Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
My ploughing through these books continues!
I was worried about this one to begin with. All the Dark-Hunter characters have their traumas; you do become a Dark-Hunter by crying for vengeance usually during a violent and horrific death. So they're not all totally balanced, mentally. And Zarek is the one who appeared to be permanently damaged. While interested in the character himself, it was the romantic aspect that I was cautious of. Could she pull it off? The answer is yes and no.
I loved Zarek. I loved Astrid. I thought with a bit more care and more time, their romance could have really worked for me. But, as it is, he gives far too easily, and Astrid having so little development after she meets Zarek grated a bit on me.
In the other books, the female lead is equal to the male, absolutely. Even though I complained in my review of Night Embrace that it seemed as if Sunshine lost ground a bit to the story arc, we understood her fear of commitment, and so Talon came to as well. The heroines' problems, they're doubts and hopes and fears, were always all treated with the same gravity as the heroes'. Astrid existed solely, it seemed, to soothe and love Zarek. And it's a shame, because there was potential there, with the Dark-Hunter that nearly killed her after he had seduced her and she had almost judged him innocent; that only comes back up because that was the last time Thanatos escaped, and that's only in one line of the novel. Her coldness and hard heart? I won't say she gets over it like it was never an issue, because in her own mind and from her point of view, it's a big fucking deal. But if Zarek is ever aware of it, it seems unimportant. Does he care how she became blind? What her family's like? He's allowed to be lost in himself because of what he's gone through, but love usually means a little more interest between the two allegedly feeling it.
I cringed, waiting for her to reveal what she was. He gets over it far too fast, considering she completely manipulated him, and he really knows nothing about her, because everything she did, everything she told him, was to get a rise from him. To his knowledge, she could have lied about everything. And that felt like it was purely a lust thing, because what did he really know or understand about her to forgive her and get past it? I realize that they're soul mates, and that just felt so much more natural with someone we weren't told never trusted anyone or anything.
There was part of me that was hoping that Ash was Astrid's father (why bring up the fact that she had no idea who her father was in the first place when it lead to nothing?) and that he was doing this for her (as he knows that she's despondent and ready to quit.) But none of that came to anything, and her only character trait or arc towards the end was crying over Zarek leaving her.
In a way, this felt like the opposite of Night Pleasures, which I also gave four stars to: while that one had a strong romance, but a weak story, this one had a really banging story, but the romance, for me, left something to be desired. I do understand why this is many fans' favorite of the series, and admit that these are all personal preferences of mine. The story was excellent, and unlike Night Embrace, I felt like the elements concerning Acheron were better integrated into Zarek's story, instead of having a life of their own that the hero has to work alongside and impact. And I loved the look at Olympus, and the introduction of Simi!
I am a bit disappointed that the Greek gods seem to hold NO characteristics that they embody. They're just petty, and the women are shown as jealous, viscous; even Aphrodite was understandable, because of the Eros and Psyche legend, and because she comes around, but what happened to Artemis being the goddess of virginity and childbirth? There was a reason women used to pray to these deities, especially the female ones. I'm just sad to see them wielding extremely stereotypical personalities without any up side to it. At least the sex scene in this novel was reciprocal from Artemis' point of view, so it didn't quite have the creep factor Night Embrace did for me.
A very strong book. Somewhat lacking, in my opinion, in the last third (my interest started to wane a bit during the action), but solid, enjoyable, with fantastic characters and a great story, and with a little more time and care, it could have been a truly epic romance. As it is, it's the beginning of a beautiful thing.