"Under Darkness," Savannah Russe

Pros: Some interesting ideas & characters
Cons: Euphemisms; inconsistencies; cops-n-robbers feel
Rating: 2 out of 5

Review copy courtesy of Penguin Group.
Visit Savannah Russe’s Darkwing Chronicles site.


Daphne Urban is a 400-year-old vampire with the body of an 18-year-old. She and her colleagues, the Darkwings—vampires blackmailed by the US government into working as spies and operatives—are about to start their next mission. An entire military vessel has disappeared, vanished from plain sight. It’s possible there’s a terrorist plot afoot. And just to make things more complicated, New York seems full of vampire hunters—hunters who might be linked to Daphne’s on-again off-again lover, Darius.


I had the darndest time figuring out the intended audience for this book. The sexual content marks it clearly as a book for adults, but so much of it feels like the kind of material only a teen could appreciate. Given that the vampire lead character is stuck at age 18, I suppose I could assume it’s aimed at late teens, and that might make sense.

The sexual content is explicit and, in at least one case, violent. It also is filled with eye-roll-inducing euphemisms such as “rod of love” and “velvet well,” at least when it isn’t clinically describing sexual positions from the Kama Sutra or engaging in purple prose like “I … ran free across the glistening vales of ecstasy.”

The terrorist plot could be somewhat interesting, were it not for the fact that it comes across like adults playing an updated game of cops-and-robbers. The Darkwings decide to have a discussion amongst themselves “out in the street, where no listening devices could pick up our conversation.” Umm, got news for ya, but it isn’t that easy to avoid being listened in on.

Their military liaison acts more like a stereotype (or even caricature) of a military man from a movie out of the 80s or 90s than an actual officer, and the idea that most of the people in this book could actually get high-level government clearances is pretty damn laughable; these folks are so consistently shoddy that it completely breaks the willing suspension of disbelief for me. Hell, they regularly hold sensitive conversations about both government business and the vampire community in cabs.

It’s similarly difficult to buy the idea that Daphne is so childish. I know tweens who are less childish than her, and her behavior is dismissed casually as her being in some sort of eternal hormonal state due to being turned into a vampire at 18. 400 years of experience should really have more of an effect on her attitude than it seems to.

This book also hit a couple of pet peeves with me. The idea of spending money on wildly expensive items that one doesn’t need as a perfectly valid sort of ‘therapy’ annoys the heck out of me. I also dislike the idea of an author introducing a violent and coerced sexual encounter and then breezily introducing a plot development to make it more or less acceptable. This particularly bothers me in a book that seems to be aimed at young women.

To top it all off, I really didn’t feel that much chemistry between the main characters, thought Daphne acted like a nagging shrew whenever she was with Darius, and found Darius lacked the depth required for a romantic lead. I’m not sure I wanted the relationship to succeed any more than Daphne’s colleagues did.


By now you’re probably wondering why I gave this a 2 instead of a 1. Quite simply, it’s because I think there is an audience for this book, and there are plenty of people it would appeal to. Before I moved to the DC area and got to know quite a few military and ex-military people, I probably wouldn’t have rolled my eyes at nearly so many parts of this book. Also, plenty of readers won’t care as much about the silly euphemisms, the childish characters, etc. I don’t think this is a horrible book—it’s just definitely not the book for me.

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4 comments on “"Under Darkness," Savannah Russe
  1. It’s too bad this book wasn’t better. I don’t think it’s something I’d enjoy based on what you didn’t like about it–those are the things that would annoy me too.

  2. Cian says:

    I agree. Heck, with sex, vampires, and secret agents this should be really cool. Maybe next time.

  3. heather says:

    Feline: Yeah, I found the book pretty frustrating even before I got to ‘rod of love’ and ‘glistening vales of ecstasy’—and if I hadn’t been rolling my eyes by then, that certainly would have done it!

    Cian: Those certainly would seem like all the right ingredients for a strictly-fun romp, but there were way too many details that kept breaking the suspension of disbelief for me. Ah well.

  4. Stewart says:

    From the review I’ve just read, the story seems uninteresting. But I’m looking for something to read. Anyone can tell me about this book? Is it recommended? If you have read this, please let me know something.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for ""Under Darkness," Savannah Russe"
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  2. […] that avoids being incredibly explicit yet doesn’t fall into eye-rolling giggle-inducing ‘rod of love’ […]

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