Thanks to the lovely Ro for buddy-reading this with me. Unfortunately, neither of us really got into it. I was excited to read THE DARK KING because it seemed to be being pitched as NEON GODS meets A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES meets FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, which, if you were a cynical reader, might make you feel even more cynical. But I'm not a cynical person and convinced myself that this was going to be awesome: fated mates, marriage of inconvenience, kinky fun times? I was totally on board. Plus, I've kind of been on a faerie kick lately thanks to Zodiac Academy.
I liked the beginning of the book where Caiden is kicking this corrupt manager's butt for demeaning sex workers and disrespecting him. There's a lot of tell-and-not-show when it comes to how big and bad the big and bad is, so it was nice to actually see an on-page demo. I even politely looked the other way when Caiden kept winking at the audience (aka, me) to tell me how hardcore he was. Boy, I know. You just whaled on this dude, literal claws out. Go at it, already.
Things started to get shaky when Bryn, the heroine, walks on stage. She was kind of aggressively bland, in the same way that Anastasia Steel and Bella Swan were. Her only personality trait is sassing Caiden and lusting after him. The descriptions of the Vegas Strip were interesting, I guess, and to be honest, I kind of liked the idea of a bunch of excommunicated fae jadedly starting their own clubbing empire. It felt very True Blood, but, like, in a good way. The problem is that the heroine doesn't really have any personality or hobbies, and the author forges an instant connection with them that has no emotional basis, which makes it really hard to care about or even root for them as a couple.
Also, my boy Caiden, aka side-of-the-road-Rhysand, clearly sees himself as a feminist, but every time Bryn misbehaves, he threatens her with a spanking. What is this, the 1950s? Okay, actually maybe it is for this dude since he's immortal and the 1950s probably feel modern to him, but STILL. I didn't like that. I'm okay with kinky stuff but the way it was broached in this book was super weird and kind of uncomfy for me. I'm okay with good guy love interests and bad guy love interests, but don't try to sell me on a guy as a good guy love interest but then make him act like one of those pick-up artists from the 2000s who dressed like a leather daddy wizard and called himself "Enigma."
I think for people who like quick, smutty reads, this will be a fun escapist read-- and there's nothing wrong with that. But if you're going into this expecting world-building and emotional connections and strong characters, you'll be disappointed. Props to the author for actually trying to inject some real faerie lore into this book-- I liked that a lot and wish she'd done it more-- but everything else about this was a sort of miss for me.
2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars