Friday, April 13, 2007

Secrets and Demons... Feehan's Ghostwalkers

I just finished reading Deadly Game, Christine Feehan's latest novel in the Ghostwalker series and I'm not exactly sure what to say. I liked it. No, in complete honesty I loved it, but there is something about the story and the hero - Ken Norton, that make me nervous to admit it.

I've loved all of the Ghostwalker stories (though I've yet to read Conspiracy Game who's hero is Ken's brother Jack) and I've read the first three books a couple of times each. Each one of those books touched something inside me that made me sympathetic to or understanding of the issues that came up between the main characters and the forward motion of the overall storyline.

But it wasn't like that with Deadly Game and the coming together of Ken and Mari (Marigold).

In Shadow Game I loved the characters of Lily Whitney and Ryland Miller right from the start. They were both such strong characters, accepting of eachother and their attraction that I melted. By the end of the first scene where they meet, I was rooting for them to get their happy-ever-after.

Then Nicholas Trevane went to retrieve Dahlia Le Blanc, not knowing for sure what he'd find and never expecting what he found. And Dahlia, bless her heart, didn't know what to do with Nicholas; she'd never even been able to spend any time with people, only being in the company of even her living companions for 30 minutes at a time. Mind Game brought the two together and we got to watch them adapt into these people who need eachother to survive; who realized they were more together than they had ever been apart.

The strength and sheer stubbornness in her, kept Flame Johnson alive and moving for years. Never trusting. Never staying one place for long. Never forming attachements that could be used against her. For as far back as she can remember betrayal has been the only thing in her life that she could count on. When Gator Fontenot bursts into her life she can't trust him, despite an acute awareness of him as a man. The passion that flares between them and their animalistic responses to each other scare her, and Gator for that matter, but it also enrages her that Dr. Peter Whitney (the evil mastermind who created the Ghostwalkers) would manipulate and try to control just one more thing in their lives. Night Game led us through her discovery that eventually you have to trust someone, and inevitably that person may do something to hurt you, even if only acting in your best interest.

In all of the Ghostwalker books both the hero and heroine have their secrets and their demons to work through. None of them, not in any of the stories, believe that they are capable or deserving of love. Most of them have very little concept of what love really is. And the worst of them, are Ken and Mari.

She was raised in a laboratory after being purchased by Dr. Whitney from an orphanage. Treated as nothing more than a lab rat and trained to be nothing but a soldier. Ken's life had been filled with one misery after another. Severely beaten by their father as children, Ken and Jack had eventually killed the man when they discovered him beating their mother to death. Then years later Ken is captured during a black-ops mission in the Congo and tortured; sliced, diced and skinned alive.

Filled with fury, uncontrollable rage and memories of the torture of his capture and his youth, Ken believes himself damned and to far gone for salvation. He needs to have control of his surroundings and those in them.

After having never known anything but a sterile, controlled laboratory environment, the prospect of having a life was more than Mari could imagine. She could picture it in her head, but had no conception of what it would feel like. The only thing she knew was that she would never let anyone have control over her again.

Normal was something that neither was likely to find, especially not in each other. Born, bred and trained to be soldiers, as individuals they were dangerous but put them together and they became deadly. Deadly Game deals with issues so dark that it's hard to relate to and understand them, even when the characters touch your heart and have it bleeding for them. So at odds with one another in one moment and then so in tune with each other the next, Ken and Mari have you fearing what they'll do to the other while at the same time praying that they'll be okay.

In all of the books that I've read I have never felt so discomfitted by my response to a story or the characters in it. There were times I had to set the book down and step away. Other times when I couldn't read fast enough to devour the changing dynamics of the characters.

The whole Ghostwalkers series has been one twist after another (and I know that I've missed some important information and pieces to the mystery, having not read Jack's story yet) and by the end of this one, I was shocked. I guess I can't think of a better word for it. Shocked at the depravity of Peter Whitney, at the strength and courage of Mari and by the amount of darkness in Ken that consumes him yet leaves him with enough humanity not to be a monster.

Once more I am awed by Christine's writing and her ability to tell such a difficult story. I don't know what else to say but "Wow!" (as lame as that sounds). Despite my inner issues with the story, Deadly Game is officially in the list of my top ten favorite books.

update: June 22, 2007

I have actually read Conspiracy Game now and I loved it too! Surprise, surprise... Anyways like I said, I'd thought that by skipping the fourth book I'd missed some things that were important to the fifth book and the entire Ghostwalker series and boy was I ever right! I don't know why I'm still surprised by Christine's ability to amaze me but hey, I am! I thought that Deadly Game was going to be the top for me, but the fourth book absolutely rocked me too. Now I've go a week before the next book in the Drake Sisters series comes out and I'm dying to get my hands on it. I swear by all that is holy, that I will have that book on release day and it'll be a sad, painful day for whoever decides to stand in my way!!!

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