Sunday, September 01, 2013

Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising

Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising is a new book by actress Lara Parker, who's best known for her role as Angelique on the television series Dark Shadows, which aired on ABC from 1966-71. In 1998 she wrote her first novel, Dark Shadows: Angelique's Descent, published by HarperPrism (reissued by Tor Books in 2012). Parker followed this with Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch (Tor, 2006), which was also reissued last year.

Wolf Moon Rising is the second novel in The Salem Branch series, with a story that revolves around the werewolf Quentin Collins. Although the author definitely does justice to the characters and setting of the television series, the story features some elements that seem too out of place for Dark Shadows--and her writing style leaves something to be desired.

The novel features four main intersecting story lines. David Collins, now 16 years old, has fallen in love with Jacqueline, a young girl who lives in the Old House at the Collinwood Estate. But Jacqueline soon realizes that a supernatural power is building within her, and she may in fact be the reincarnation of Angelique, the 17th-century witch who was responsible for Barnabas Collins becoming a vampire. Speaking of Barnabas, he's a vampire once again--having been cured in the original TV series--and he has a new bloodsucker under his wing: Dr. Julia Hoffman! Meanwhile, Quentin Collins is in a desperate search for the missing, magical portrait that has thus far maintained his youthful appearance for over a century--and kept his werewolf affliction at bay. To make matters worse, the traditionally reclusive Collins clan feels threatened by the arrival of Dr. Nathanial Blair, an expert of the paranormal, who believes that a vampire is hiding in their midst.

Remember: this is based on a soap opera! The competing stories may seem a little convoluted, but the author manages to juggle them successfully--up until some characters travel back in time to the 1920s. This plot device feels contrived, and isn't implemented very well. This leads to confusion (at least, to this reviewer) regarding Quentin's back story, and the missing portrait. (I won't go into details regarding the search for the portrait, but it's the most important element of the story; as written, however, it turns out to be the most confusing, as well.)

All of these story elements are true to the Dark Shadows universe, even though the author doesn't always stick to the established canon. Truthfully, only fans of the series will be engaged by the plot--yet there's some adult language and situations that really seem out of place in a Dark Shadows story. For example, some classmates treat Jacqueline poorly, giving her pornographic photos of "women copulating with goats" and notes that read "snooty bitch." Another example highlights the rambling writing style that plagues this book: Impulsively he grabbed her and rolled her over in the snow, playfully, as if he was wrestling with her, and she was laughing as well, until he realized he was lying on top of her with a sudden bulge in his pants, and he was embarrassed when he saw her grin. Additionally, the author's overuse of metaphors and similes really takes the reader out of the story.

Buried within the pages of Wolf Moon Rising is an interesting tale for Dark Shadows fans, and Lara Parker should be commended for keeping the spirit of the television series alive. Unfortunately, this book reads like a good first draft, and would have benefited from more time spent with an editor.

*** out of *****


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