me from it.

  18. 18
    The Other Susan says:

    Good for your younger self!

  19. 19
    The Other Susan says:

    Thanks for taking one for the team *again*, Carrie S!

  20. 20
    Mary says:

    I’m a bit younger than most people on this site, I think (I’m 18), and so I was obsessed with Twilight when it first came out (13) and by the time I was 15 I had started hating it. But 13 year old me would have adorrrred this book (Violet is a perfect Mary-Sue name). 18 year old me is liking urban fantasy/normal fantasy more. Future me may look back on 18 year old me with disdain. I do not know.

  21. 21
    StarOpal says:

    I remember back during my fanfic days that Quizilla was glutted with this trend of Mary Sue fiction where either A) a human girl was taken into a house full o vampires with 2-4 vampires wanting the girl, WITH EXACTLY THIS KIND OF PLAY OUT

    Or B) a group of four rich hot guys that for whatever reason had an average girl living with them. They fell into 1) dark mysterious cruel guy 2) uber nice poetic sensitive guy 3) the seducer/sex crazed/slightly smarmy in a charming way guy 4) the comic relief/puppy dog guy.

    That’s all I can think of reading this review (along with CarrieS doing another awesome job).

  22. 22

    Uuuugh.  I started this, got 130 pages in, and threw it away.  You nailed it exactly.  I flipped through and noticed the heroine mention something about how getting almost-raped at one point was pretty much her “fault”.  Sorry, no.  I can get behind a good book that is in the style of Twilight (see Fallen, Hush Hush, Starcrossed) and probably has extremely horrid gender politics if it sucks me in, but this one, on top of everything, has a whole lot of nothing going on.  Nothing happens, guys act like assholes, girls get almost raped.

    I’ve read better fanfiction.  Her writing isn’t technically bad, but this story should not be 500 pages of small print.  xP Thank you for trying, Carrie. 

  23. 23

    My 15-year old self would have gotten very stabby with both Kaspar-the-not-so-friendly and this book. I couldn’t stand rape-iness in either real life or literature even then. Kudos to CarrieS, though. I rarely read the books you review, but I always read your reviews. Your snark always makes me laugh.

  24. 24
    Cathy Pegau says:

    My 16-year old and 13-year old kids say, “Thank you, CarrieS, for saving us from this one!” Fun review for a book we’ll never read :)

  25. 25
    Tam says:

    I’m even happier that I just had ‘The Changeover’ (with the menacing Sorensen Carlisle backing down as soon as Laura reminds him that ‘You have to be invited!’) when I was thirteen, and not this sort of tripe. 

  26. 26
    Jamarleo says:

    I would have been another fifteen year old who would have loved this book to tiny bits (and if it turned out that Violet was actually a witch who hadn’t yet become aware of her powers until rapey nice boyfriend showed her the magic way, all the better.  And she’d get a horse.).

    Now?  It sounds like this book is yet another reason that I thank all the gods that my 14 year old never got into Twilight.

    Fantastic review.

  27. 27
    Kelriiafrettlar says:

    OMG, I was actually given this book as a Christmas gift by one of my siblings. I recognized the cover immediately and wondered if I should try actually reading it… but nope, nope, nope. Twilight and its derivatives hit my trigger buttons really hard. DNW.

  28. 28
    chacha1 says:

    I predict that the author of this epic will discover Anita Blake very soon and all hell will break loose.

  29. 29
    Grayce says:

    Hey Mary- I feel you! Romance forums and blogs skew a little older than us (I’m 21)… and bias shows pretty often! I mean, I read classics all through my teens, and only once I got to college and found romance novels did I start to get really deep into trashy, crazy sauce books with so bad they’re good heroes like Kaspar. My teenage self would TOTALLY disdain my current reading list!

  30. 30
    Laylapalooza says:

    and if it turned out that Violet was actually a witch who hadn’t yet
    become aware of her powers until rapey nice boyfriend showed her the
    magic way

    Wait, are we talking about A Discovery of Witches now? ‘Cause that’s what I’m hearing. ;)

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