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REVIEW: Lord of the Abyss by Nalini Singh

Dear Ms. Singh:

This is the fourth book in a connected series with the three other stories written by three other authors. I haven’t read the other three and I don’t feel like my reading experience was impaired in any way.  The prologue lays the table.  A long lived people leaved peacefully and prosperously in the land of Elden until they were attacked by a Blood Sorcerer.  In a last ditch effort to save her children, the Queen of Elden cast a spell to fling her children far away from Elden so that they would survive and come to reclaim their birthrights.

Lord of the Abyss by Nalini SinghMicah, the youngest, became the Guardian of the Abyss, Lord of the Black Castle, and within his castle sits the gateway to the Abyss, “where the servants of evil were banished after death to suffer eternal torment at the hands of the basilisks and the serpents, and he was the guardian of that terrible place.”  He was encased in a full armor of impenetrable black and there were razors over his knuckles and bladed claws at the ends of his fingers.

Liliana is the daughter of the Blood Sorcerer. She has been practicing her own magic, secretly, as she is viewed as a disgusting failure by her father.  She is working to defeat her father and the prophecy requires the return of all four of the heirs of the Elden kingdom.  Micah, however, has not been found until now. Her magic brings her to the feet of the Lord of the Black Castle whereupon she is whisked off to the dungeons.

Micah has no memory of Elden but Liliana intrigues him. There has never been an intruder in the Black Castle and while her appearance is not “prepossessing”, she looks him in the eye which no one ever has the courage to do.  What’s even more remarkable is that Liliana is truly a different looking heroine:

She was…mismatched, he thought. Though her skin was a smooth golden brown that reminded him of honey from the redblossom tree, her eyes were tiny dots a peculiar sort of nowhere color and her mouth much too big, her hooked nose overwhelming every other feature. Her hair stuck out in a stiff mass akin to the straw in the stables, and she limped when she walked, as if one leg was shorter than the other.

A hook nosed, tiny eyed, big mouthed, limping heroine? Later it is further revealed that her breasts are tiny and her butt is huge not to mention one leg being smaller than the other.  Matched with a hero that looks like a god?  I’m all in.  And the story doesn’t disappoint.

The Black Castle is full of misfits from the Brownie, Jissa, to the factotum, Bard, and it’s master, Micah.

“You will fit in very well here, yes, you will,” Jissa said with a sudden smile that gave her a quixotic charm.

“For he is the only creature of beauty, and even he turns into a monster.”

Micah has no memory of his past.  He is only Guardian of the Abyss.  Cleverly, Liliana gets a position as cook and uses delicacies from Elden to jog Micah’s memory, hoping that in doing so he will break the curse and return to Elden in time to fulfill the prophecy and defeat the Blood Sorcerer. Her cooking leads to stories of Elden.

Liliana may be ugly and Micah may be beautiful but they are both lonely and unhappy. Micah lives the next day just as he did the last, surrounded by a few loyal servants and spending the night hunting the worst kind of souls and hurtling them into the Abyss. As the Guardian of the Abyss, Micah feels dirty and ugly as well. Liliana has spent her days avoiding her father whenever she could, learning to avoid shows of affection for anything from animals to people as her father always used those as weapons against her.

They grow to love each other. It matters not what Liliana looks like or how Micah has no experience with women. Together, these two fit each other in a carefully constructed romance in a shorter space (category length). For those readers who have found a Singh hero a bit too alpha for their taste, I think this would be a better fit. Micah’s sexual awakening is sweet infused with the trademark Singh heat.

The ending, however, was a huge disappointment. I believe someone told me that Lord of the Abyss is suppposed to be a fairy tale (or fairy tale like). Viewed through this lense, I suppose the ending made sense but I was ultimately disappointed because I felt it was unnecessary and would have been unconventional and fresh not to have chosen the ending that was included.  It diminished my pleasure in the story and I felt that after having so much of the book moving outside the boundaries, this just dragged me squarely back into romance central.  B

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

12 Comments

  1. Christine M.
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 07:32:32

    ///POSSIBLE SPOILERAGE///

    ….I haven’t read this but seriously? Please oh please tell me she doesn’t do the ugly duckling to beautiful swan thing/Beast to Adam thing?

  2. Dana
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 07:53:26

    @Christine M. –

    \\\POSSIBLE SPOILERAGE///

    I wish I could tell you that. But then I would be a liar.

  3. Christine M.
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 08:30:06

    @Dana: Dammit.

  4. Brie
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 08:42:42

    @Dana: @Christine M.: LOL! I haven’t read the book but the ending is pretty obvious, especially if it’s supposed to be a fairy tale (sorry Christine). I do want to read it, though. I wasn’t sure about buying the book because I haven’t read the others, but I’m glad to see that it wasn’t confusing or anything like that. Also, who doesn’t love a virgin hero!?

  5. Jane
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 08:47:48

    @Brie: I’m not sure why the ending had to be that way even if it is was a fairy tale. I dislike this idea that fairy tales are only for really perfectly beautiful people. In making Liliana ugly (as well as the others in the book who did not magically become beautiful at the end like Bard or Jissa), I thought that the message was that the outward appearance didn’t matter. It was what was on the inside that mattered. Micah cared little what Liliana looked like and for Liliana, Micah could have been a monster for all his good looks. Her father surely was.

    I’ve been reading Girls to the Rescue series, a series of reimagined fairy tales showing girls being brave, clever, and resourceful. The fairy tales have to be reimagined because the traditional fairy tales are overly patriarchal in tone.

    Singh had the opportunity here to reimagine the fairy tale and she did so in fun and different ways. Unfortunately the ending was a step backward and really diminishes the power and impact of the story. It certainly didn’t add anything.

  6. Brie
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 09:53:03

    @Jane: Those are Bruce Lansky’s books, right? I bought a couple of them for my nephew because I liked that the main character was a girl, I’ll have to borrow them!.

    You’re absolutely right though, it reminds me of that Jude Deveraux’ book where the heroine is a bit overweight and the fairy godmother grants her three wishes and she asks things for her evil sister instead of herself, and in the end she becomes thin even though the hero already loved her, I can’t remember the title… But yeah, what’s the point of having a less-than-“perfect” heroine if you’re going to give her a magic makeover at the end? It sends the wrong message.

  7. Bettie
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 10:19:13

    Ooh. While I’m not a fan of the category length, I do love Nalini Singh. I’m happy to learn that this book stands well on its own, since that’s the only concern that prevented me from buying it.

    I’ve been reading Girls to the Rescue series, a series of reimagined fairy tales showing girls being brave, clever, and resourceful. The fairy tales have to be reimagined because the traditional fairy tales are overly patriarchal in tone.

    Girls to the Rescue is on my list to read one of these days. I think its interesting how every era reimagines these tales to showcase the qualities they believe girls should posses. What we think of as the “traditional” versions of many tales were actually reimagined in the 17th century by Charles Perrault to actively promote the qualities he believed were ideal in women and girls – beauty, obedience, patience, discretion, etc. In his book Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion Jack Zipes contrasts the original version of Little Red Riding Hood–itself a teaching tale told by women to girls–with Perrault’s reimagining of it as a cautionary tale for wayward girls. The difference is night and day: the clever heroine rescues herself. Still, Girls to the Rescue is probably a better choice for children as the proto-Riding Hood features death, defecation, cannibalism and shades of incest.

    But, jumping off my geek train and returning to the topic at hand…It sounds like the ending of Singh’s book may be disappointing, but given the dearth of ugly heroines in the romance genre over all, I’d lay the blame for that trope as much on contemporary conventions as on Perrault and the Brothers Grimm.

  8. Junne
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 10:19:15

    I thought the disappointing ending was that she ended up having tons of kids . I sure would have prefered this one, rather than the magic makeover.

  9. eggs
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 18:27:58

    With this ending, I think Singh is just trying to write the book she wants to write and yet still provide what the majority of the romance reading audience wants to buy. I imagine it’s very difficult to sell your publisher a romance where the heroine is ugly and stays that way. I think there’s a good chance the Fairy Tale Ending was tacked on the end at the insistence of Singh’s publisher, making it a business decision on her part rather than a creative one.

    The taboo against ugliness is so strong, I’m not even sure a romance author would get published outside of paranormal romance with physically ugly characters. Paranormal gives authors the chance to explore our ideas of physical attractiveness and love, even if they still need to put the ‘pretty’ bow on it at the end.

    Ione’s Demonica series explores these ideas as well, with, frex, the soulshredder demon character being attractive in her human form, but hideously ugly in her demon form. I like Ione’s exploration of how you can come to accept that you are worthy of love, even when you find yourself to be hideously ugly. If we want to explore these ideas within the constrains of the romance genre, I think we’re just going to have to put up with the constraints of the genre. Eventually books like these will loosen those constraints and I think the genre will be well served by it.

  10. Amy
    Nov 22, 2011 @ 23:36:35

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that each of the four books in this series was inspired by a fairy tale. I think Nalini’s book was inspired by the Beauty and the Beast; the second book was inspired by Goldilocks. I enjoyed this book as well; however, I, too, was a tad bit disappointed by the ending, even though I was aware of the fairy tale theme.

    That said, the quality of this story is heads over heels above the two other books I read — the first and second one. The first had one of the worst use of “Mine” I’ve read in a long time; I must have read it on every other page (or something like that). By the time I finished the second story, I just couldn’t get interested in reading the third, so I skipped it. Neither the first nor the second stories’ love aspect was believeable; whereas I *believed* that Micha and Lilana truly loved each other. I read the first two primarily as preparation for Nalini’s story. I agree that you don’t have to read any of the previous ones in the series to “get” Nalini’s story.

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