As you may be aware, I’m part of a duo (who are sometimes joined by a shifting group of guests) who puts on a podcast called Your Book is Why Daddy Drinks. This podcast is dedicated to reading bad fiction, for various flavors of bad, and the book for April was No Mercy by Sherrilyn Kenyon and, unfortunately, it was really, really appropriate. Sent to me by my mother-in-law for the ‘cast, she found it in a bargain bin at her local Walmart, she picked it up because she thought it looked interesting, read it, and promptly decided that A) she didn’t want it in her house anymore and B) that it would be perfect for YBiWDD. Just looking at the cover, which my partner Tyler described as “a bro’s douchey tribal tattoo”, made me apprehensive about reading this book. Now that I’ve finished it I have to agree with both points A and B above.
No Mercy is book nineteen in Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series, a bit of urban fantasy paft indistinguishable from any of the rest since Laurel K. Hamilton turned Anita Blake into smut. Now, before I continue, let me say that I have no problem with sex in fiction or even what most people might call smut. It’s got it’s time and place and a well done sex scene, or even well done smut (and yes, it’s possible), can be really enjoyable.
This? This, for me, was like getting groped by an inexperienced clammy hand.
The plot of No Mercy is that there is a club in New Orleans called Sanctuary, a place where supernaturals can go to relax that’s kind of neutral ground. Because there’s always a place that’s neutral ground that’s always a bar in this genre. Anyway, the first of two main characters is a guy named Dev, a werebear who possesses the following other magical abilities:
1. he’s a telepath,
2. he can teleport,
3. he can instantly create, or remove (important for the sexy time), his clothing,
4. he makes reference to the fact he’s mildly telekinetic,
5. he can blast his power at people in some not-very-well-described fashion,
6. he apparently has the ability to deaden psychic impressions left behind on objects with his touch,
7. he’s either immortal or extremely long-lived and, despite being hundreds of years old, still resembles the walking, talking pulsing hormone that is an adolescent boy who has just discovered that other people can be sexually awesome, and
8. he’s hung, YOU GUESSED IT, like a bear.
Moving on, Sanctuary, and the family of werebears that own and operate it, are still recovering from an attack that recently happened that resulted in the death of Dev’s mother who was the matriarch of the family. Dev is being mopey on the porch when up roars on a motorcycle (of course) the tall (of course), stacked (of course), beautiful (of course), blond (of course) Samia “Sam” Savage. Sam herself is a now immortal Amazon who died and sold her soul to Artemis to revenge the murders of Sam and her family and now works for Artemis as a Dark Hunter, more or less a good vampire that doesn’t need to drink blood, someone sworn to protect humanity from demons and Daimons (read soul-devouring, bad vampires).
Sam, among her long list of powers that include telekinesis and the strength and speed of a vampire, has the ability to pick up the psychic impressions on objects and people, seeing their past and, apparently, also their future. This causes Sam to have to take on a vegan lifestyle (because who would want to watch a cow get slaughtered in their mind every time she has a burger) and not have sex with anyone (because who would want to try to get down while their partner’s painful past fills your mind as you try to have naked time). However, because there’s no flaw or drawback in this book that Kenyon can’t find a work-around for, there’s Dev, psychic-impression smothering Dev, and Sam latches on to him like a sex-starved lamprey almost as soon as she’s able to, but only for one bit of sex because there has to be some drama over Sam’s dead husband so she kicks Dev out.
The rest of the book centers around a guy named Stryker (whose real name is actually Strykerius because that’s an authentic Greek name if I ever saw one) who is the chief Daimon having been cursed to that life by Apollo. He’s actually Apollo’s son, making him a vampire demi-god, and wants to break the curse on his people (who are born human but die in agony at age twenty-seven unless they start devouring human souls to stave off the death), kill his father, and subjugated the world. Beyond that, he also wants to wipe out the werebears because reasons* (probably reasons explained in a previous book) as well as the Dark Hunters because they kill his people and he hates Artemis as well.
Did I mention that this book is basically like someone took the Greek Pantheon and turned them into angsty teenagers who are even more sex-crazed than the Greek pantheon normally was? Even Artemis, the Greek virgin warrior goddess, has had sex.
Regardless, Stryker finds out about Sam’s power and tries multiple times to kidnap Sam so he can use her powers on some bauble that belonged to his father to find out if there was some way to break the curse. He does this by, of course, kidnapping and threatening Dev. She uses her powers on the bauble, finds out A) there’s no way to break the curse that won’t result in the destruction of the world (because reasons) and B) that despite the curse Apollo actually really loves Stryker despite Stryker killing Apollo’s mistress and other son. Stryker isn’t happy when he finds out about this and kicks Sam out and, despite being a soul-devouring evil monster, still gives Dev back despite also wanting to kill him. Because reasons.
During all of this Sam and Dev are having a very awkwardly written sort-of-courtship that ends up with them “mated”. Mated in this universe means that the three Fates have decided that two supernaturals are going to be linked, sort of like marriage, for the rest of their lives and give two people a magic tattoo that now means they are mated. For male werebear it means they are now monogamous (but the female can go get her groove on elsewhere apparently) and that they have to mate within a certain time period or they go impotent. I’m not certain if this means just having sex or if they have to produce a child, but who knows or really cares?
The book ends with Sam and Dev slipping into supernaturally domestic tranquility after a god shows up and makes it so that Sam can have children despite Dark Hunters being unable to produce off-spring.
Things I liked about this book? It was short and a fast read. Kenyon also didn’t use the words “turgid” or “moist”, which, I think, would’ve simply been overkill with how bad I felt this book was.
Things I didn’t like about this book? Oh, where do I begin?
It was a fast read because it lacked any real depths or complexity. The characters, pretty much all of them, could have very well been cardboard cut-outs of each other. Nearly all of them are overly-powerful, beautiful, sarcastic, written in the same voice, written as if they were taking their dialogue from really immature action films, care about their family (even the evil characters), and cliche. The plot had no twists or turns of any real serious nature.
Flaws aren’t flaws in this book. First of all, there are no physical flaws; everyone, even the creepy and inhuman demons, are beautiful. Secondly, as I said above, there’s no restriction that Kenyon can’t find a way around. Sam can’t have sex because of psychic cock-blocking? Introduce character who, for reasons, can psychically dampen things. Daimons can’t walk around in the sunlight? Fine, Daimons just devour the essence of a particular demon and now you have a day-walking Daimon. Artemis is a jealous goddess who won’t return the souls of Dark Hunters who want to stop being Dark Hunters? Daimons are supposed to be evil soul-eaters? Daimon can be good by devouring the souls of non-humans because that, somehow, is less evil. Somehow, off camera, a random character will manage to get Sam’s soul back from Artemis because reasons and give said soul back to Sam because reasons. Dark Hunters can’t have children, making it so that Sam and Dev’s relationship will be a childless one? An omnipotent character will, for reasons, show up and use their ill-defined powers to make it so that Sam can now have children despite Artemis removing that ability. And Artemis, apparently, won’t express any kind of issue with that, despite being portrayed as kind of a bossy lady, because reasons.
Then there are the powers. Like most urban fantasy I’ve read, there’s a power creep where characters get more and more powerful as the series continues. Happened with Anita Blake, it’s happened with Harry Dresden, and it happens with an extreme pace here. Need a new power? Devour a demon. Need help with something? Call in a god.
And the sex? The sex scenes, IMO, felt cheap. They were blunt and cliche. There wasn’t any style to it, no real finesse or grace. Did you know that doing it doggy style is apparently a very special position for werebears because, culturally, that’s how they have sex with their mates? And Dev does it with Sam the second time they hook up.
Beyond that, this book is the epitome of telling, not showing. We know that Dev finds Sam “exotic” but not how. We don’t know if it’s because of the shape of her face, the color of her skin, the color/shape of her eyes or what. That’s just one example and if I listed the rest here I’d pretty much be re-writing most of this book.
Honestly, I have no idea if the eighteen other books that came before No Mercy would have made this any better but, considering that most things are supposed to be better written the longer the series goes on, if book nineteen was this bad I can’t imagine how book one was.
Do yourself a favor and skip this book. Skip the series. And if this book is any kind of indicator of the rest of Kenyon’s stuff, skip that too.
*When I just say “reasons” without spelling out what those are, it’s means that either the book provides no reasons for whatever is happening or the reasons are so flimsy/pointless/whatever that they might as well not exist.