I’m fairly new to the works of Gena Showalter. I’d previously read a book from one of her other series and while it was okay, I wasn’t blown away so I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Darkest Night, the first book in the Lords of the Underworld series. Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised by Maddox and Ashlyn’s story.
Ashlyn Darrow hears voices and while the Institute for which she works sees her power as a valuable asset, she sees it as a curse. She’s been haunted by these voices of the past her whole life and while in Budapest, she hears ancient whispers that speak of immortal men, men blessed with supernatural ability. Could they be the ones to help her finally control her ability?
Maddox is both possessed and cursed; possessed by Violence, a demon who once inhabited Pandora’s Box, and cursed to die every night in the same brutal manner in which he slayed Pandora. He’s bitter and lonely…until Ashlyn stumbles into his life one cold, dark night. Can she tame his demon and break his curse?
The Lords of the Underworld series has an interesting premise; immortal warriors, each one possessed by a demon from Pandora’s Box, a punishment meted out by the Greek gods. The Darkest Night isn’t just your run-of-the-mill romance story. It goes into incredible depth when explaining how each of these men live with their demons and it’s both heartbreaking and ever so slightly amusing. For example, there’s Torin, aka Disease, who can start a plague by simply caressing the cheek of a would-be lover…and then there’s Kane, the man who houses Disaster. And he literally is Disaster defined. Try imprison that man in the back of a van and you can 100% guarantee you’ll get blown tires and instantaneous death while said van careens off the road and into a ditch. I can’t decide if this is an effective power or not. I like that the book gives a reader the opportunity to get to know all the characters on a somewhat personal level. They’re not just secondary characters with no real part to play. They all have an integral role and I like this notion.
As for Maddox and Ashlyn, I think they’re the cutest fictional couple I’ve ever come across. Admittedly, I didn’t like either of them to begin with. I felt Ashlyn was kind of clingy and needy (to be fair, though, being near Maddox does silence the voices) and I was so worried that Maddox was going to lose control and hurt her in some way. But he doesn’t. Not once. He manages to grab the reigns of control when battling with the demon within and the end result is just so freaking sweet. He goes out of his way to ensure her first time is special – ‘Violet silk scarves formed a winding trail, leading from the bedroom [where he’s murdered every night – a mood killer perhaps] to the room next door…Now it was a room made for pleasure. Sconces glowed from the walls, golden light flickering over a bed of black silk.’ I have literally never met a fictional man who has gone to so much effort and it kind of makes my heart hurt to read how considerate and caring he is.
Another thing that impressed me was that The Darkest Night succeeded in reducing me to tears. To break Maddox’s curse, Ashlyn realizes she needs to sacrifice herself and it’s a decision she doesn’t question twice. She loves Maddox and wants him to live a life free of pain and fear and when midnight arrives, Reyes turns his sword on her instead and it’s such a heart rendering scene. I mean…
‘”Take my spirit to hell for eternity,” he cried to the heavens. “Anything but this. Bring her back. Let me take her place at death’s door!”‘
…c’mon. How can you not shed a few tears while envisioning him shouting this and cradling the cooling corpse of his lover?
Rating: 5 out of 5!
Song: Aerosmith’s I don’t want to miss a thing
This title can be found on Amazon in paperback and e-reader format.