Dark Heart by Margaret Weis and David Baldwin
Justin Sterling, a former lord from the 14th century, has lived for centuries as an immortal. The price for his immortality is unswerving service to an ancient entity known as the Dragon. Unfortunately, the Dragon has required Justin to kill many innocent human beings to serve his secret purposes. Justin has grown to detest this lifestyle but fears the repercussions of disobeying the Dragon.
Sandra McCormick, a Chicago police detective, is a loner who is running from a past filled with abuse. She has been assigned two seemingly baffling cases. Both involve men (one a cop) murdered under extremely mysterious and gruesome circumstances Ė- their still-beating hearts had been ripped from their chests.
Justin killed the cop and must now possibly eliminate Sandra before she stumbles upon his secret. However, these two damaged individuals are about to fall deeply in love. But the Dragonís secrets must be protected at any cost. If so ordered, how will Justin carry out the execution of a woman he cares deeply about?
This book is so dark you practically need a minerís lamp to read it! But strap it on and light it up, because this book is definitely worth a read. It is an interesting fusion between a gritty detective novel and a dragon fantasy novel. Chicago is presented as a rainy, dirty city and the cops are what you would expect in a dime novel from the 30ís. You almost feel damp yourself, as the cops slog through the dark, wet streets trying to solve the gruesome murders.
Justin is a true anti-hero in the tradition of Thomas Covenant from the Donaldson novels. However, Justin is even more difficult to warm up to than Covenant because he has been committing grisly murders for centuries. However, by the end of the book, I started to feel a little sympathetic towards him. I expect he should become more likable in future volumes if we can forget that he has been a cold-blooded murderer for centuries!
The novel's premise, regarding dragons being driven from the world to some day return again, is unique and refreshing. This is not your run of the mill, copycat fantasy novel. The prose is very descriptive but flows smoothly and makes the book a quick read. You could easily read it in one sitting although I broke it up into two sessions. But beware! The book is billed as book 1 of a series. This volume does not neatly wrap up the plot threads at the end. In fact, it actually raises more questions than it answers, necessitating the purchase of the next volume to obtain some needed closure. However, there is no sign yet of a second volume from the authors. Hopefully, it will be published soon, because I definitely want see how this story progresses.
Reviewed by Alan
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