Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter—a Review

I had this book hidden in my TBR for the longest time… a year, at least. Then Buckeyegirl31 reminded me that I had it when she did a review of it… um, a while ago. What can I say, I get caught up in things. Anyway, I decided I needed to dig it out and give it a try, since she and several others had told me they liked it.

The Lords of the Underworld (as they're called) are a group of warriors who used to protect Zeus. Then Zeus let Pandora take care of his most prized possession, a box made out of bones that contained all the demons meant to torment humanity. This pissed the Lords of the Underworld off because they thought they should be able to guard the box; so they hatched a half-assed plan to steal the box from Pandora and let the demons loose—just for a little bit, just so Zeus learned his lesson that he shouldn't trust anyone but them with such an important task. Predictably, this plan went horribly awry, and the demons all escaped before the Lords could capture them. To punish them, Zeus cursed them to have one of the demons trapped inside their bodies for all eternity.

Maddox, the main character of the first book the series, The Darkest Night, is doubly cursed: while under the influence of his demon, Violence, he killed Pandora. So now every night, he dies exactly as she did, with six stab wounds to his stomach, and then spends the rest of the night being tortured in hell.

Then Ashley walks into his life. Ashley is a psychic who can hear every conversation that went on in any specific spot. She's constantly bombarded by other people's words and thoughts, and she hates it. Searching for some way to stop the voices, she finds herself in Budapest, climbing up the hill up to the Lords' fortress.

The Lords are very suspicious of Ashley because they think she's Bait, a female seductress used by Hunters (human baddies who want to rid the world of all evil, re: the Lords of the Underworld) to lure the Lords out into the open and kill them. However, as soon as she and Maddox meet, she stops hearing voices. Relief at last! So she gloms onto him like a barnacle and refuses to let go. Also she thinks he's kinda cute, in a "GRR MAN ANGRY," sort of way.

Meanwhile, there's a bunch of other stuff happening. There's been a coup d'état on Mt. Olympus and the Titans have retaken control from the Olympian gods. They've ordered another one of the Lords, Aeron (possessed of the demon Wrath) to kill a young woman and her family. He doesn't want to do it (because underneath their demonic rages, they're really just nice guys, dontcha know), but he knows that the Titans are going to force it on him. Of course, one of the other Lords starts crushing on one of Aeron's future victims; and with Hunters running about Budapest like it's the party capital of Europe, the Lords are moving from one crisis to the next.

But who really cares about that. We care about Maddox (whom I keep wanting to call Maddie, for some reason) and Ashley! How will they ever have a future if Maddox can't control the beasty inside him that wants to smash things, like people's faces? Will Ashley be able to tame the beast?? OH I THINK SHE WILL.

In all honesty, I didn't like this book as much as buckeyegirl31 did, although it was really fun and a quick read. The beginning was sort of slow because it was inundated with a lot of back story that could (and should) have been revealed gradually over the course of the opening scene. The beginning also felt really derivative to me, of both the Dark Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon, and the "Dark" series by Christine Feehan, although the book went in its own direction early on.

There are also some inconsistencies in the narrative and world-building. In one scene, for example, Maddox says he won't die if he touches Tornin (possessed by Disease), but that the next human he touched would die. Then later he says he can touch a human who's been infected by Disease, but if he touches Tornin he'll die. Okay?

But now I'm getting nitpicky. Overall, this book is just fun and silly. It's obviously derived from the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast (even Maddox calls Ashley "Beauty"), and there are a lot of references to fairy tales in the book, which is always fun. I like Beauty and the Beast stories. The romance between Maddox and Ashley is very sweet, even though it's one of those Romancelandia relationships where he looks at her once and immediately wants to bang her. All the other Lords look like promising subjects for torture-by-womankind in their own books as the series progresses, and the non-romantic part of the plotline was pretty much non-stop action.

In all honesty, I'm confused as to why I didn't like this book moar. It's exactly the type of book I usually really enjoy, but for some reason I wasn't really feeling it. At some point (3 AM last night), a part of me concluded that I pretty much knew what was going to happen. Actually, that part of me was proved wrong, but I still feel kind of borderline about the book. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood or something.

Anyway, I guess my point is, if you like these kinds of books, you should try the Lords of the Underworld. You'll probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.


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