Tour’s Books Blog

April 17, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: The Immortal Hunter by Lynsay Sands

Lynsay Sands’ departure into darker themed stories began with The Rogue Hunter and continues the transition here.  This book has very little in common with Sands’ earlier Argeneau books like Single White Vampire or The Accidental Vampire.  Here we have tale that wants to be a dark thriller but keeps flickering back to her more comfortable light style then tries to be a thriller again.

The novel opens right where The Rogue Hunter left off with Decker Argeneau Pimms, Garrett Mortimer and Justin Bricker still at Decker’s lake house with Decker’s Uncle Lucian Argeneau, head of the Enforcers and governing Council, upstairs questioning Sam – Samantha Willan about her decision to not convert because of her sisters.  Lucian will make the decision whether or not he believes she can keep the existence of the Immortals secret.  Mortimer is anxious about Sam.  Grant, the not so rogue vampire who been biting humans to feed, is nervous about Lucian and what he might decide.  Decker is trying to keep Mortimer under control while hoping everyone would just go away so he can start his vacation.

When Lucian comes downstairs and Sam and Mortimer are given his approval, he starts in on Grant only to discover many of the ‘biting incidents’ had nothing to do with Grant.  (This explains the odd feeling I got in Rogue Hunter that two different ‘vampires’ were involved in the ‘biting’.)  He used Nicholas Argeneau as a reference, not knowing Nicholas is a rogue being hunted for a 50 year old murder.  Lucian and Mortimer head back to Toronto as Justin and Decker head to Minden to look for Nicholas.  Surprisingly, they find him expecting them and even complains they’re late.  Two women have just been abducted by the rogue, sisters Danielle and Stephanie McGill.  Decker, Nicholas’ former partner and good friend, believes him and they race behind him to the woods.  There they find a nest of six rogues with the two women – one teen and one woman.

In the fight, Decker saves the older woman, but the young one is used as a shield by a rogue who gets away with the girl – chased by Nicholas.  Decker, wounded in the fighting while saving Dani, and Justin stay behind to ‘take care of’ the remaining rogues.  When Decker goes to take control of the woman, he can’t and Justin has to step in.  In the confusion, one of the 5 downed rogues disappears.  Oddly a woman traumatized by kidnapping, a near death fall off a cliff, sight of dead bodies, a SECOND kidnapping of her sister and the refusal of the two men there to immediately help, manages to banter with Decker.  Right, I believe that.

As quickly as they can, Justin, Decker and a distraught now ‘controlled’ Dani follow Nicholas.  After losing the rogue and Stephanie at the airport, Lucian recognizes what the rogues are – rare ‘no-fangers’, a genetic branch of the original Atlanteans that never grew the adaption of fangs to feed for blood.  The ‘no-fangers’ killed for blood.  Eventually the Immortals warred against them and their leader, Leonius, and they thought they had wiped out in battle.  Lucian is shocked that the 4 captured rogues are all ‘no-fangers’.  Everyone heads to the new Enforcer Headquarters still being setup by Mortimer and Sam.  All this action takes place in less than 50 pages and it takes another nearly 200 pages to get back to the rogues.

The intervening 150 pages is the typical Sands style romance, except the whole thing is overshadowed by the strangely subdued distress and anxiety Dani experiences over her sister and compacted into about a 30 hour time frame.  At this point in Sands’ series it is also a very, very predictable pattern.  Sands recycled many elements – the bathroom scene, the erotic dream shared by mates, the dashing for cover from rain, are variations of scenes seen previously in several books.  It’s and lacks cheerful bantering and the verve of her earlier books, so many loyal followers may find this less agreeable.  The threat to Dani’s sister by the rogues casts a pall over everything, but not enough to stop the inevitable culmination.  For a woman who just found out vampires are real and can really control minds, she’s behaves with a rather bizarre aplomb in the face of risk to her 15 year old sister.  There is some strain between them because Dani believes Nicholas will help her rescue her sister and Decker keeps trying to tell her she can’t trust him.  She has to or she has no hope.  Eventually, Decker insists on telling her about Nicholas’ past – his killing a woman after his pregnant mate died in a fire and went mad with grief.  For all they know, Nicholas is in league with the rogues.

Sam and Dani talk about her fear for her sister and her guilt about being with Decker when she feels she should be doing more.  The guilt and stress are kind of glossed over using ‘you can’t resist your life mate’.  It seems to me there should have been more anger and angst and a lot less acceptance of the delays.  The story eventually gets back to hunt for the rogues when Sam is kidnapped from the mall by the Leonius.  Once again, the story turns dark as the sadistic Leo gloats about turning Dani using his blood so she will forever be a ‘no-fanger’, rejected my other Immortals.  This way, Leo can punish Decker for capturing four of his sons.

Decker, Lucian, Justin and the other Enforcers seem to take an awful long time concluding Dani hasn’t run away, but been kidnapped.  Leo has succeeds in forcing his blood on her and starts the transformation.  Then he locks her up with an old farmer and his wife knowing she’ll attack them when the hunger hits.  The three escape and are found by the Enforcers.  Decker stays with Dani while Mortimer, Justin and Lucian lay a trap at the farm for Leo.  Decker helps Dani struggle with the mental and physical adjustment to the unwanted transformation and terror of being edentate – ‘no fanger’ being a slur for the rogues with the edentate gene.  The whole ‘sex in the closet’ was weirdly out of sync in it’s tenor.

Eventually, Dani gets her phone back and WHAM! Nicholas calls.  (Good thing he waited all this time, huh?)   He’s tracked the rogues to a downtown hotel.  (Here an entire group of enforcers couldn’t find this guy, but Nicholas, alone and hungry with no technical support does.  Yet another one of those head scratching moments.) They go in, following Nicholas’ directions, which actually takes them to a different hotel than the one he named, but the right room.  Nicholas disappears before they get there.  When they reach the room they don’t find Stephanie, just other victims.  Suddenly Dani disappears again.  Leo has her.  He had just started turning Stephanie – intending to breed both sisters to replace the sons he lost.  The enforcers break thru the connecting door, a fight leaves Decker very seriously wounded, but Stephanie and Dani free of Leo.  Stephanie is starting the transformation in a stairwell with Justin trying to hold her.  Leo gets away.  Again.  All of this action moved so quickly that the scenes couldn’t develop any real intensity – and just how inept are these Enforcers?

It’s here in the last few pages that the story really has a very unsatisfactory ending – or non-ending.  Leo is lose and running again.  Stephanie’s future is in doubt.  It’s highly unlikely Dani and Decker can have children due to the risks of insanity from the defective nanos she and now her sister carry.  And finally, is Nicholas really a good guy who is trying to make up for what he did?  So obviously, the story will continue in the next book.  And absolutely no one is really happy, just kind of reconciled to the inevitable.

The whole story of Leonius (Leo) had promise and has a touch of the madness a villain needs, but he never came into his own as a brilliantly evil adversary capable of outwitting Lucian and the other Enforcers – yet he does it several times.  The Enforcers came off as criminally inept, not just once but several times in the story.

The appearance of Nicholas at the beginning and end of the book was just a bit too propitious to be remotely believable.  For what was a simple and fairly straightforward story, the characters lacked the nuance and intensity needed to give it substance and hold the readers interest.   Each time Sands had an opportunity to build the tension and give the story a pulse pounding edge, she started rushing things.  It felt like she just didn’t know how to write the action scenes to develop them into nail-biters – or even give them any sense of realism – so she hurried through instead, hoping no one would notice.

All plot issues aside, in The Immortal Hunter Sands just didn’t generate the right feeling in her key characters – villains and heroes alike – at too many critical points. The emotional moments never got going.  The fundamental concepts of the story line were really good, but weren’t executed well enough to really gain traction or fully engage the reader.  Sands  fails to create the suitably intense scenes and complex characters needed to pull off a darker story.   I will buy the next installment in hopes Sands manages to wrap this up, but so far her transition into more action based stories isn’t having a good start.

My Grade: C- (2.75*)

Who would enjoy this book:  This is not for fans of Lynsay Sands’ lighter, more humorous stories and I think fans of the more intense Patricia Briggs books would also be dissatisfied.  Fans of the moderate intensity paranormals might enjoy this, but better books are out there, including the Love at Stake series by Kerrelyn Sparks.  My rating for this would be R.

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