With paranormal romances awash in vampires and werewolves, it’s the rare author who offers something new to the sub-genre. It is the even rarer author who manages this feat without relying on the use of clichés common to romance novels. In Dark Protector, Alexis Morgan’s Paladins offer a fresh, new mythology to the paranormal world only to fail to overcome other standard conventions and a lack of world-building.
Every time a Tectonic Plate shifts the wall behind our world and the Others’ flickers, allowing these dangerous, polluted beings to stream across. Armed with nothing more than the knight-errant weapons of old, the Paladins defend Earth against the Others’ perceived environmental imbalance. Devlin Bane is a Paladin based out of Seattle, WA; destined to die over and over again in such battles until his humanity disappears and he becomes the very monster he fights against. It is the job of his Handler, Dr. Laurel Young, to ascertain how close he is to this change and euthanize him when he crosses over. With each new death Devlin edges closer to this crisis point, which is unfortunate given that someone—a human someone—has been hired to speed his change along or assassinate him outright by taking his head.
Whereas the writers that tread the familiar ground of vampires and werewolves benefit from a common, well-known lore, Morgan creates a new path with her Paladins and in doing so must also create her own mythology. The job of the premiere novel in a paranormal series is to lay the mythological groundwork so that future novels can build upon its structure. Often new authors mistakenly use this chance to dump information into expositional paragraphs that slow down the pacing of their story. Ms. Morgan’s book suffers from the opposite affect, providing us with a story that zips along while revealing far too little of her world. Since her mythology is never fully explained within the pages of her book (nor on her website) the reader is left with an incomplete story rather than the loose threads necessary to be carried on by the rest of the series.
From the events of the novel the reader is given only certain aspects of Paladin and Other life, without the benefit of the tools needed to connect the pieces. The Paladins die again and again in battle, but no certain number of deaths or span of life is attributed to them within the story. Their race is believed to have originated from the interbreeding of crossed-over Others and humans, but the creation of their governing Ordnance, the people controlling the Department of the Regents and the introduction of the Handlers remains a blank spot in their design. The Others suffer from the same lack of information. They are blamed for the depletion of the Ozone layer, but no explanation is given for how or why. Their possible danger to those on the top-side world due to their murderous tendencies is alluded to, but no follow-up is provided beyond a description of their battle rage.
This lack of information extends to the heroine and hero as well, affecting the believability of their romance. Devlin and Laurel’s back-story as patient and doctor—alluded to, but never focused on—acts only to provide a flimsy springboard for their attraction and the fast progression of their relationship. This relationship continues to suffer due to the author often telling and not showing important climatic scenes (like an explosive fight and love-making episode in Laurel’s kitchen or when Laurel puts down her first Paladin) as well as the quiet ones where the characters get to know one another and prove that they are compatible (which their hide-away time at the beach would have helped establish). This lack of showing also extends to their relationships with their coworkers, giving only a truncated view of the individual characters and falling back on roles common to paranormal romance: Devlin’s top soldiers are the all-male posse complete with snappy dialogue, while Laurel’s relationship with Dr. Neal is portrayed as daughter/father affair, and Trahern takes on the role of the bad-ass loner. Were these characters fleshed out and given independent personalities they would have grown beyond their clichéd beginnings, but without the requisite back-stories and due to the stream-lining that limited the emotional highs and lows of the plot, they were reduced to acting as cardboard placeholders.
Despite a new and interesting premise Dark Protector fails to achieve the full potential of its story. The novel could have benefited from at least a hundred more pages to fully realize Alexis Morgan’s plot and the world-building necessary for the creation of its unique mythology. While certain threads were necessarily left hanging for the continuation of the series, too much went unexplained for the reader to become immersed in a believable story of love and death, good vs. evil. Hopefully the next book in the series will overcome these deficiencies and allow Ms. Morgan to take her place as a distinctive voice in the paranormal genre.
You can visit Alexis Morgan (who also writes westerns under the name Pat Pritchard) here and buy your copy of Dark Protector here and here.