Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Approximate word count: 95,000-100,000 words
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Meg Whitlock graduated from Queens University of Charlotte with a BA in Comparative Arts with an Art History specialization and an Ancient History minor. In 2001 her one-act play, The Shoebox, was produced by Catawba College in Salisbury, NC and presented at the American College Theatre Festival. She was honored by Art:21 and the Mint Museum of Art for her essay Kara Walker: Using Stereotypes to Provoke Thought, and she's won awards for both her fiction and non-fiction writing. The Dark Man’s Son is her first novel.
A mysterious and powerful woman saves Jason Latimer from being beaten up by two muggers. The woman, Alex, is a Guardian (kinda like a guardian angel, but slightly different), and she is drawn to Jason because he (unbeknown to him at the time) is part angel. The story follows Jason and Alex as they discover what Jason’s true purpose is. This is planned to be the first of a series, and much of the book deals with building the world these characters will populate.
The premise of the story (as told in the blurb and then the Amazon sample) attracted me. I enjoy tales of mythical beings: demons and angels, Guardians with supernatural powers and magic swords. But the writing was so poor that I just couldn’t get into the characters. I think Jason is the main protagonist, although it might have been Alex. The real issue though, is that I didn’t care. For me, it’s impossible to enjoy a story, if I don’t care about the main characters. Because I write, I know why this happened: it’s all about the Point of View. But if I didn’t write, I’d have the same reaction, I just wouldn’t know why. I need to get inside a character and live the events through them, from their perspective. That’s what makes a story compelling. In Dark Man’s Son, I was in everybody’s head all the time.
Here’s an example with three characters in one paragraph:
In that moment Rorik loathed Cassius more than he ever had. Jason boggled at the idea that this ruthless being could really be his father. Asmodeus wondered if there were a polite way to ask for a refill.
Three sentences, three heads. I can’t feel engaged with three characters at once. During the early parts of the story, I felt like the comedian Louis Black—about to explode, but eventually the strain wore me down until my mind was just numb.
The other aspect I found disappointing was with the powers these supernatural beings possessed. These were alluded to, but never explained, and more importantly, rarely shown. If Alex, a lithe, young-looking woman has kick-ass powers, I want to see them work. I want to watch the beams of light, or fires, or shimmering lights. I want to see her vanquished enemy explode, or disintegrate, or something, well, supernatural. But, except in the first fight where she opens some whoop-ass (featured in the Amazon sample), all that happened is her eyes changed color and people disappeared, or were sent to Hell (literally, because they’re demons), or they saw her sword, got frightened, and backed off.
I hate writing poor reviews. I know how much work goes into a novel. But a good fiction editor, or even an online critiquing group, could help straighten out these issues, and maybe if the craft were fixed a story might shine through.
Not enough to be of concern.
Rating: ** Two stars