Update January 16th, 2019:
I wrote this months before the news that Kenyon was going through some awful shit in real life. I wondered if Kenyon was going through some real life troubles after reading the couple newest books. I expected divorce, or sickness. I didn’t except deliberate heavy metal poisoning and a husband from hell. This is the post from her newsletter, where she outlines everything that happened (post starts a bit of the way down, after the promo stuff). This and this are two newspaper articles on the topic.
I highly hope you read the newsletter before continuing on with this post. It is a really awful thing that the author is going through.
Update June 21st, 2019:
Now there is more drama where what Kenyon said in January may not be the truth. This story is interesting and proof that there is more to any story than meets the eyes.
Warning: MAJOR spoilers for Stygian and the rest of the Dark Hunter world.
I’ve been thinking ever since I finished Stygian. I’ve been thinking about how much I disliked it. I’ve been trying to come to terms with it. This morning I woke up and I had to write this. If you’ve read the series but haven’t read Stygian and are going to, come back to this later. If you haven’t read the series and have no plans to, I write some background information if you want to read this. If you’ve read it all, skip ahead.
I’m not mad, I’m just extremely disappointed.
If you’ve read it, you can skip ahead. In case you haven’t read Dark Hunter, it is a paranormal romance world by Sherrilyn Kenyon. It is a complex maze of a world, and the first time I looked into it, I had no idea where to start. Hell, I’ve read most of this world, and I still don’t understand it. (If she wanted to make it more accessible for newcomers, she should really, really clean this up, I have no idea what is going on with this.)
Just look at the Goodreads pages, they’re a mess. There is Dark Hunter, Dream Hunter, Were Hunter, Hellchaser, Lords of Avalon (which is under two of her names), and Deadman’s Cross series, all interconnected, all overlapping. And those are just for her adult series! In a separate, kind of disconnected timeline (which I don’t even want to get into here, I have no idea how this is supposed to work) there is a young adult series titled Chronicles of Nick, which has since splintered off into another series Shadows of Fire. There is even a children’s ABCs book (though I’m pretty certain you don’t need to read it to get story).
Paranormal romance may not be your thing. I understand if it isn’t. Not everyone wants to see two characters who come together and be happy at the end of the book. I will say there is some merit in (paranormal) romance books, though, because they’re typically a nice, light read that ends in a happy ending to lift spirits and cleanse palettes. However, there is no denying that there is something about this world that works for some people. Stygian was somewhere around the 30 or 40th book (depending on how you count) written in this world overall (not counting that children’s book). If it didn’t work, it wouldn’t sell so well, and Kenyon would never have been able to make this crazy world.
The Dark Hunter world books, (barring the young adult novels which do a totally different thing) do something that they do very, very well. They take someone who is at one of the lowest points in their life and gives them a happy ending. The whole world is based off the fact that the gods are real, and they can curse people, make their lives hell just for some real or imagined slight (or for no reason at all, gods are fickle). There are a lot of lines of people and races that have been hurt by the gods is some way or another.
In the beginning of the series, the idea was took someone who at the lowest point in their life, when their wives, husbands, children, friends, kinsmen, or even themselves have been killed or worse, and gave them the ability for revenge. The only caveat was that that person would no longer age, but they could also no longer see the sun, and they had to fight another race who had been cursed so that they had to eat human souls to survive. It also meant that they sold their soul to the goddess Artemis. After they got their revenge, they still had to live with what happened – either the deaths of loved ones or their own years of mistreatment. These are the Dark Hunters.
There are also the Apollites, who were cursed by their patron god Apollo to die on their 27th birthday in pain, to never see the sun again, to never eat real food but take the blood of other Apollites – all because a radical group killed his mistress. The Daimons came about because the Apollites didn’t want to die so they created a way to get around the curse and live forever by consuming human souls. There are the were hunters who were created by a mad king desperate to save his sons, who were Apollites because their mother was one, and created a new long lived race to overcome the curse. Only that had unintended consequences and now there are two sides to the were hunters, cursed to always be at war with each other. There is also the random regular guy and girl, who just was unlucky.
Each book in this series takes at least one of these people: the abused, the angry, the hurt. Dark Hunter, Daimon, Were Hunter or even god. We learn about their past, which always has some sort of depressing beginning. We learn about their present, which is either stagnation in their hell or they’re still fighting. Every day they are fighting against the tide of shit. Then we give them someone to love, something to fight for again. We give them a new outlook on life. We make them happy. That is the goal of each book, to make someone happy.
Of course, over 40 books, it has spread out from that rather “simple” idea. Now there isn’t just the Greco-Roman pantheons as well as the made up Atlantean pantheon (which if I recall correctly was really basic in the beginning and now it isn’t). It is also Egyptian and Sumerian and another entirely made up pantheon that for some reason keeps getting shoved to the back and the brought out again only as needed. There are now fae and dragons, Merlin and Camelot and..a lot of other things. It has grown and grown. And with Stygian, you can kind of see she has lost her beginnings.
(This is where the spoilers start.)
Urian was a well liked character. He had a dad, Stryker, who most readers love to hate – Stryker is the cause of most of the early series’ grief. Urian always felt like the sane one, the one that was trying to mitigate the damage from Stryker. Overall, Urian appears to have had a good life, for all that he was a Daimon, for all he lived through, for all that Stryker was his dad. Then things happened, and Stryker tried to kill Urian, and nearly succeeded, as well as killing Urian’s wife. Then Urian went to work with Acheron, and became a good guy, on the right side. Then he finds out Stryker wasn’t his dad, Styxx was but Urian was taken from Styxx and Beth in a fit of rage on Apollymi’s part. Urian is angry and hurt, but still a good guy. Also, his wife may not be dead after all. That is what we knew before starting Stygian.
In Stygian, we see Urian’s childhood. This is during a time of great change for the Apollites, who were just cursed to their current existence. Urian is the much beloved son of Stryker, son of Apollo. He should have had a happy childhood, grown up into being a busy man, the son of a leader – a leader of a new peoples. Only this wasn’t the case. Urian had a terrible childhood. His father loved him, sure. Everyone else feared him, hated him, refused to help him or touch him or anything. His brothers hated him, but somehow it was all okay every time things went really bad because brothers have each others back. It didn’t feel this way though, it just felt like a lot of bullying and then expecting him to play nice because he is their brother when things go bad.
When Urian grows up, he starts to become cold to the world. Why help them when they wouldn’t help him. It is exacerbated by some really poor love choices on Urian’s part. I cannot blame him though. For a young man who didn’t think he’d ever find someone to care for him, the first woman to show any kind of affection at all would have seemed like the one to him.
As I said, Urian lived through changing times. He saw how his father changed from Apollite to Daimon. He saw how it changes a person. He saw how people would choose to die horrible deaths rather than take human life. Urian also saw how the world, the Apollite world, changed in response to the influx of Daimons. He saw the birth of the Dark Hunters, who are trying to hunt him to extinction. Urian has lived through the death of everyone that has mattered to him, all of his brothers and sisters, his adopted children, friends, lovers. Everything.
Throughout it all, he has a dragon friend. Urian and Xyn become unlikely friends early on in his childhood. They can only see each other occasionally, when no one is watching. But, Urian doesn’t know Xyn can become human as well as dragon, not until well after he becomes an adult. This causes strife between the two before they eventually make up. They both know they can’t actually be with one another, though. They see each other once a year – one night to be happy with each other. Until one year, Xyn isn’t there. She is gone and now Urian has to live alone.
Years pass, more and more of his siblings have died. It is just him and his father left. He is numb on the inside, because it is is better than feeling anything. Over a thousand years after Xyn died, one day he meets someone he is supposed to kill for reasons that defy logic (more on that, later). Phoebe becomes the light of his life. And he lies to his father about her. He pulls double duty to see her and appease his father. And then she, too, dies. And so does he. Only Acheron saves him. Acheron saves Urian by turning him into something other than Daimon, other than Apollite. (This is important, remember it for the end)
And so we come to the end of the new portion of Stygian. (Or at least mostly new, some of that was recap). What follows is the story told in Styxx and Dragonsworn. We get to see once again Styxx finds his happily ever after, even though Urian is only a side character in that whole story. We also covera large part of the events of Dragonsworn, which Urian barely even participated in as well. We also learn, once again, what we learned in Dragonsworn – that Phoebe isn’t actually dead. All of this has been setup for the end of Stygian.
After all this setup for the end, we’re about 97% of the way through the book. We have about 30 minutes left in the book. We’re supposed to wrap up a happily ever after between Urian and Phoebe and Xyn. Phoebe is hurt because he was lying to her and she found out. Urian is hurt because he never meant any of this to happen. Xyn is just getting back from being a statue. There are refugee statues that they released from Morgan le Fey’s keeping and turned back into what they were that need housing. And then it ends, with Phoebe asking for a divorce and Xyn just being there for him.
Stygian is out of step with the entire rest of the series. In fact, it is even out of step with itself. Sherrilyn Kenyon has proven with Stygian that she has completely forgotten her own story. Either that, or she just doesn’t care anymore. There are whole parts of this book that just do not make sense in any context.
There is a whole thing where Urian is hunting Phoebe’s family because of a prophecy to relieve them of the curse? Earlier in the book, they knew that prophecy was bullshit. Sometime between ten thousand years ago and the 1900s, they forgot they knew something intrinsically major to their life. With no background information on why. It would be one thing if it were a favourite colour or what you had for dinner one night. Instead, this is a major, major part of their entire existence they have forgotten about. If their mind was changed that would be another thing. If their mind was changed, it sure wasn’t shown in this book.
The entire context of Stygian feels like it is just plopped down into the series without any care taken to make sure it makes sense. Urian being in love with Xyn is out of absolutely nowhere in the series, but I can almost accept that. Their life is mostly unknown, after all. The problem I have with it is we have seen from Urian’s perspective before, after he lost Phoebe. We have been inside his head before, and not once has he brought her up before in his thoughts, even though he does now all the time. It is a massive revision to make something so haphazardly put together work. Urian and Xyn just does not make sense in the history of the series, and I’m a little bit offended that Kenyon thought I would just accept this as a reader.
There are so many little inconsistencies in Stygian as a result of Kenyon just plopping in this plot without a thought. You’d think she would have a timeline of events, a summary of all the major things to happen in each book, a good editor, a trusted friend, something on hand to help guide her through the books now that she has written so much. What happened between Acheron and Styxx that the story started devolving? What happened between Styxx and Stygian that we got this as a result?
A large part of the problem has been that Kenyon keeps adding more and more crazy plots into the last 5 books. Almost none of these plot lines are solved. There are so many loose threads, and instead of wrapping things up she just forgets about them and adds more in the next book. The series is becoming unglued at the edges.
Rehashing of old plot
I’m also offended that she thought that playing out the same scenes once again from previous books would work for this one, too. I’m not mad there was rehashing. Some of it was necessary, to get the full story. In fact, the entire series has always had scenes repeated across books. I’ve grown used to it. No, what I’m offended at is that Kenyon rehashed almost the entirety of the modern half of this book. I’m offended that she didn’t even care enough to make sure it relevant to the book. I’m offended that most of entire portions of the recap weren’t even focused on Urian.
We got the same the same ending to Styxx once again in Stygian. It isn’t even edited so that we hear from Urian instead. Nope, exact same stuff is jammed in here, from both Styxx’s and even Savitar’s perspective. Savitar’s perspective in a scene that already features Urian heavily. We see, once again, Acheron finding Styxx in the desert for fucks sake! Almost everything in Stygian that was in Styxx was unnecessary. This entire part of the book could have been ten minutes long and brand new instead of an hour long and nothing new.
I would have been okay with the Styxx part, had it been abbreviated and edited so that it actually provided something new to the story. Finding out Styxx and Beth are his real parents is a major part of his life story, I’m okay with him finding out about this! I did not need to hear about the entire fight against the Atlantean gods again. The biggest part is left out entirely, even – we never even get to hear from Urian how he feels about all this – it is all the same perspective as before from Styxx! This should be criminal that we never got a scene of Urian learning to just be the son of Styxx and Beth.
In fact, the third rehashing of the book does that better. We don’t get a word for word rehashing of the plot of Dragonsworn. Unfortunately, this was the wrong thing to do, compared to the rehash of Styxx. Styxx needed an abbreviation because it wasn’t important to the story, only important to Urian’s life. Dragonsworn needed more because the entire ending of Stygian relies on Dragonsworn. It relies so heavily on the events of Dragonsworn, I would say that it is required reading for understanding Stygian simply because the necessary information isn’t even here.
See, the ending of Stygian is basically the ending of Dragonsworn with only three new pieces of story. Minor pieces, compared to everything else in this story. Dragonsworn ends with the dragon statues being released, including Xyn. How does this really happen? Read Dragonsworn to find out, you won’t find out here, we just kind of read around it.
The only repetition of this book I was almost entirely okay with was the first rehashing, the one with Phoebe and Urian. Maybe it is because it has been too long since I last read those books and I just don’t remember it as well. Maybe it is because Kenyon actually took the care to make it feel like it was worth the time to read.
What Went Wrong
Stygian should have been everything I wanted out of a Dark Hunter novel. A character with a bad past, one I hoped he could get over and be happy again from. We’ve already seen what pains he has gone through. He is related to two of the best people in the series. He has intimately involved with the plot within the last few books. Now we just have to see him happy. This should have been perfect. Instead I was severely disappointed.
I was left finishing the book thinking that Kenyon wanted Stygian to be just as powerful a book as Acheron and Styxx were. I can see why, those are the two best books in the entire series, the most powerful books, and Urian is related to them. However, very little we know about Urian’s life set up this depressing start. By all accounts he really did have a decent childhood. Kenyon ripped that away for a sob story. I mean, I still sobbed, don’t get me wrong. It just felt wrong to be crying so hard at it. I just don’t feel like Kenyon had to try so damn hard. People already loved Urian. They already knew his sob story, it didn’t need to be exaggerated further.
Urian’s early life, before he became some badass is genuinely pretty sad. Everyone fears him because he is different, it leaves him very alone and quite heartbroken. It is only when he grows to majority that that turns. Once Urian is able to do things on his own, he kind of turns into a dick. He is the architect of his own destruction in many of his problems after his childhood ends. He is angry and jumps into things without thinking them through. He forgets his past and into his adulthood he thinks he is entitled to greatness just because of who his father is, despite that not being enough when he was a child. As soon as he is able, Urian turns from someone who respects relationships to sleeping around with whoever would have him because he is angry at everything. I came into Stygian loving Urian and being excited for this book, and ending it just being disgusted about him.
Then there is the romance of this novel. Xyn seems shoehorned in as a romantic lead in this book. I don’t even know why. There has to be a reason. There has to be. Because otherwise, it makes no sense. If this relationship isn’t important in future books, I’m going to be really put out. There is so little in this book actually showing why these two even want to be together long term, it is laughable.
Xyn is pretty much the number one romance in Stygian. It has lasted ten thousand years now, with a break here and there, especially after she got turned to stone. The thing is, we don’t actually ever see this romance! I swear to all that exists, what in the fuck was the point of this romance? I mean it. We only ever hear that things happen between them, we never see it. We know Urian and Xyn have conversations for years together, but we only see a handful, if that. And mostly we don’t see them talk about anything important. It is all “oh you shouldn’t be here” “but I just had to see you! I had such a bad day!” and “oh you’re such a wonderful friend!”. We know they meet up as lovers for years, but we only see it happen once or twice. We know they end up together at the end but that is a quick bang and we’re told to just assume they’re together again with no buildup or anything. There is nothing at all in this book to show that these two are a damn couple.
Then there is Phoebe. Poor Phoebe Peters. And I mean that last sentence with the greatest amount of sarcasm possible. For Apollymi’s sake, Urian, what were you fucking thinking? I only blame Phoebe for half of this mess, and Urian the other half. Actually, Phoebe’s story line is at least half the reason why Urian turns into a horrible guy in his own book.
If you don’t remember, earlier on in the series there was the idea that if you kill the last remaining living heirs of Apollo, it’ll break the Apollite curse entirely. Of course they were wrong. But, Phoebe was one of the last of the line, and now her sister is the last along with the sister’s kids. And Urian had been the one tracking and killing the entire line. And he never once told her. Not only that, but he also was playing double agent between helping her and helping his dad. And didn’t tell her anything. His own wife. What the hell was he thinking? I just don’t get it. Actually, I do get it, he was afraid. They were together for years though. Of course it was always going to blow up in Urian’s face. It wasn’t if, it was when.
One of the worst parts of all of this relationship business is that the best romantic period of the book was with Phoebe. And it isn’t romance it is obsession. There is no love here, just a cessation of numbness focused on a single person. It is lying and sneaking moments away and just a horrible relationship. I have no idea why Phoebe is even okay with this.
In fact, how did Urian even explain this to his wife? Things Urian never explains to his wife:
1. What exactly his father is doing and why it is his father doing it and why Urian couldn’t stop Stryker
2. Why her sister has to be protected at all
4. Why Urian himself has to protect her sister
5. Why Urian always has to go to his father to help
Nothing about this situation makes sense all now that I think about it. How did Urian get away with this at all? Why is Phoebe so damn mad at him when she lets him get away with telling her nothing at all except that her sister is in danger? There is so little that makes sense with this particular plot that I just overlooked until now.
If you had read the story before now, you know what happens. Phoebe dies because Urian’s father Stryker kills her. Only in the last book we learned last second that Phoebe is actually alive, she wasn’t killed, and she was the one that slaughtered the camp. Last minute change of plans for the win (see Inconsistencies, above). Not really for the win, but it sure is something. Phoebe’s really being alive and causing the whole mess is such a cop out and just feels lazy. After my initial “oh shit!” reaction, I can see now that this happens just because it is easy to do because there is nothing preventing her from doing it. It adds nothing good to this story. Honestly, Stygian would be at least 80% better if this single thing hadn’t been included at all.
The end of Stygian makes it the single worst Dark Hunter book in the entire series.
After copy/pasting nearly the entire modern era of Urian’s life, we get about 8% of story left to wrap things up. In case you’re wondering, there is a lot of things that have to happen in a very short amount of time. Too bad she used so much of this book on copying/pasting things that didn’t need to be retold, huh? Three things happen:
The first is that Xyn and Urian have sex immediately after they have a single moment alone together and view themselves as being together again. They barely even say hi to each other. There is no “Hey, so how’d you leave me like that, without even a note?”. There is no “Hey how’d you spend the last couple centuries while I was away?”. Nope, it is just straight into sex aaaand we’re back together. I don’t even think Urian expressed any regret because of Phoebe, the previously known love of his life, despite still thinking she was dead at this point.
The second is that there are all the refuge statue dragons and Xyn is going to help them and Urian maybe, too. This is so deeply unexplored I hesitated to mention it, but it feels like it may be important in the next couple of books. Most of the reason it is unexplored is because of how abruptly this ends.
Lastly, Urian finds out Phoebe is alive but crazy. Then, there is this new bit that only takes maybe a dozen pages, compared to the hundred of pages of rehash. It doesn’t really make any sense. Phoebe ends up turning into a pawn for the bad guy for the entire book, who I haven’t brought up before in this because he literally doesn’t matter. All we need to know is he is around the entire book, and he does things, but none of it matters because it is all ineffective and skipped through anyway. The bad guy isn’t explored at all.
And yes, that is right, Kenyon turns the “love of Urian’s life” Phoebe into the end run villain of the book. We have been through books and books of knowing about the love these two had for each other. But in the end she hates him enough to try and destroy him. For loving her. Well, also for killing her mom and sister.
This all leads to Phoebe asking for a divorce. And Urian just accepts it, probably because he has Xyn. Though until this book we think of Phoebe as the absolute love of Urian’s life. No fight, no real feelings. Just… nothing at all about this. It is said and then it is over. I didn’t even have any personal feelings anymore to fight against this when reading it. I was checked out and even now I just cannot work up anything over this because I just don’t care anymore about it. Why even bring Phoebe back from the dead if she is just going to hand Urian to Xyn?
The Mortal Sins
There are three things things that make this book truly, terribly bad when it comes to being a Dark Hunter novel
One: Stygian should have been the book to forward several plot lines that have been forgotten about or put off for later. Kenyon always saves major books in the series for major events. There are so many plots left open right now that I’ve actually forgotten about half of them. Instead of finishing or at least furthering some of these, none of them are addressed at all, and a few are added on top.
Two: There is no happily ever after. You know how I went on and on at the beginning of this about how we take a character at the bottom of their life, and give them a happy ending? There was no happy ending in this book. It just ends. There may be contentment about how his life is by the end of the book. He is no longer mourning his dead wife, he is no longer mourning his lost lover. He doesn’t hate his dad nearly as much as he did before this book started. He is in a decent place in his life. Stygian dropped me into a hellhole, and it didn’t give me a happy end. It has been over a week since I read the book, and I still cannot get over the pain in my heart because nothing made it better in the end. I’m angry.
Three: Before Urian first had sex, he appealed to Apollymi to make him infertile because he never wanted to pass on the curse. The exact quote:
“About children, akra. I meant what I said. The last thing I want is to father a babe I have to watch die. Or one I have to stand over when he or she goes Daimon and becomes a soulless killer. Hunted. Hated. Can you please make it so that I will never father any while I’m an Apollite?”
I made a note of this because I knew, just knew, it was going to be important. See, I knew Daimons could not father children, so that was out. I also knew Urian was no longer Daimon, no longer Apollite.
There was so little time devoted to actually giving Urian a happy fucking ending, this quote goes nowhere. You mean to tell me that after 656 pages, I’m going to have to learn Xyn is pregnant in another book? Because that is the only way that quote is going to end. Everyone knows it. Why in the world did she make us wait on this? Is Urian so damn undeserving of happiness we can’t give him this in his own book? Throughout Stygian, we learned just how much Urian cares, how much he wants children of his own, though he doesn’t want to curse them. Did she forget she wrote this clause in? She worded it so very, very carefully, after all. I just…
I’m upset. I’m disappointed. I’m heartbroken. There are so many gaping holes in this book, there are so many problems. There is so. much. left. out. This is so poorly written and planned out.
I’m currently seriously consider whether I want to go on with this series or not, when before this I wasn’t even considering stopping at all.