I’d like to start this post off by thanking Priscilla Shay for introducing me to the love of my life. Your wedding invitation is in the mail. 😀
ME + GALEN = MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN!
Bet you didn’t think I’d fall for the bad guy, did you? It was love at first sight and I honestly, didn’t stand a chance. I’m a sucker for the villain-but-possible-hero-in-the-future types.
Ah, Galen. We’ll be honeymooning in Hawaii, or possibly in Florida since I still have to visit Disneyworld.
But that’s enough about my fiance, I should really get to talking about the other characters in the “Lords of the Underworld” (LOTU) series, the wonderfully HOT immortal creations of Gena Showalter. What I wouldn’t give to spend a day in her brain!
I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to come across a Gena Showalter novel, considering that she and Kresley Cole – one of my favourite authors – are BFFs. All I can say is that until Priscilla showed me the light, I was lost…
I LOVED Showalter’s writing style, sense of humour and endearing characters. Since some moments in the series revolve around darker subjects, it was nice to have the tension broken with Showalter’s sense of humour. Moreover, as any reader knows, characters can make or break a story. Would you want to read a story where the hero/heroine had no redeeming qualities? I certainly would not.
Before I go any further, let me take a moment to shamelessly brag…I would like to say that this might be my most epic series review yet, reviewing 9 novels and short stories in one blog post will gain you that status. o.O I hope to avoid posting spoilers in this blog and hope, even more, that I succeed in that endeavor. (Part of the charm of this series is discovering the twists and turns on one’s own and I wouldn’t want to spoil that for you.)
The LOTU series tells the story of immortal demon-possessed warriors, formerly the bodyguards of Zeus, the Lords and those who would rather they died, their mortal enemies the Hunters. Here’s the overview from the authors website:
Long ago, twelve immortals warriors – each more dangerously seductive than the last — stole and opened Pandora’s box, unleashing the evil from within. Now they carry that evil within themselves. Violence, Pain, Death, Disease, Disaster, Misery, Doubt, Promiscuity, Defeat, Lies, Secrets, and Wrath. When a powerful enemy returns, they will travel the world in search of a sacred relic of the gods – one that threatens to destroy them all.
Reading the overview, the LOTU series has a lot in common with other popular paranormal/fantasy romance series like Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “Dark-Hunter” series or J. R. Ward’s “Black Dagger Brotherhood” (BDB) series. I couldn’t help but notice the idea of a band of warriors joined together to fight a common enemy, plus all the Greek mythology. But the LOTU novels have a lot more differences than similarities with these two series. First of all, unlike Ward’s BDB the Lords don’t speak with gangster slang (thank god!) and unlike Kenyon’s “Dark-Hunter” books the Greek/Titan gods are a lot more involved in the series. Yes, the gods are still selfish, vain and cruel at times, but they can also act with some compassion.
The series, much like my review, has an epic start with the prequel, The Darkest Fire:
Geryon is the guardian of hell, more monster than man. Kadence is the goddess of Oppression, more angel than woman. Together they will enter the flames to battle a dangerous horde of demon lords — and discover a passion unlike any other.
And fire really is dark in this novel, with Hell as the setting and appearances by the Prince of Darkness, Lucifer, himself. The romance between Kadence and Geryon was short, sweet and to the point considering that the novella was less than 90 pages long. Nonetheless it was a quick, fun read and answered some questions about the Goddess of Oppression, whose bones were used to make the Pandora’s box to imprison. This novella, with a not-so-conventional-happy-ending-for-a-romance-novel is available in the Into the Dark anthology/guide.
The anthology/guide also includes goodies such as two other novellas, alternative opening to LOTU book one, interviews with the Lords, the heroines and the case files of the Hunters… If your curious, here’s the cover for Into the Dark:
The first book in the series, after the prequel, is The Darkest Night and it tells us what happened after the Pandora’s box was opened:
His powers — Inhuman…
His passion — Beyond immortal . . .
All her life, Ashlyn Darrow has been tormented by voices from the past. To end the nightmare, she has come to Budapest seeking help from men rumored to have supernatural abilities, not knowing she’ll be swept into the arms of Maddox, their most dangerous member — a man trapped in a hell of his own.
Neither can resist the instant hunger than calms their torments . . . and ignites an irresistible passion. But every heated touch and burning kiss will edge them closer to destruction — and a soul-shattering test of love . . .
There were so many ways that this story could have gone wrong, Maddox could have been a complete alphole (a term I learned from Noelle Pierce, which refers to an alpha who is too controlling/violent/etc) and Ashlyn could have been a complete wimp who took that abuse, but luckily they were neither. Despite being possessed by the demon of Violence, Maddox is a sweetheart and even though he’s suspicious of Ashlyn himself, he does everything in his power to protect him from his friends – who are likewise possessed by demons – and himself.
On the other hand, Ashlyn is not a pushover by any means. She’s smart, brave and powerful in her own right. Ashlyn has the ability to hear past conversations is her mind, a power that can prove useful to both the Lords and their enemies, the Hunters. Cool power? Yeah, it could be but it can also be extremely annoying and limiting, which is how Ashlyn feels about it. Ashlyn looking for a fortress in Budapest where angels are thought to reside, unbeknowst to her these angels are actually demons.
I wasn’t so sure how Ms. Showalter was going to get these two characters together, after all Maddox is cursed to die each night (and driven to violence by his demon in the late hours leading up to midnight) and Ashlyn is mortal. Thankfully, we some help from the powers that be and the great cast of secondary characters that helped bring these two together.
Some of those powers that be made an appearance in the second novel, The Darkest Kiss:
She has tempted many men… but never found her equal.
Though she has lived for centuries, Anya, goddess of anarchy, has never known pleasure. Until Lucien, the incarnation of death—a warrior eternally doomed to take souls to the hereafter. He draws her like no other. And Anya will risk anything to have him.
But when the merciless Lord of the Underworld is ordered by the gods to claim Anya herself, their uncontrollable attraction becomes an anguished pursuit. Now they must defeat the unconquerable forces that control them, before their thirst for one another demands a sacrifice of love beyond imagining.
Anya is BAD, no other word for it. As the Goddess of Anarchy she lives to cause chaos wherever she goes. She lies and steals seemingly without regret. I would have found Anya extremely annoying, if Showalter hadn’t provided a reason for her to act this way. For Anya, causing trouble is akin to survival, and like water for humans, its necessary. But even this alone wouldn’t have made me like her if I didn’t know that deep down she was a good person. She could have caused trouble with the intention of harming everyone and anyone, but instead she oddly protective of Lucien and only seeks to make him smile.
And Lucien does deserve to smile. Cursed with the demon Death, Lucien is horribly scarred and can’t believe that someone as beautiful as Anya would even look at him. Moreover, as the leader of the Lords he is extremely somber and desperately needs some chaos in his life or he’d completely forget his humanity. Death thinks he’s invincible, and it takes Anya to show him that he has weaknesses like everyone else – and yes, even he can fall in love. (Too bad though, that Lucien’s been ordered to kill Anya, huh?)
But that’s enough about Lucien and Anya…let’s talk about Reyes and Danika. Both Reyes and Danika had undeniable chemistry in book one, and I honestly thought theirs would be the second book in the series but who knew Anya was so impatient to bag Lucien, so we had to wait until book three The Darkest Pleasure to read about Reyes and Danika:
Reyes is a man possessed. Bound by the demon of pain, he is forbidden to know pleasure. Yet he craves a mortal woman, Danika Ford, more than breath and will do anything to claim her—even defy the gods.
Danika is on the run. For months she’s eluded the Lords of the Underworld, immortal warriors who won’t rest until she and her fami ly have been destroyed. But her dreams are haunted by Reyes, the warrior whose searing touch she can’t forget. Yet a future together could mean death to all they both hold dear.
Reyes is possessed by Pain and can only find pleasure either by cutting himself – as he often does – or by unleashing his demon.Moreover, Reyes is afraid to have sex because he thinks his demon can affect the women he’s been with – making them crave pain both for themselves and those around them, which is why despite being attracted to Danika, he’s afraid to be with her.
Danika, on the other hand, is afraid of Reyes and his friends at first – can’t blame the girl considering they kidnapped her and her family in book one and threatened to kill them. Later, she’s more than ready to help the Hunters destroy the Lords if it means she can keep her family safe. This is where things get a little complicated, I wasn’t sure how much I believed Danika’s conviction to help the Hunters considering that she lets her attraction to Reyes lead her astray pretty early in the novel. There was no real conflict on that level within the novel, and it’s partly because of this that I felt the book was a little rushed.
After the promise in the first novel and the chemistry between Reyes and Danika, I was really looking forward to reading their story. Unfortunately, the promise fell half-way through. The book was an enjoyable read, but had more to do with Hunter/Lord animosity than romance. There was more action in this novel than the previous two, with the Hunters trying to invade the fortress and Aeron trying to kill Danika, but because of that the romance was lacking at times.
Next we get another breather moment in the series with another novella The Darkest Prison, which shows us what’s going on between the Greeks and the Titans:
Once, Atlas, the Titan god of Strength, was the Greek goddess Nike’s slave. Now, he is her master. And soon these sworn enemies destined to destroy one another will be forced to risk everything for a chance at love…
Okay, I have to admit I had a rapid mood swing about Atlas in this one. Hated him and then liked him, in less than 3 pages. Again the novella was fairly short, only 61 pages this time, took me less than 30 minutes to read and the romance was short and sweet.
The story is not a must read – since neither Atlas nor Nike have made appearances elsewhere in the series as of yet – but is entertaining nonetheless, and a nice way to catch a glimpse of the Titan/Greek conflict. This novella is also included in the Into the Dark anthology/guide.
Next we have book four, The Darkest Whisper:
Bound by the demon of Doubt, Sabin unintentionally destroys even the most confident of lovers.
So the immortal warrior spends his time on the battlefield instead of the bedroom, victory his only concern until he meets Gwendolyn the Timid. One taste of the beautiful redhead, and he craves more.
Gwen, an immortal herself, always thought she’d fall for a kind human who wouldn’t rouse her darker side. But when Sabin frees her from prison, battling their enemies for the claim to Pandora’s box turns out to be nothing compared to the battle Sabin and Gwen will wage against love.
This is the first novel in LOTU that we actually get to see the true evil that is the Hunters. Yes, we know that the Hunters are evil, and commit crimes in the name of good, but this is the first time that we are shown this rather than told and it makes a bigger impact because of this. Gwen has been a prisoner of the Hunters for a year, and has borne witness to their crimes, imprisonment, torture and rape of other immortal women to create an immortal army of Hunters. Though Gwen hasn’t been physically harmed other than starved, she is nonetheless mentally traumatized by what she’s seen. The reason that Gwen hasn’t been harmed is because she’s a harpy, the immortal spawn of Lucifer, and the Hunters are too afraid to get close to her, preferring to keep her locked in her glass cage.
When Sabin arrives to free the women, Gwen immediately proceeds to kill Chris, the Hunter whose been torturing the women. I could only applaud her for that! Sabin is likewise impressed and hopes to use her as a weapon against the Hunters. Didn’t like Sabin so much for that! He tries to use her trauma against her and practically guilt trips her into helping by saying that any other women would want vengeance for the wrongs committed. So, yes, I was not a fan of Sabin’s. Nonetheless, Sabin does redeem himself when he genuinely begins to care for Gwen as a person, going to far as to lock her up with her sisters to prevent her from taking part in the battle against the Hunters, despite that she’s stronger than he is and he’s trained her for it.
Overall though, I still liked Gwen better than Sabin…
Time for another breather in the series, with Gwen’s sister Bianka story and her romance with the angel, Lysander in The Darkest Angel:
An iron-willed demon assassin, the angel Lysander has never known lust—until he meets Bianka. Spawned from the bloodline of Lucifer, the beautiful but deadly Harpy is determined to lead the pure-hearted Lysander into temptation…
(This novella is found in the Heart of Darkness anthology.) Lysander is noble, honorable and good, Bianka is anything but. Being a harpy means she has to steal in order to eat, and cannot eat anything freely given or risk throwing up and getting sick. Lysander is both attracted to and repelled by Bianka. he knows she is his temptation and could lead to his downfall. First Lysander decides to kill her to prevent this from happening, but then changes his mind and decides to reform her instead. And so we get an interesting clash of will, with both characters desperate to be the winner.
The Darkest Angel is also a nice transition into the fifth LOTU book, The Darkest Passion:
For weeks, the immortal warrior Aeron has sensed an invisible female presence. An angel–a demon-assassin–has been sent to kill him. Or has she? Olivia claims she fell from the heavens, giving up immortality because she couldn’t bear to harm him. But trusting – and falling for – Olivia will endanger them all. So how has this ‘mortal’ with the huge blue eyes already unleashed Aeron’s darkest passion?
Now, with an enemy hot on his trail and his faithful demon companion determined to remove Olivia from his life, Aeron is trapped between duty and consuming desire. Worse still, a new executioner has been sent to do the job Olivia wouldn’t…
Both Olivia and Aeron, keeper of Wrath, make brief appearances in The Darkest Angel, in anticipation of their own novel. You may remember Aeron from when he was trying to kill Danika – I’ll leave it to you to find out whether or not he succeeds – and in his own novel Aeron has been sentenced to death by the angels for the crime of freeing a demon, Legion, from Hell. Aeron is not ready to give up Legion or to die, and thinks he can take on any assassin Heaven sends. (Idiot!)
Olivia doesn’t want to kill Aeron and her defiance gets her thrown into Hell, her wings stripped and fully mortal. Olivia fights her way out of Hell and into Aeron’s arms, only to have him not trust her. (Double idiot!) Olivia warns him that more angels will be sent after him, and despite not being able to see, hear, smell, touch an angel, Aeron still thinks he can take them. (Triple idiot! Well, you can see where this is going. Aeron spends most of the novel being an idiot!) Though at first Olivia may seem weak and in need of protection, she is obviously not. Hello, she crawled out of Hell…literally! And she has every right to seek Aeron’s aid, not only did she risk her life for him, she;s still trying to protect him cause she knows he did nothing wrong. When Aeron finally does see the light, its too late in a lot of ways – dun, dun, duh! – so he has a lot to make up for before he can get his happily ever after…and boy, did I enjoy seeing him crawl out of the deep, deep whole he dug! Mwahahaha!
Finally, we have the latest novel in the series, The Darkest Lie:
Forced to his knees in agony whenever he speaks the truth, Gideon can recognize any lie—until he captures Scarlet, a demon-possessed immortal who claims to be his long-lost wife. He doesn’t remember the beautiful female, much less wedding — or bedding — her. But he wants to . . . almost as much as he wants her.
But Scarlet is keeper of Nightmares, too dangerous to roam free, and a future with her means risking everything. Especially as Gideon’s enemies draw closer . . . and the truth threatens to destroy all he’s come to love . . .
You might remember Gideon and Scarlet from the previously novel (if you’ve read it) when Scarlet dropped her little – or not so little – bombshell about the both of them being married to each other. I spent a lot of this novel in admiration of how Showalter used Gideon Speak – in that every sentence he spoke was the opposite of what he said – I kept thinking she would slip up but she didn’t. On the other hand, Gideon Speak got annoying at times because I was constantly changing lies into truth in my head so I could understand what he was saying. (I liked it when Scarlet did the translations for me later in the novel.)
But that said, I like both characters in the novel. I admired Scarlet for being as strong as she was despite all the tragedies of her past – namely her b**** mom and aunt. I also liked Gideon for his believable suspicions but still being able to admit when he was wrong. Still, I have to admit, my favourite part of this novel was the Nightmares/Lies romance – this was oddly cute. 🙂
Some of my least favourite parts were all the new plot twists thrown into the novel. One or two would have been okay, but to have one every couple of chapters got jarring at times. I admit I would have liked to see more Galen (him being my favourite and all) but he barely made an appearance. It was mostly Cronus, Rhea, Mnemosyne, other Titans and less important Hunters that kept showing up. Argh!
And finally we have the demons, not just Nightmares and Lies, but all the demons that possess the Lords in all the novels till now. I might have been the only one (then again maybe not), but I love the demons. To me their voices, when we read them, are reminiscent of a demanding child. One who knows what it wants and will not let anyone tell them “no.” Plus, they are the ultimate matchmakers, never wrong and always know fairly quickly when their soulmate has arrived. Eat your heart out, Cupid!
Overall, I have to say I like the plot, characters and suspense of the LOTU novels. Yes, the twists and turns can get confusing at times, but I wouldn’t miss out on reading the series because of them. Showalter has a great writing style, and a good balance of dark and light within her novels, with characters that I like more often than not. But if I had to pick a character I hated other than the bad guys, I would say was Legion. I have a feeling that Showalter might be setting us up for a potential Galen/Legion romance, but I have to say I am not a fan. Aeron’s surrogate daughter annoyed me too much in his novel – she nearly got Olivia killed – for me to be sympathetic. Sorry. Yes, I do feel sorry for her and what she’s going through, but I’d rather she stay a secondary character than become a heroine, she’s too flat a character. On the other hand, I do like the complexities of Galen’s character, there are moments in the series when we see that he’s not all bad, and I would like to see him as a hero or even an anti-hero of a future novel.
Of course, since I tried to avoid spoilers as much as I could, I couldn’t talk about some of the other intriguing characters such as Torin, the keeper of Disease, whose touch can spread the plague or William, Anya’s humorously narcissistic best friend. But I assure you, both characters are a riot that you’ll have to discover for yourself by reading the LOTU series! 😀
-Rika Ashton (aka Galen’s Future Wife)
P.S: Gena Showalter had definitely made it onto my favourite authors list and I’m looking forward to reading about more demons in LOTU, in additional to completing her “Atlantis” series.
P.P.S: The upcoming LOTU novels include The Darkest Secret (Amun’s novel on April 1st, 2011), The Darkest Surrender (Strider’s novel in October 2011) and The Darkest Seduction (Paris’ novel in 2012).
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February 10, 2011 | Categories: Book Reviews, Favourite Authors | Tags: Aeron, Amun, Anya, Ashlyn, Bianka, book reviews, Cronus, Galen, Gena Showalter, Gideon, Gilly, greek gods, Gwen, harpy, Into the Dark, Kresley Cole, Legion, Lysander, Maddox, mythology, Olivia, paranormal, paranormal romance, Paris, Rhea, romance, Sabin, Scarlet, Strider, The Darkest Angel, The Darkest Fire, The Darkest Kiss, The Darkest Lie, The Darkest Night, The Darkest Passion, The Darkest Pleasure, The Darkest Whisper, titans, William | 10 Comments