Night Lost is the fourth book in Lynn Viehl's Darkyn series. The series is about a group of vampires who are known as "darkyn".
I'm always torn about whether or not to recommend this series to friends because I absolutely love this series, it's one of my favourite but I hated the first book and would never recommend that anyone reads that. The problem with the first book was that there was a lot of unnecessary violence and I found some of the scenes very disturbing. So, I would recommend the series but not the first book which is a bit of a problem because this isn't a series that you can dip in and out of. You really need to know what has happened in each book because the storyline does continue from one book to another.
The other thing to mention about this series is that it's marketed as a paranormal romance series but it really isn't. There is certainly a romantic element to the books and each book has a new romance as well an ongoing romance between the hero and heroine of the first book but I personally think that the romance is always secondary to the plot in this series and that the amount of time spent on the romance is too small for this to be classified as a paranormal romance series.
As I've mentioned the darkyn are vampires (or Dark Kyn) but these aren't your typical vampires. They do have a lot in common with the usual vampires you find in fiction, they are immortal unless you decapitate them or destroy their heart and they live off of human blood. There are other things about the darkyn that have obviously been adapted from the common ideas about vampires, for example they prefer to go out at night because the sun weakens them but it doesn't destroy them. There are some things about the darkyn that aren't exactly unique but aren't as common. For example each darkyn has a unique talent (such as mind reading, dream walking or mind control) and each darkyn has a unique scent that is usually floral.
Where I think Viehl has managed to make her series really unique is the explanation for how the darkyn became vampires. Most of the darkyn were templars who caught the plague and rose from the dead after the plague killed them. Being religious men and living in a time of great superstition many assumed that they were cursed by God for some reason. I really like that Viehl adds real historical events to make her plot more plausible and I really like that the way she uses religion. Usually I prefer for fantasy books to stay away from religion but in this case I feel that Viehl is more focused on the way that we as humans interpret religion rather than actually making a statement about God or Christianity. Not all darkyn are men or were templars, many are relatives of templars.
In the first book we are introduced to Dr. Alexandra Keller who becomes the first person in centuries to become darkyn. She is very scientifically minded and starts doing research into the darkyn. She discovers scientific reasons for the darkyn becoming immortal. I really liked this. I thought that this was another way that Viehl sets her books out from other vampire fiction. This does mean that there is an element of science v religion but I think it's too early to really comment on that because the scientific discoveries are still in their early stages.
The other interesting thing for me is the way that darkyn society is set up. It doesn't seem to have progressed much since the darkyn first rose from the dead. The darkyn are ruled by Richard, the high lord who lives in Ireland and each country is split into separate "jardins" that each have a ruler. There is no democracy and all of the darkyn are considered the property of Richard. It's all very medieval. I do find this very interesting but at the same time it's difficult to believe that in all of these centuries nothing has changed. You would think that there would be some rebels or revolutionaries among the darkyn. I guess it's possible that there are but we haven't heard about them yet.
Being darkyn isn't all blood drinking and mind control, there is a negative side. The darkyn are at war with the brethren, a group of former Catholic priests who are trying to wipe the darkyn out. They murder, kidnap and torture brethren in their attempt to kill them all.
There are really two plots to this book. The first plot is part of the overall plot for the series. At the end of the last book Alexandra was kidnapped by Richard, the high lord. After feeding from animals Richard began to turn into an animal and is slowly losing control of himself. He hopes that Alexandra can cure him. Michael doesn't like being separated from his partner. Part of this book is about Alexandra trying to find a cure for Richard and Michael trying to rescue her.
The other part is the romance between Nicola and Gabriel. Nicola has been travelling around Europe looking for the Golden Madonna and finding darkyn being held prisoner in various religious buildings. She starts to dream of one darkyn in particular and soon finds herself looking for him. That darkyn is Gabriel who has been held prisoner and tortured by the brethren. The other darkyn believe he is dead, he believes they have abandoned him. Nicola rescues Gabriel and soon they find themselves trying to outrun the brethren and the authorities.
Usually it takes me a couple of chapters to getting into a book in this series but this book was different, it had me hooked from the very first chapter and the reason for it was Nicola, the main character, or more specifically the mystery surrounding her. Usually the characters are what make a romance novel but as I've said although this is marketed as romance it really isn't and while the characters are usually very interesting and enjoyable to read they haven't before defined their books. In fact I find that they are mostly unmemorable. I can't imagine that when I come to write the review for the next book that I will be struggling to separate Nicola from the other heroines in the series, like I am doing now for previous heroines. She stands out for me. In many ways she's just like the other heroines of the series. She's strong, independent and a slightly tortured soul so I guess it's not really so much that she herself stands out but rather her storyline does. There was so much mystery surrounding her and her past and this is what immediately drew me into the story. Why does this woman find it so easy to believe that there are vampires? How did she come to be searching abandoned religious buildings? What happened to her family? I liked that there were so many questions surrounding her because it made it interesting to read and it meant that even as one answer was revealed you still wanted to know the other answers and Viehl dragged this out right to the end of the book.
Unfortunately the romantic side of this novel was lacking. For me the difference between a good book in this series and an amazing book in this series in that the amazing books (or just one amazing book so far) have a good balance between the romance and the overall plot. As with all of the books so far in this series very little time is spent on the romance and I felt that a lot of the time that was spent on Nicola and Gabriel wasn't always strictly romantic which wasn't a bad thing except that this is supposed to be a romance novel and people reading it will be expecting romance. I hate to repeat myself and I'm sure that I've said this in reviews of other books in this series but it does feel like you've only got the first part of the romance and by the end of the book it doesn't feel like they're ready for their happily ever after yet. The thing that I really didn't like about the romance was that Gabriel's special power was controlling insects. Insects are not romantic. Or sexy. They are creepy and horrible. And they do not make a setting romantic. Unfortunately Gabriel doesn't agree and there were insects present during sex scenes. I found it very off putting.
By this point in the series I'm really not reading it for the romance so the fact that the romance wasn't great has only taken this from a five star book to a four star book. There's just too much else going for this book to really hold lack of romance against it. I really enjoy reading about darkyn society and in this book you get to learn more about the way their society functions. It's one of the best things about the series in general. Each book seems to add something to the world building and this book is not an exception. In some ways it just raised more questions for me but I think that's a good thing because it will certainly keep me reading. This book does answer some of the questions that I had from previous books which was also a good thing. We also learn more about being darkyn, particularly about what it means to be someone's sygkenis (wife type person) but once again more questions were raised for me than answered.
The continuation of the overall series plot was interesting. I felt that it really progressed well. There weren't really any big surprises and some of the things that were presented as being shocking I felt had already been revealed previously but there were a few smaller things that came as a surprise to me. I'm not going to ruin it by saying what they are because although they don't have much of an impact on the overall plot (so far, they may in the future), it still came as a complete surprise to me and I think that was part of the enjoyment. I do like a book that can throw a few surprise plot twists at me without me seeing them coming. The only complaint that I do have was that for most of the book it felt like the storyline between Gabriel and Nicola and the overall plot were mostly unconnected. They do come together at the end but it felt a little bit forced.
There are a few things that have annoyed me about these books and continue to annoy me in this one. Viehl uses a lot of French words and sentences without translating them and as I don't speak French this is very annoying. She also doesn't provide a glossary or much explanation for the various words that she uses to describe aspects of darkyn life which also causes me some confusion. It's getting better as the books go on because you get a general idea of what they mean but I would prefer a glossary.
I really enjoyed this book. It's not a good place for new readers of this series to begin because you really need to know what has happened before to be able to follow this one but as someone who has read all of the previous books in the series I enjoyed it. I felt that the romance could have been developed better but that didn't stop me from enjoying an interesting, original and intriguing plot.