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Kinley MacGregor is a pseudonym for Sherrilyn Kenyon, the international best selling author of the Dark Hunter paranormal romance series. She uses the name Kinley MacGregor for writing fantasy romance novels. I'm not really sure whey she still bothers to use a pseudonym when Sherrilyn Kenyon is now printed on most Kinley MacGregor books, often in even bigger letters!
-Lords of Avalon-
Knight of Darkness is the second book in the Lords of Avalon series. This is a series losely based on the myths of King Arthur. I'm not familiar with the original stories so I don't know how much MacGregor has changed and how much is from the original stories.
Long before these books were set Arthur died in a battle against Morgan. During this battle Avalon, Camelot and Glastonbury were pulled out of the world and now exist in a kind of inbetween world. Avalon is now a haven for the Lords of Avalon, Camelot is Morgan's realm and Glastonbury is an in between place where the people are miserable and cruel.
The Lords of Avalon are in a constant battle against Morgan. They're trying to protect various magical items and the holy grail so that Morgan doesn't get her hands on them and gain even more power.
Centuries ago Merewyn was a beautiful Princess who just wanted to marry for love. Unfortunately the man she was to marry couldn't see past her beauty, and she made a deal with an Adoni that resulted in her being tricked into becoming the Adoni's slave. To make things worse the Adoni turned her into a hag who is despised by all of Camelot for her ugliness.
Varian is the son of the adoni and Lancelot, one of Arthur's knights. He is on the side of good, fighting for the Knights of Avalon but despised by them for being part adoni. His mother and Morgan are constantly trying to get him to join them, knowing that his power could make a big difference to their campaign.
When Varian won't go over to Morgan's side his mother turns Merewyn back to her beautiful self and attempts to use her against him. However, with the help of Blaise Merewyn is able to rescue Varian. The problem is that getting out of the castle is only the beginning, getting out of Camelot will prove to be the real challenge.
Merewyn is a difficult character for me to judge. There were times throughout the book that I really liked her. She was determined, she was a survivor and she was intelligent but at the same time she often came across as being very shallow and I didn't like that much. Overall I did like her but her shallowness did bug me quite a bit.
The problem with Merewyn for me wasn't so much her character, she had flaws and she had strengths and to me that makes a more well rounded and believable character but I did think that the way that MacGregor wrote her sometimes didn't fit in with her history and the world that she lived in.
This is a woman who has been beaten, abused and forced into slavery for CENTURIES and at no point during the book does she show any kind of trauma. I understand that she's a heroine in a romance novel and therefore she is still a nice person and the centuries of abuse haven't turned her into a monster as they would most people but I thought the abuse should have had some long term impact on her, even if it was something like nightmares that wouldn't impact too much on the plot but would make things more plausible.
I really liked Varian. He isn't exactly a good character, although that seems to be more common in romance novels that your traditional noble, perfect man these days. He sees himself as being quite evil and you can see that a lot of things that he's done have been bad, even if he has had good and altruistic reasons for doing them but he is not actually an evil person. I liked the complexity to his character and I liked the way that MacGregor showed the difference between the way he thought he was and the way that he actually was. She illustrated the illusions he has about himself perfectly, particularly through the character of Blaise who was around when Varian was a child and gives Merewyn, and the reader, a more objective picture of Varian than Varian himself gives.
Blaise was a secondary character in the first book and is again a secondary character in this book. He is the only character who featured heavily in both books and I thought it was a good way to link the books because although it's set in the same world the plot doesn't exactly lead on from the last one (there are some links though). The more I read of Blaise the more I like him and I hope to see more of him in future books.
I found it very easy to get into this book and was gripped almost immediately. MacGregor has a very easy style of writing that makes reading the book a pleasure rather than a chore. I find the way that she describes things is perfect for me because she has this way of giving you enough information to put you in her world but leaving enough things open to your own imagination. I know this isn't good for everyone but I like having an element of freedom when it comes to imagining the world. It's almost like she's planted the seed and you make it grow yourself.
This book read more like a fantasy novel with romantic elements rather than a romance novel set in a fantasy world. I'm not saying that this is a good or a bad thing, it will depend entirely on what genre you like and I personally like fantasy and romance and the combination of the two was one of the things that attracted me to the series. I do think though that marketing it as a romance novel is a bit misleading. In this book more so than the first one there is a greater focus on world building and particularly in Camelot. I felt that she brought the world to life more in this one, perhaps because the entire novel was set in the other world, whereas in the first one part of it was set in the mortal world.
Merewyn, Varian and Blaise spend the majority of the book travelling through the part of Camelot where Morgan banishes her lovers when she's done with them. The characters are constantly kept on their toes, with adventures and surprises around every corner and it made me want to keep reading. I had a hard time putting the book down because I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next.
The romance side of the plot was sweet and you feel a real connection between Varian and Merewyn. At times it's quite predictable but I can't complain, part of the reason I like romance novels is the guaranteed happy ending so I shouldn't complain when the rest of the relationship is a bit predictable.
At one point Merewyn is flattered when she is almost kidnapped and raped. To me that is a very messed up thing to think and pretty offensive. I felt that MacGregor trivialised what almost happened to Merewyn, especially as she seems to have no trouble trusting the people who did that to her throughout the rest of the novel. All of the character seem to just forget it and the excuse that they haven't seen a woman for a really long time seems to almost justify it.
Overall I really enjoyed this novel. I would recommend it anyone who likes either fantasy or romance novels. This is the second book in the series but I don't think you would have to read the first book in order to enjoy this one, although I would recommend reading that book too.