Dark Destiny by Christine Feehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars (10/10)
It probably won't be often that I give a book at 10/10 rating, but I decided this one deserved it for reasons I'll go into below.
Yet again, the fact I read Christine Feehan (in fact, pretty much everything she publishes) is because I got suckered in my Barbara the Bookseller. That's okay. I discovered a good author and she gets a lot of my business. In fact, she was so sure she could convert both me and the friend I was shopping with on the day in question, she gave us a second hand copy of the first Carpathian book, Dark Prince. She gave away one book and between us we've probably bought about forty or so Feehans since then. I'm not sure who won.
Dark Destiny is the thirteenth Carpathian book. I wasn't as impressed as usual with the last one (Dark Melody) although I admit I'm still not sure why. It just didn't gel as well with me as some of the others have. So I started this one wondering if this was a general trend or a one-off that just hadn't quite worked for me. It was soon clear that it was the latter. In my opinion, Dark Destiny is possibly the best of the series.
Destiny (I don't think we ever learn her last name) was beguiled by a vampire when she was six. She unwittingly led him to her family and he murdered them in front of her, before abducting her and forcing her to take his blood. In her desperation to survive years of torture and abuse, Destiny reached out and touched another mind. I was a man, one she believed to be another vampire, who taught her all the skills and talents she needed to become a hunter. At fourteen she killed the vampire who had taken her and since then has been hunting the evil creatures.
Destiny made one error. She had not made contact with another vampire, but with Nicolae Von Shrieder, an ancient Carpathian. He has been trying to find Destiny for years, and as the book begins, he finally does so. When he finds her, his grey world explodes into colour and he realises Destiny is his lifemate.
Nicolae has a hard task ahead of him. Not only does he has to convince Destiny of what she is to him, he also first has to prove to her that he is not a vampire and that she, despite having been converted by one, is not either. Destiny, because of her terribly abusive childhood, is a scarred and damaged survivor, who does not know how to trust; she believes herself to be fundamentally evil (and while her actions quickly prove this untrue to the reader, she is unable to see it herself) and she has closed herself off from the possibility of friends, let alone the binding love of lifemates.
The reason I have chosen to rate this so highly is because of the way Feehan has handled the sensitive issues of an abuse survivor. Nothing drives me crazy more that a book where the heroine is shown to have been terribly abused, but once she meets the hero she is swept away by his amazing virility and suddenly everything is all right. Feehan has avoided this with care, sensitivity and style.
Destiny learns slowly. Even as her instincts involve her with people and draw her to Nicolae, she's fighting it. She comes to trust slowly with false starts. Sex is a frightening experience, no matter how right it feels and - hooray - it is a development, not a cure. Even by the last chapter of the book, when Destiny has grown and learned so much, when she's discovering it is safe to laugh and be happy, "the scars remained in her heart and mind".
I am blessed and lucky. The horrors of abuse of any kind have passed me by and I can only be grateful for that. So I cannot say if this is truly an honest and appropriate treatment of the subject, shifted into Feehan's fantasy world. But it does look to me that it is, and that is a large part of what impressed me so much. She tells a great story, introduces another set of wonderful characters you want to know more about, depicts again a wonderful tale of love, and yet, amongst it all, maintains a sense of great truth.
The book also introduces a sparkling set of minor characters and I look forward to having a chance to catch up with at least some of them again. I hope Vikirnoff finds his lifemate (like others, I have my suspicions about who it will be) and I hope we get to see Mary Ann again (I think it should be in the Carpathian mountains - it's time we had another story there). Velda and Inez were a delight; Velda's tragedy such a touching sadness - and an explanation of something I hadn't even thought about before.
The whole Carpathian series is great, this one especially so.
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