"A Whole New Carpathian Clan!"

DARK CHALLENGE is the fifth story in the ongoing saga, which began with the award winning DARK PRINCE. Readers who have followed the tale have already met Julian Savage, the golden haired loner and identical twin to Aidan, the Carpathian hero of DARK GOLD (third in the series). Julian has made the decision to meet the sun. Not because he is ready to turn, he knows that he is still able to hold on. Not even solely because he is weary of the bleak dark existence all mature Carpathian males must suffer without a lifemate, but because of his curse, the loneliness of his self-imposed isolation from his kind and even his beloved twin, because of a mistake he made, centuries prior, as a lad of but twelve years. Even then this brilliant and skilled hunter had thirsted for knowledge. He had thought he had found a mentor in a most charming and handsome man of great experience.

The man had been cunning, a master of deception. Indeed he was the foulest of all creatures, the nosterafu, a vampire. The lad, eager for knowledge, had arrived early, surprising his teacher in mid kill. Shocked and dismayed, Julian finally sees the man for what he is, ugly and depraved. Young as he is he is no match for the evil one who forces a blood exchange upon him. The vampire can now see through Julian's eyes and compel him to do his bidding if he so chooses. He insures Julian's silence with the threat that he could command Julian to destroy his own twin on a whim. The vampire had staged enough convincing demonstrations to convince Julian of the veracity of his claim.

It is thus that Julian, not yet even a fledgling is forced INto a solitary existence to protect those he loves. But as he grows he becomes wiser and stronger until the vampire can compel him no more. Still he can not risk the threat to his people, most especially his brother. He has failed in his search to find and destroy his tormentor and he has little hope of finding a lifemate, for he feels he is undeserving or such. He will perform one last task at the urging of Gregori, the great healer of his people, before facing the dawn.

The society of human vampire hunters have once again set their sites on innocent human prey, in particular a woman, part of a small singing group, whose voice has been touted as "magical". It is Julian's mission to warn this woman of the danger to her life. Then he will not allow Gregori to stall his decision any longer, he will take his own life.

However Julian is floored by the voice of the singer, Desari. Not only is she beautiful, but her song paints a picture in his mind of silver and golden notes flowing through the air around him. He is flooded with emotion. It is this that momentarily dulls his perception. Though invisible to the human eye, Julian's presence distracts the attention of the group's bodyguard as well. This allows the band of vampire hunters the opportunity to get close enough to fire upon the group. Shots ring out as the three musicians fall, mortally wounded to the stage. Julian's only concern is for the woman. She must not die, for the unthinkable has happened, she is his lifemate.

Only his practiced skill as a healer saves the life of his woman, whom he now realizes is a Carpathian such as himself. Though he still feels unworthy and fears the danger his tainted soul will bring to her, he can do no other than bind her to him with the ritual words which are bred instinctively in each male of the species. She is given no choice in the matter. Having done what he can for his lifemate, Julian anticipates revenge upon the assassins, only to find that his job has been done for him. The bodyguard is apparently a Carpathian as well, and as unbelievable as it might seem, unknown to him and the others of his people.

Many centuries ago when Aidan was still young, the Turks had invaded the Carpathian Mountains destroying human's and Carpathians alike. The womEn and children were the most vulnerable, the losses great. Mikhail and Gregori, both young men had lost their parents. While one of Mikhail's younger brothers and a sister survived, Gregori had lost his six year old brother and infant sister. From that time forth the Carpathian's struggled with extinction, with women and children already scarce, they appeared to be cursed, for rarely did any new offspring live beyond their first year and the vast majority were male. It had been recently learned that some human women, those with true psychic ability could survive the conversion process with their sanity intact, and could also produce the much needed female children.

For centuries Julian, in his solitary travels, had searched the world for other surviving children of the massacre, but had found no trace of any. Now faced with a ancient female of his race, one who has no knowledge of her people besides the small band of five she considers her family, he is jubilant. Not so pleased and definitely not trusting are the three males of the little band. In particular is the leader Darius, Desari's older brother, who so reminds Julian of the Dark One that he surmises that the two are indeed the lost younger siblings of the healer himself. Darius aged six had been the oldest of the small band of six surviving children who had fled to Africa to save their lives. Through his wits alone, Darius had led his small family, and they had thrived. The group had moved frequently, necessary because of their life in the public eye, and fact that Carpathians do not age as humans do.

Darius has reason not to trust, the group has never encountered others like themselves. Their only experience has been with the depraved undead who are attracted to them because of the women. Even one of their own had turned, had raped the other woman in their group, the lasting damage being emotional. Julian is amazed at Darius's strength and knowledge, because he has not had the advantage of elders to teach him the ways of the people. His abilities rival that of Gregori himself.

This brings up an interesting bit of speculation about nature vs. nurture. Is there something in Gregori's line which breeds this kind of man? Even Desari is amazingly powerful in her own way. But on the other hand it has been generally accepted by the people that each Carpathian male had been born with the knowledge of the binding ritual should he encounter his lifemate, but Darius had had no knowledge that there was any hope of ending the bleak existence he has come to despise. It is no wonder that the group is so devastated by their former friend's betrayal. It also clues them in to the reason that the women have been the target of the packs of vampires in the area. Close as Darius is to turning, this hope is enough to make him hold on. I also have to wonder at the validity of the concept of imprinting. There is a rather unique relationship between Barack, one of the other two Carpathians and the victimized female, Syndil. Though the incident has caused each of the males to scrutinize the others with great care, Barack's overprotectiveness, far exceeding that of the other males, has to make you wonder. No one quite understands it, least of all Syndil. Is there something more going one there, a trace of emotion perhaps? I found this very intriguing.

In Julian's experience the woman of his species have been vigilantly protected, turned over from father to lifemate as soon as they reach majority (18 years), barely fledglings. The teaching of these women falls to the domineering males. This shocks Desari, a female of ancient blood, who had gained power and wisdom in her own right over the centuries. This is a source of frustration to Julian as well, for his lifemate has a mind of her own, and often chooses not to accept his guidance. It troubles him deeply that she would defy his commands and risk her own safety to assert her independence. No one knows better than he the danger the shadow upon his soul may bring to her.

She is determined to stay with her family unit, to support the shattered female, and to give her brother reason to hold onto life. Julian the loner, hopelessly in love, must learn to accept living among others for the first time since his destroyed childhood, and the leadership of a male other than his Prince, or risk losing the light of his life.

And somewhere out there still lurks a powerful vampire whose ancient blood courses through Julian's veins putting everyone he holds dear at risk. Can Julian find and destroy the undead, or has he found the light to his darkness only to have it snuffed out through his own betrayal? Ah but Julian is yet unschooled in the powers of the ancient Carpathian women. Desari is not about to go down without a fight, nor is she willing to share her lifemate with the undead. Julian is no longer alone.

Compelling as always, Ms. Feehan's latest novel only makes the reader crave more. Lest you worry for Darius's soul, fear not. His story DARK FIRE is next, coming in 2001. I myself am dying to know what the deal is with Barack. Don't keep us waiting too long, Chris!

Copyright © 2000

Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted September 6, 2001


A Carpathian Novel

Was She More Than His Mate?

Julian Savage was golden. Powerful. But tormented. For the brooding hunter walked alone. Always alone, far from his Carpathian kind, alien to even his twin. Like his name, his existence was savage. Until he met the woman he was sworn to protect…. When Julian heard Desari sing, rainbows swamped his starving senses. Emotions bombarded his hardened heart. And a dark hunger to possess her flooded his loins, blinding him to the danger stalking him. And even as Desari enflamed him, she dared to defy him - with mysterious, unparalleled feminine powers. Was Desari more than his perfect mate? Julian had met his match in this woman, but would she drive him to madness…or save his soul?

Mass Market Paperback Reissue

Genre: Paranormal Romance; Vampire; Shapeshifter

Read an Excerpt


Dark Challenge
(Dark: Book 5)
by Christine Feehan

January 1, 2009
Available: January 27, 2009
ISBN #0843961961
EAN #9780843961966
368 pages
Paperback (reprint)
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Other Books by
Christine Feehan

Samurai Game
Spirit Bound
Darkest at Dawn
Dark Predator
Dark Prince
Ruthless Game
Sea Storm
Dark Peril
Water Bound
Wild Fire
Street Game
Dark Slayer
Hidden Currents
Burning Wild
Murder Game
Dark Curse
Turbulent Sea
Predatory Game
Dark Hunger
Dark Possession
Safe Harbor
Dark Gold
Deadly Game
Conspiracy Game
Dark Celebration
Dark Dreamers
Dangerous Tides
Dark Demon
Night Game
Oceans of Fire
Dark Prince
Dark Secret
The Shadows Of Christmas Past
Hot Blooded
Dark Destiny
Mind Game
Wild Rain
The Twilight Before Christmas
Dark Melody
Shadow Game
Lover Beware
The Only One
Dark Symphony
Lair Of The Lion
Dark Guardian
Dark Legend
A Very Gothic Christmas
After Twilight
Dark Fire
The Scarletti Curse
Dark Magic
Dark Gold
Dark Desire
Dark Prince

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