7 Rated Books

Book Review: If Angels Burn

Title: If Angels Burn: A Novel of the Darkyn

Author: Lynn Viehl

Review Number: 15

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Dark Fantasy

Stand alone or series: First book in the Darkyn series

Summary: (From amazon.com)
Alexandra Keller is Chicago’s most brilliant reconstructive surgeon. Michael Cyprien is New Orleans’ most reclusive millionaire-and in desperate need of Dr. Keller’s skills. In the heart of the Garden District, Alex encounters the extraordinary Cyprien, uncovering a love Alex is willing to embrace, even if she must sacrifice her heart and soul to do so.

Why did I read the book: Having recently read and reviewed Stardoc by S.L. Viehl, some commenters clued me in that this same author had made a venture into the paranormal romance genre, writing as Lynn Viehl. Since I was so impressed with Stardoc, and from the positive comments, I decided to give her Darkyn novels a try.


Dr. Alex Keller is a rockstar in the cosmetic surgery world. She’s been on the cover of Time Magazine and been proclaimed as the “Fastest Scalpel in the World”. What’s more is she works pro bono, taking on cases of disfigurement from accidents and violent crimes, preferring to help those who most need her skills over rich, vain clients. As she and her brother are wealthy from the deaths of their adoptive parents, Alex can afford to be scrupulous.

However, there is one patient who persistently requests her services, and won’t take no for an answer. The mysterious Mr. Michael Cyprien, via his assistant offers Alex up to $4 million to fly out to his home in New Orleans and perform surgery on him—which Alex takes as a blatant show of wealth and arrogance, and detects something sinister. She informs Cyprian’s assistant that he has to go to a hospital to have any surgery performed, recommends colleagues that could perform the surgery, but firmly refuses to consider his case. Michael, however, is not having any of it, and has Alex abducted (read: drugged up on ether) and forcibly brought to his Louisiana manor to perform the surgery. Upon awakening, Alex is justifiably outraged…until she finally sets eyes on Cyprian and sees the extent of his injuries. His face has been brutally crushed, and covered in thick ragged scar tissue. He has no eyes, as the tissue has healed over them, no nose, and a gaping hole for a mouth. Alex is a healer and empathetic by nature—her curiosity is piqued, and as a medical doctor she cannot resist the mystery in front of her. That Cyprian survived such a brutal mauling that left him without a face is astounding enough—and then he shows her why he needed the Fastest Scalpel in the World. Upon being cut, Cyprian heals almost immediately. Any other surgeon would take too long, and his face would heal over mid-procedure. Seeing the once in a lifetime challenge before her, Alex accepts and is successful beyond all expectations—Cyprian is restored to his former beauty. He awakens and opens his beautiful eyes, and unfortunately for Alex, succumbs to bloodlust. Cyprian is not, as Alex postured, a medical miracle but in fact a Darkyn; a creature akin to vampires, an ancient race that survived the Black Death and roam the earth damned to eternal life. Michael manages to stop himself from killing Alex but in the process has infected her, and she begins her own journey from human to undead. Determined to ignore Michael and the magnetic pull they have towards each other, Alex tries to fight the infection using her medical savvy. Meanwhile, her brother (who is a priest) searches frantically for his estranged sister, and stumbles into The Brethren—a secret order of priests dedicated to hunting down and destroying the Darkyn.

Overall, this was a good read. I enjoyed Ms. Viehl’s characters, and I liked the spunky heroine she created in Alexandra (even if she was just Cherijo with a regular scalpel in Louisiana as opposed to a lascalpel on K-2). Alex’s dogged refusal to drink blood and accept becoming a Darkyn as she searched for a ‘cure’ felt genuine. Similarly, her brother’s struggle with celibacy and faith certainly was not a comfortable topic to read, and the torturous scenes involving him weren’t pleasant either—but they were effective and lent dimension to these characters. Ms. Viehl writes a smart story, and she doesn’t pull her punches.

The actual romance between Cyprian and Alex was enjoyable as well—they are two very stubborn characters, and the attraction they feel for each other is realistically portrayed. Alex has rough edges and refuses to be dominated immediately by Michael, exhibiting her strength of will and spunk (even telling him at one point to bite her ass, packing a nice punch as well). Michael himself was a bit of a wanker though (to borrow a phrase from Ana)—a bit stock in the growly possessive mate department. I enjoyed the romance as an almost afterthought to the actual story however, and I suspect this is why the book garners negative reviews.

What Ms. Viehl does best though is weave multiple storylines with deftness. The subplot involving Alex’s brother and the hideous torture and rape he undergoes at the hand of the Brethren is terrifying, yet engaging and relevant to the overall story. The baddies here really are bad; not your typical incompetent idiot villains. There are other subplots involving other characters, most notably the character of Thierry Durand who has been driven mad after being forced to watch his mate raped, tortured, then murdered by the Brethren.

This is a complex and dark book—not so much a paranormal romance as it is dark fantasy or horror. I’d warn romance fans that are expecting another sexy vampire fluff tale; Ms. Viehl isn’t about that. Think more along the lines of Anne Bishop than Kresley Cole—except Ms. Viehl is far superior to both authors, in this reviewer’s humble opinion.

Notable Quotes/Parts: Some of the truly haunting scenes involve Alex’s brother and his flashback to missionary work in South America, and his initiation to the Brethren. Ick…but in a well written, creepy way.

Additional Thoughts: Something else to note for the romance fans. I have not read that many romances, but in those I have read, reproductive parts are described with indirect adjectives and discrete nouns (i.e. “his manhood pushed against her”, “his throbbing member”, etc).

In this respect, Ms. Viehl calls a spade a bloody shovel, if you know what I mean.

Verdict: I enjoyed this book. Ms. Viehl proves again that she can write an engaging, fast paced story, and I’ll probably be picking up book 2 sometime in the near future. I still prefer the Stardoc series, but her foray into the paranormal genre has everything I could have asked for.

Rating: 7 Very Good

Reading Next: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison

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  • Ana
    February 27, 2008 at 8:40 am

    eek. I already fear and hate the Bethren.

  • Zeek
    February 27, 2008 at 9:03 am

    The books get even better as they go along and Micheal and Alex’s story continues on throughout the series. (I think that turned a lot of reg. romance readers off this series- they were looking for a definitive ‘Happily Ever After’ at the end of the book. And too, as you’ve mentioned, she’s no namby pamby writer!)

    No I, I really like this series, as well as the Star Doc series! (The latest two releases of the Darkyn are my favs, though!)

  • Thea
    February 27, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Ana–the Brethren are eeeevil. Twisted and evil.

    Zeek–I’ve heard such great things about Evermore and the later books in the series. Sigh. Guess that means I’ll have to catch up. Quickly. Not that I’m complaining! I’m quickly becoming a S.L./Lynn Viehl fangirl.

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