From Pink to Dark : MacKayla's Journey

by Amanda Garrett-Grady & Margo Northman Barrons

MacKayla Lane by ~yami627 on deviantART

"All in all, I have a great life, short of missing my parents and counting the days until Alina gets home from Ireland, but both of those are temporary, soon to be rectified. My life will go back to being perfect again before much longer."~Mac, Darkfever


In Karen Marie Moning's mesmerizing Fever series, we follow heroine MacKayla Lane's amazing metamorphosis from sheltered Southern slacker to shrewd, strong warrior. Each book features a new-and-improved Mac, relentlessly upgrading her skill set from Mac 1.0 to Mac 5.0, rebranding herself from Pink Mac/Rainbow Girl to Savage Mac to Black Mac, retaining the best of each along the way.

Pretty In Pink:  Meet MacKayla Lane

When we first meet MacKayla, she's a carefree Southern belle who doesn't think beyond her pink toenails, her tan, and her beautiful blonde hair. She works as a bartender, sunbathes, and sometimes thinks about the future in vague, mostly flaky terms, but all in all, nothing monumental has taken place in her simple life. And she is content with her family, her friends, and her carefree life. But she is at the cusp of her fall into a dark, bitter, revenge-filled abyss — one she is thrown into without any warning or preparation. She gets the news of her beloved sister Alina's death, and her world is shaken to the core.

You can tell almost from the first page that Mac has always relied on her looks. Which makes it all the more interesting to see her thrust into a world that couldn't care less about how she looks or her sweet Southern upbringing. Reading about the Mac who doesn't want to cut or dye her trademark blonde hair to disguise herself, after she has naively and unwittingly exposed what she is to the Many-Mouthed-Thing, is tough. You can't help but feel for her. I think a part of her knows what is coming, knows things are changing (and not for the better), and she is holding on to the only thing she can control at this point: her looks, her hair, her personal style.

When Barrons tells her,
"When you've finished coloring your hair, return to me. Short and dark, Ms. Lane. Lose the Barbie look," it marks the beginning of Mac's point of no return. And deep down, it's like she knows it and wants to resist it in whatever way she can.

I couldn't wear a bra because the underwire hurt too much, so I'd layered a lacy camisole trimmed with dainty roses beneath a pink sweater that complemented my Razzle-Dazzle-Hot-Pink-Twist manicure and pedicure. Black capris, a wide silver belt, silver sandals, and a small metallic Juicy Couture purse I'd saved all last summer to buy completed my outfit. I'd swept my long blonde hair up in a high ponytail, secured by a pretty enameled clip. I might be feeling bruised and bewildered, but by God I looked good.  ~Mac, Darkfever
Some would call Mac vain after reading moments like this, where she puts a little too much effort into what she's wearing, considering her dire circumstances, but I think her attachment to a colorful appearance is a smoke screen for her inner battle, a coping mechanism of sorts. A crutch for her denial. One she desperately wants to hold on to, as we can see.
I glanced at my watch. Indecision over my outfit was making me late for my midnight appointment with Barrons.... I liked me. I liked my colors. I missed my hair so bad it hurt.  ~Mac, Darkfever
In time, her views of the world expand, and she finds herself in the midst of a battle for not just herself but all of humanity. She comes to realize there is more to life than clothing, makeup, and her hair.
Back then, I was so blind to everything that was going on around me. Back then, I was twenty-two and pretty and up until the month before, my biggest concern had been whether Revlon would discontinue my favorite Iceberry Pink nail polish, which would be a disaster of epic proportions as it would leave me without the perfect complement for the short pink silk skirt I was wearing.  ~Mac, Darkfever

Mac's Hidden Dark Side

The moment we begin to see some steel in Mac's spine is when she realizes no one has been brought to justice for her sister's horrible murder and the police are dropping the case. Slowly, Black Mac emerges. It happens over the course of five books, but I think we get a peek at Black Mac in the first couple of pages, too.
And rage watered my parched soul. I wanted answers. I wanted justice. I wanted revenge.  ~Mac, Darkfever
Revenge is Mac's reaction to the news of Alina's untimely, horrific death. It comes slowly to her, as if the dark part of her soul has been awakened by this. And it has. She boards a plane against her parents' wishes and heads off to a foreign land alone, with nothing but her thirst for vengeance to keep her company. She has no idea where she's going, what she'll do once she's in Dublin, the name of anyone who lives there, or what has really happened to Alina. She just needs to do SOMETHING, and that need cannot be suppressed.

As luck would have it, she meets Barrons, who is just what the doctor ordered for Pink Mac. Barrons, who forces Mac to grow up, to not be a victim, to take back her life and stand up for something. At first, and for a very long time, Mac doesn't understand his motives. But she still files away all the wisdom he offers, even when she doesn't like the way it sounds.
And I'm sorry your pretty little world got all screwed up, but everyone's does, and you go on. It's how you go on that defines you.  ~Barrons, Bloodfever
He also forces her to start embracing who she is becoming, on the inside and out. Pink Mac and Rainbow Girl are important parts of her that she never gives up, but she can't become the woman she is meant to become — the woman Barrons knows she is more than capable of being — if she remains purely pink Mac.
"Go put on something more...grown up....Ms. Lane."
"Huh?" I had on white capris, dainty sandals, and a sleeveless pink blouse over a lace-trimmed tank. "What's wrong with me?"
He gave me a brief glance. "Go put on something more...womanly."
~Barrons, Darkfever

After Barrons brings MacKayla back from her Pri-ya state, she is stronger than ever, mentally and physically. She is also more...womanly (Barrons must have enjoyed that). But she still tries to break away from Barrons and V'lane and handle things herself for a while, because she is sick and tired of having to depend on others, who have questionable agendas and are not always available when she needs them. She's out on the streets fighting Unseelie and gathering more precious knowledge. Eventually, she realizes that she does need Barrons; she goes back to the bookstore and also tries to make a new home there for Dani, to get her away from Rowena. When the Lord Master blackmails her, and she ends up lost in the Silvers, she finally realizes that the Fae world is still way too much for her to handle on her own. She realizes that she needs a few well-placed allies.

Goodbye Shy Girl, Hello Force To Be Reckoned With

Remember the sweet Southern belle in Darkfever who was too embarrassed for Barrons to see her bra lying on the floor of her hotel room? Well, by the end of our Fever journey, that girl is long gone.

Copyrighted to Mathia Arkoniel 2005-2012
Our favorite and most memorable "Mac sure has changed!" scene is when Ryodan tells her that she can't go up to see her parents unless she allows him to perform a strip search, to be absolutely sure the Book is not hiding anywhere on her. Pink Mac 1.0 would be horrified, appalled. But not Mac 5.0. She protests mildly — the affront to her principles offends her as a woman — but starts stripping. And in doing so, she totally screws with the heads of Barrons' men (?), who have placed her conveniently in a little box where she no longer belongs.

His [Ryodan's] face hardened. "Strip if you're coming up."
I gave him a look. "I have on skintight clothes."
"Non-negotiable. All of it. Nothing but skin." [snip]
"You've never made anyone strip before," I said.
"New rules." Ryodan smiled.  
"I'm not--"  
"Seeing your parents if you don't," he cut me off. [snip]
He didn't think I'd do it. He was wrong. Bristling, I kicked off my shoes, tugged my shirt over my head, skinned off my jeans, popped my bra, and stripped off my thong. Then I put my shoulder holster back on, tucked my spear into it, and walked up the stairs naked. I put a little jiggle in my walk and held his gaze the whole time. At the top, Ryodan practically accosted me with the short robe. I looked back at Lor and the other guard. They were both staring at me. Neither of them was laughing anymore.  ~Shadowfever 

A Glimpse into Mac's Inner Strength

In Dreamfever, the Sinsar Dubh takes control and tortures Mac for over an hour, while Barrons must stand by helplessly. She discovers a source of deep, dark knowledge hidden within her, which appears to her inner eye as a glassy lake from whose depths mysterious runes arise. Afterward, Mac and Barrons get into another pissing contest, and she warns him, "There's something inside me you better be afraid of." Yet she doesn't quite know what that glassy lake is herself. She is surprised to find it there, but not shy about tapping into its unknown power when she needs it, as she learns to trust it. It's something Pink Mac would have tried to pretend wasn't even there, but not the new, improved Mac. She even uses her strange new power to read Barrons' thoughts. THAT's how much she has changed.
I sought that dark glassy lake in my sidhe-seer center. I didn't summon what lay in its depths. I merely coaxed a little strength from it. Whatever lay beneath that lake offered it willingly, inflating my mental muscles.  ~Mac, Dreamfever
In Shadowfever, Mac tests her new power, and learns to trust and use that glassy lake to her advantage. It increases her confidence and strength, which she needs more than ever. But more importantly, it makes her feel like she is on more of an equal footing with both the ultra-powerful Barrons and the Fae prince V'lane. And she revels in that.

Who's Your Daddy?

Since the beginning, Mac has struggled with the revelations concerning her past: that she is adopted, that her beloved parents are not actually hers, that Alina might not even be her real sister. Yet despite these harsh realities, she is always searching for more knowledge of her past and using it to refine yet again her understanding of who she is. This quote, from a deleted Shadowfever scene that appears in the back of the book, sums up just how much Mac has had to come to terms with.
Finding out that I had been adopted has triggered a slow but relentless erosion of my identity.  I tried to roll with the punches, be a good trooper, go with the flow.  When I'd learned that maybe I wasn't even Alina's real sister, I'd kept my chin up.  When Darroc had proposed that I might be a stone, I'd laughed in his face.  When Ryodan had suggested that perhaps I'd never actually been born, I hadn't let it get me down.  When Barrons had accused me of being the Unseelie King's creation, one of his final castes, I'd doggedly persevered.  I'd even been levelheaded and optimistic in the face of discovering I was the ill-fated, star-crossed love of the Unseelie King's life.  
But there was no escaping what Fiona's death had just proved.  
I was the Unseelie King.

Full-Spectrum Mac

We meet a very pink MacKayla Lane in the first book, but as we all know, she's not pink when the series ends. Sweet, blonde, pink-polished MacKayla Lane has transformed into a true Rainbow Warrior who embraces both her "pink" and her "black" selves. Who she thinks she is fights a constant battle with who she really is and who she is evolving into, until she comes to terms with all of them and embraces her true inner being, one might even say HER inner beast.

One thing holds true throughout all the books: whether she's "pink" or "black," she has a fierce determination, she never gives up. Watching MacKayla Lane grow, change, and become the person she is at the end of Shadowfever is one of our favorite things about the Fever series. I admire her for every obstacle she overcomes and for her unrelenting fighting spirit, which shows she is so much more than just her current shade of nail polish. In the end, she realizes that she can indeed retain a piece of Pink Mac and still be the Black Mac who kicks Unseelie ass into oblivion.

Did you enjoy the many colors of Mac as much as we did? What did you love most about Mac and her transformation throughout the series?


  1. I had never thought about that "peek" at Black Mac early in the book. Good catch!

  2. Just as I love reading everything that has to do with my Barrons I love reading everything about Mac, great post. I agree with Kathi, good catch about that "peek" at Black Mac early in the book!

    I love that scene when she has to strip in front of Ryo! :)

  3. Great post. I love how it shows the evolution of Mac into a fighting, formidable woman.

  4. Enjoyed your post,every time I read the series I enjoy Mac's journey from pink and clueless to black and strong,you nailed it.


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