Review: If Angels Burn (Darkyn #1) by Lynn Viehl

This is going to be a very informal review, because moving is expensive and exhausting and three of my nieces visited me for dinner, so I’m writing this review just before eleven and I have to be up at four. Trigger warnings for this book include sexual/physical assault, racism and body horror. Read on (or read the book concerned) at your own risk.

Before I start this review I should mention that I like Lynn Viehl’s work. I think she has racially diverse characters, strong women, and realistically strengthened/weakened main relationships: romantic, familial and platonic. You don’t find that very often in the urban fantasy/paranormal romance realm. That being said, this book has some areas that could’ve been improved, and I’m going to mention them.

This cover is pretty disappointing, it looks nothing like any characters from the book, doesn’t convey the tone and gives no indication of what the books about. I like the font, but that’s about it


Dr. Alexandra Keller is Chicago’s most brilliant reconstructive surgeon.


Michael Cyprien is New Orleans’s most reclusive millionaire–and in desperate need of Dr. Keller’s skills.


Beneath the foundation of a mansion in the heart of the Garden District, Alexandra will perform an illegal surgery. Her patient’s disfigurement is beyond medical repair. But his body’s ability to recuperate from his wounds borders on the miraculous.

Alexandra knows Michael Cyprien is no ordinary patient. Intrigued by how his remarkable physiology might benefit medical science, she is even more compelled by his presence–and the mystery surrounding him and his associates, a cadre of immortals who call themselves the Darkyn.

I ended up reading If Angels Burn because I couldn’t manage to read anything new no matter how excited I was to read it, so I re-read an old vampire book instead and wow, there is some problematic shit in this. It’s called out, sure, but the main characters have some pretty rapey interactions and basically it’s all okay ‘cause then they fall in love. I’m never a fan of instalust, and the way the physiological/fantasy elements of the Darkyn world is set up, it almost seems chemically induced, which is not great.

Alexandra is a great main character though, and I’d forgotten how much happens in this first book. It’s very obvious that Lynn Viehl had a clear idea of where she wanted the series to go, because there are scenarios and characters introduced that won’t reappear until hallway through the series or further (I haven’t read the series in years, so I’m not sure, but I’m up to book three in the re-read and some loose threads have yet to be tugged on).

Michael is not given too much of a backstory or personality in this novel, but the way he interacts with his staff and peers definitely lays the groundwork, and I appreciate that his characterisation isn’t rushed. Michael and Alexandra are very much the focal couple for the series, and I think it really works well to have their relationship and respective formative experiences and motivations slowly come into focus.

John is a character I don’t like very much, but he’s well written. I don’t know that he’s supposed to be overly sympathetic in this book, but he is certainly a fully formed character in his own right. The brotherhood is a worthy antagonist for the series, and Thierry, Elaine and Phillipe are incredibly detailed side characters. Lucan, Richard, Angelica, Luisa and Bishop Hightower are also notable for both their realistic character development, and relevance to upcoming plots, without the storyline or their introduction ever feeling convenient or shoehorned in.

The darkyn are pretty standard book vampires, and some of their abilities do seem a bit ridiculous at times, but I’m glad that humans in this world aren’t written off as helpless weaklings. The enemies of the darkyn aren’t werewolves, witches or some other supernatural creatures, they’re humans who know enough to fear them, and inspire fear in return. I feel this makes for a somewhat more interesting plotline, that allows for commentary on things like poverty, racism or bigotry of any kind, and I think it works well with the modern urban setting.

There are some superficial similarities to Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, but the Darkyn series is pretty standard 90s-2000’s vampire romance. Think Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter; Larissa Ione’s Demonica books or JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I like this book and this series, but there are some cheesy moments, and the romance is a little bit exaggerated. The characters are likeable though, the writing is fast-paced and entertaining, and there are definite funny moments, so if you’re a fan of old school vampire romance or you want a fun, quick read, If Angels Burn might be for you.


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