It is not easy being the son of a crazy super villain. As the son of Doctor Terror, Kaede Hiyashi regularly faces people who are out to harm him in order to get to his brilliant, but totally insane father. When Kaede is attacked once again, his father sends him to hide out in Corwyn, California, along with a new bodyguard.
Ash is a genetically modified super soldier, raised and trained by a crazy death cult under Doctor Terror’s control. While he looks quiet and unassuming, Ash is actually absurdly strong and powerful and can take out dozens of men without breaking a sweat. And that is good thing, because as soon as the guys get to Corwyn, there is trouble brewing. Between the constant bad guys out to kill him and the annoying superheroes that want him gone, Kaede finds himself in pretty regular danger. Luckily, not much scares him as he has brains and Doctor Terror’s awesome technology at his disposal, not to mention Ash guarding his back. With Ash at his side, Kaede is determined to find out what his father’s true motives are, stay a step ahead of the hero Dark Justice, and figure out who is behind the big bad guy in town.
I love a good superhero story and Hearts of Darkness is a really great addition to this genre. What is the most fun here for me is the fact that Kaede is not a good guy like we find in most superhero tales. I mean, he isn’t as bad as his insanely evil and murderous dad. And he does his best to keep civilians from getting caught in the crossfire. But he has no need to be a hero (in fact he thinks most of them are kind of dolts) and doesn’t come across as too bothered by the bad things his dad is up to. Kaede honestly doesn’t think a lot of either the heroes or the villains out there. So I liked that this story has a bit of a different twist and we see things from the point of view of a man who is pretty comfortably outside the law, but still not a totally bad guy.
The other interesting spin here is the interplay between Kaede and Ash. Ash is a pretty robotic guy. He was created in a lab and raised among a death cult that was looking toward hastening the apocalypse and they turned him into a deadly killing machine. So he has very little experience with the real world and interacting with people. And he has no experience with sex whatsoever. I loved that he is this cross being a super killer who can take down bad guys as easily as breathing, but also is sweetly naive and eager to learn from Kaede. I also liked how careful Kaede is with him, even with an intense attraction, because he knows that Ash is new to all this and he doesn’t want to push him. The guys have a sweet relationship (sex is pretty much solely off page) and I liked the way they are both protective over one another.
I did have a few small issues here. First off, there are a lot of side characters here, both good guys and bad guys. At times it was a lot to keep track of who was who, what they could do, who they partnered with, and why they were a threat to Kaede. The actual conflict wasn’t totally clear to me either much of the time; a lot of it was just going through one fight to another and it took a while for things to come into full focus for me. The other issue is that for all of Kaede’s disdain for arrogant heroes/villains who think they know everything and always have flawless plans, that is pretty much Kaede’s personality as well. He thinks everyone else is basically an idiot, is sure he can beat anyone he comes across, and thinks he is smarter than everyone around him. So at times his arrogance gets a little out of hand, and I honestly expected it to come back and bite him, though it never does. So while I liked him a lot, and enjoyed his snark and the way he isn’t fazed by anything, I also found him a little on the obnoxious side at times.
Despite some small issues, I really enjoyed Hearts of Darkness and found it a lot of fun. It was a great superhero story with some nice twists on the theme. I loved the technology, the clever ways Kaede defeats the traps and the bad guys, and the interplay between Ash and Kaede. I really liked this one a lot and definitely recommend it.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.