REVIEW: Elijah by Jacquelyn Frank
Dear Ms. Frank,
Let me be honest. The first two books in your Nightwalker series didn’t impress me much. So when I received the third book, I honestly wasn’t expecting to like it. But to my surprise, I enjoyed the romance between Siena and Elijah. Unfortunately, their relationship wasn’t able to overcome the other flaws plaguing this book.
Elijah is the demon race’s Warrior Captain. Unlike the Enforcers who punish demons that break their laws, warriors protect their race from those who mean them harm. When he’s ambushed by necromancers led by two traitorous demon women, the lycanthrope queen Siena saves his life.
Lycanthropes and demons once waged a 300-year-long war but when Elijah killed the previous king, Siena assumed power and declared peace between their people. A tentative peace has existed between their races for the past thirteen years. It’s because of this that Siena helps Elijah and nurses him back to health. Since he was attacked in lycanthrope territory, they would have been blamed for his death, sparking a new war between two races still harboring deep-seated prejudices and resentment towards one another. I love this backdrop and how it affected their mutual attraction.
Siena is loved by her people. She fights hard to keep the peace and leads by example, changing the lycanthropes’ belief system slowly but surely. But Siena isn’t a perfect queen; she has her flaws too. For example, lycanthropic society was once matriarchal. It was only when Siena’s mother changed the laws and elevated her consort to the title of king that a man ever held a position of power. But when the previous queen died, it left ruling authority in the hands of a king who loved to start pointless bloodbaths. Because of this, Siena refuses to take a mate, which would result in crowning a new king, and intends to let her younger sister inherit the throne after her death. The way Siena struggles between her devotion to the well-being of her people and her terror of acknowledging the soulmate bond with Elijah was one of the more compelling plot threads running through this book.
The lycanthropes, individually and as a whole, worked well for me. While I’ve never cared for these books’ brand of demons, I found the lycanthropes to be interesting and unique. From the half-breeds to Siena’s harlequin sister, Syreena, to their prehensile hair, I thought they were a nice change of pace from the shapeshifters we usually encounter in urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
Now for the bad part. The Nightwalker books have always suffered from inconsistent pacing. The plots of both Jacob and Gideon didn’t actually start until the middle. When Elijah opened with the ambush, I hoped we would be spared the slow beginnings that characterized those previous books. But while it began with the attack and we were teased with the promise of background manipulations to instigate a new war, it was a lie. The necromancers and the demon traitors don’t reappear until the end when we discover the assault on Elijah wasn’t really an attempt to cause friction between the demon and lycanthrope races but merely a decoy to divert attention from the necromancers’ true purpose for being within lycanthrope territory. Talk about a letdown.
Plot issues aside, what bothered me the most was the writing. I wanted to love this story. I might have forgiven the underutilized necromancer plotline in favor of the romance between Elijah and Siena had the actual writing been better. I’ve always considered myself a story reader. While I can appreciate beautiful prose and writing craft, I will forgive much if the story is strong enough. But in this case, the story could not overcome the constant multi-page infodumps and "As you know, Bob"-type dialogue.
And finally, to address a question Jane raised in her review of Jacob, I do believe the Nightwalker races live on earth, not in alternate dimensions. Given the amount of detail we’re given, it’s very easy to miss that fact and sometimes I wondered if I remembered their various location correctly. The demons live in England. Except for Elijah, who apparently lives in Washington State. I think. But why does he live so far away from the rest of his race? He’s their general. Sure, demons can teleport but as their general, shouldn’t he live closer? In addition, the lycanthropes live in Russian Siberia.
I have no problems with any of that. What I do have a problem with is that for such geographically different locations, they all sound the same. The various races could have lived in Canada, Mexico, South Africa, or China and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I’m not saying we need in-depth detail but England, Russian Siberia, and Washington State are not the same place, and they shouldn’t read like it.
I do consider Elijah to be better than the previous Nightwalker books. Perhaps it was simply a matter of setting up the world and cast of characters. If this trend continues, the final book in the series just might work for me. C+