Pros: Wonderful concept; very strong beginning
Cons: Cluttered and overly-detailed
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Planned Television Arts.
Susannah is a humble country healer and midwife, happily married and very pregnant. Unfortunately, she’s been accused of witchcraft by one of her fellow villagers, and she’s sentenced to die by fire. Bitter at the loss of her husband, her baby, and all she held dear, she’s easy prey for the promises of Rabishu, an ancient demon who offers her the power of the Ageless—as long as she agrees to be his assassin.
Centuries later, as Susannah contemplates taking the life of a child at Rabishu’s command, she realizes she cannot serve him any longer, even if it means eternal torment for her. But to her surprise, there are rules that bind even contracts with demons. She has one chance to balance the scales, literally: for each life she took while serving Rabishu, she must save another. But she must do it without most of the special abilities she had as one of the Ageless, and each time she saves a life, she ages. She’s living on borrowed time, and she doesn’t even know how much time she has.
The beginning of Susannah’s tale is powerful, as we live through the death of her baby in jail and her own betrayal and immolation. It’s a powerfully emotional start to the book, and sets up a gorgeous concept and plot.
Unfortunately, the rest of the book made me feel as though I’d set down the book I was reading and picked up something completely different. It even felt as though it was set in a totally different genre, as it focused on Susannah’s use of funky and expensive spy gadgets to solve crimes, track down bad guys, and so on. That can be an interesting sort of book, but it isn’t what seemed hinted at on the back of the book or in the first sections, which made it rather jarring.
The book was overly cluttered, trying to fit in too many evil companies, too many vignettes from Susannah’s past, too many villains who barely mattered to the plot, too many side characters who didn’t have much of an impact, etc. It made it difficult to keep up with what was going on at any one time, and how different things related to each other.
Dark Time was also overly detailed, although that might sound counter-intuitive. What I mean by that is, Dakota Banks included far too many details about exactly how Susannah achieves every little thing she does, where she picked up each skill, where each little plane she boards might be heading and all the various regulations it’s breaking… I understand she presumably did this to plug up any holes where people who are familiar with a thing might say, “well how come the plane didn’t have a co-pilot? Why won’t someone come looking for it after it crashes?” However, there are two problems with doing so much of this. One, over-detailing slows the pace to an unchanging crawl. It keeps scenes that should be fast-paced and exciting from being so, because they’re every bit as didactic as the slower scenes. And two, the more you detail, the more people question those details. It backfires—you encourage people to look for inconsistencies and mistakes.
Which leads me to the fact that because the book is so cluttered with characters, events, and details, there are definitely some mistakes. Susannah has a particular carving on her stomach, yet none of her lovers seem to notice it?! (In case you’re wondering, yes, it is visible to mortals, since there are points in the book where people notice it.) In particular she at one point wonders whether a lover might also be another redeemed Ageless: if that were so, couldn’t she just check his stomach for a similar carving, and wouldn’t he recognize hers?
Perhaps because there are so many characters, some of them lack much depth. Some of the bad guys are quite stereotypical, and I never did understand the point of Susannah’s friendship with a young woman named Randy except as a plot device to hook Susannah up on a blind date. Speaking of which, there is some explicit adult material in this book, but after reading so much romance and erotica, I have to say I was awfully disappointed in the wham-bam-thank you-ma’am single-paragraph sex scene.
The character of Susannah was strong, and the concept behind the series is delightful. I did find myself wanting to find out what happened next in the series (this book ends at a good stopping place, but definitely not at the end of the story). But I was disappointed in the cluttered feel, the weighted-down pace, and the confusion of genre.