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REVIEW: The Darkest Fire by Gena Showalter

Dear Ms. Showalter,

Although your previous works haven’t worked as well for me as I’d hoped, I was intrigued when I heard about your new series, The Lords of the Underworld. Pandora’s box? Hell? A horde of ravenous demons? Not only did the premise feature some of my favorite story elements, it sounded fresh and original, and that encouraged me to give your work another try.

In exchange for saving his beloved wife’s life, Geryon sold his soul to Lucifer. Now trapped in a demonic body, he guards the gates of hell, making certain the demons held prisoner cannot escape. Kadence is the goddess (or angel — the labels are used interchangeably, which I found a little confusing because I don’t equate the two) of oppression and was sent by the gods to watch the wall. Over the years, she’s become bonded to it. It’s through this connection that she realizes the wall is weakening and the demons contained within will soon escape.

I know it’s been said before here at DA, but I definitely agree. One of most difficult things about novellas is telling a fully-fleshed out story that fits within the shorter length. There’s simply not enough space to explore the story the way you can in a full-length novel. In this particular case, while I think the characters are nicely developed, the plot is a little shaky, especially towards the end.

That said, developed characters don’t always mean consistency. Even though I found Geryon consistent from start to finish, sometimes Kadence’s actions and thought processes made me raise my eyebrows. She struck me as too timid to be the goddess of oppression, which contributed to my perception of her inconsistent character. Halfway through, she embraces her innate nature but there just wasn’t enough development from her original tentative nature to her final dominant one to make me believe in her character evolution.

I thought the plot and conflict was set up well but as I find often happens with novellas, the ending was rushed and confusing. It didn’t leave the impact I expected, given the stakes involved. The wall is on the verge of collapse. The demon horde might escape to wreak havoc. Even Lucifer is given free reign on earth for a year. I consider those things very high stakes so I expected a proportionally dramatic climax and finish. The ending here, however, just didn’t deliver it to me.

As for the ending itself, I now fully empathize with many readers’ reactions to the main couple’s ending in J.R. Ward’s Lover Unbound. I should have expected it as this novella is a prequel to the Lords of the Underworld series and I think the series premise hints at the sort of ending you’d get in a prequel. Even so, I was still left with a giant WTF reaction.

In what seems to be an ongoing theme with me, I did like the idea of their romance. It reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, except the Beast never regains his handsome form and remains demonic from start to finish. I do think there’s something lovely in a romance between a man trapped in the body of a demon and a goddess ostracized by her peers, but the overall story and its resolution prevented me from enjoying it fully. C

My regards,

This book can be purchased in ebook format only.

*Jia is away for a while and will not be able to respond to comments.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!


  1. Friday Review Round-Up « Urban Fantasy Land
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 15:28:41

    […] Dear Author reviews The Darkest Fire by Gena Showalter. […]

  2. Tracey
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 16:33:09

    Wait a second. I’m confused. Geryon sells his soul to Lucifer to save his beloved wife because he loves her so much…and, once he goes to Hell, then falls for some other dame? And not just any woman, but a goddess/angel (who, by definition, shouldn’t want to have anything to do with a demon) who is stuck to a wall?

    Also, I think you mean free REIN.

  3. Maria Geraci
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 16:56:32

    I just finished reading “The Darkest Night” (I rec’d it as an arc), the first in the Lords of the Underworld series, and I have to say that it was one of the best romances I’d read in a long time. Maddox, the hero in this book, is the keeper of the demon Violence. Plus, he’s been cursed by the gods to die a violent death every night only to wake up the next day knowing the cycle will start all over again. If there’s one thing Gena Showalter knows how to do, it’s writing a fabulousy tortured sexy hero.

    I didn’t know there was a prequel to the series, but if the rest of the books are as good as Darkest Night, then I think the series is going to be a huge success!

  4. katiebabs
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 19:19:43

    I also just finished The Darkest Kiss and The Darkest Pleasure and those books will blow your mind!! Gena has a huge hit series on her hands. These books are sexy, dark, angsty and heroes to die for. (an in some cases they literally die!)

  5. loonigrrl
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 21:28:03

    I’m gonna give The Darkest Kiss a chance, definitely. But this one? I’ll probably wait . . .

    Isn’t “free reign” so widely used now instead of “free rein” that it’s an acceptable alternative? In my experience, most people write “free reign.” Correcting this just seems . . . silly. Besides, “free reign” makes sense in the Lucifer context.

  6. Barbara B.
    Apr 12, 2008 @ 08:02:32

    Thanks for the review, Jia. I think I’ll try the other books in the series before reading *The Darkest Fire.* I rarely read paranormals but this series sounds a bit intriguing.

    Sorry, off topic:
    Loonigrrl said-
    “Isn't “free reign” so widely used now instead of “free rein” that it's an acceptable alternative? In my experience, most people write “free reign.” Correcting this just seems . . . silly. Besides, “free reign” makes sense in the Lucifer context.”

    Loonigrrl, is *alot* now an acceptable alternative to *a lot*? I see this EVERYWHERE online and it always looks so very wrong to me. Is *a lot* now a single word instead of a phrase and I just didn’t get the memo? I’ve also been told that *irregardless* is now acceptable as well. Yikes! I know it’s the way language evolves but it’s disconcerting for me to see it in action.

  7. gena showalter
    Apr 12, 2008 @ 11:58:00

    Thanks so much for the review!! I wrote this short (way short :) story to kind of show how the box came into existence and to give readers a glimpse of the demons the Lords of the Underworld were possessed by. And when I wrote it, I thought it was going to be posted online one chapter at a time. Live and learn LOL I would perhaps do things a little differently now. (Tracey, his wife was dying so he sold his soul to save her, and then she left him for another man. He was then taken to hell. Hundreds of years pass before he and Kadence hook up)

    Guys, thanks so much for the praise of Darkest Night, Darkest Kiss, and Darkest Pleasure. (Jia, I would be happy to send you The Darkest Night if you’d still like to give the (real) series a try.) Just let me know!

  8. loonigrrl
    Apr 12, 2008 @ 15:19:56

    Barbara: Hmmm . . . well, I did not mean to imply that we shouldn’t use proper spelling. I myself always have this urge to say something when I see “your” and “you’re” or “they’re” “their” and “there” mixed up. I just felt that “free reign” is so widely used that it was kind of . . . rude . . . to correct it. I guess it’s just a pet peeve of mine. I think I would have felt this way, though, had she misspelled “a lot” or “they’re” or whatever. It just doesn’t seem like the right place to correct one word in someone’s altogether very well written review.

    I’m not so sure about irregardless, but whenever I see “alot” instead of “a lot” I always just assume it’s an accident. I’ve probably inadvertently made that mistake several times, and I know the correct spelling. I don’t necessarily feel that it’s the language evolving- sometimes I just think it’s a failure to proofread.

  9. REVIEW: The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    May 05, 2008 @ 17:00:54

    […] job if my reaction was any indication: find out what these books were about. As I mentioned in my review of the series’s prequel, The Darkest Fire, I was even more delighted when I read the concept. And even though I ended up not liking the […]

  10. Sara
    May 15, 2008 @ 14:19:46

    I’m enjoying the Darkest books… I think I like Darkest Night better than Darkest Fire because it’s longer, so everything is more “fleshed out”. Still, the price for Darkest Fire makes it well worth purchasing (the ebooks version is $2.27! nice). Also, I really love the cover art for the entire series.

  11. REVIEW: The Darkest Kiss by Gena Showalter | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 12:00:49

    […] though the prequel and first book of your Lords of the Underworld series failed to impress me, I wasn’t ready to […]

  12. susan
    Jul 27, 2008 @ 20:49:30

    I love the series so far. By far my favorite is The Darkest Pleasure. I am eagerly awaiting new segments in the story and am searching the UBS for backcopies of GS other works.

    Language may evolve, but irregardless is not a word. Adding the prefix Ir meaning not, to regardless makes the meaning not regardless…. however, those who use irregardless use it as a synonym for regardless, which doesn’t make any sense at all. A lot is always two separate words, otherwise we become confused with allot, meaning to apportion.

    While the idiomatic expression may well be free rein; free reign makes sense as well especially in the context of the review, as Lucifer will reign in Hell and on Earth. In other words, I took her meaning to be related to Lucifer’s role in the story, a pun upon the idiom.

  13. Stephany
    Aug 29, 2008 @ 20:36:27

    I really like all of the books, but will the Darkest Fire ever be made in paperback or just as a e-book?

  14. Jia
    Aug 29, 2008 @ 20:43:58

    Stephany: It’s a short novella so the chances of it being released in paperback format are slim. That could always change. Showalter might write more novellas in that setting and then maybe Harlequin will bundle them into a collection but at the moment, that’s unlikely.

  15. Kerri-Ann Marie
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 10:07:15

    OMG! Please tell me The Darkest Fire is going to be on paperback soon, seriously I need this book. I would love to eventually see a book for each lord of the underworld, I could read these books forever, every day for the rest of my life. It’s like she(Gena Showalters) has a veiw inside my dreams. PLEASE send me info on if The Darkest Fire will ever be on paper back,if so when and where can I get a copy?
    Sincerely Kerri-Ann Marie

  16. Carin
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 14:24:39

    PLEASE OH PLEASE make Darkest Fire into a paperback…. I stumbled upon The Darkest Kiss in my office thru our book exchange and quickly read it and the other 2…so i now have the collection and would really enjoy adding Darkest Fire to my collection

  17. Danielle
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 18:10:25

    i love the first 3 books, and i was wondering when darkest fire will be out in book? i cant find it and i thought it was supposed to be out, please help me find it so i can buy it! i dont have this “e-book” is it not comming out on paperback?

  18. Jia
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 18:35:32

    I’m almost positive this novella is coming out in a print anthology with two other authors. I could be mistaken but I seem to recall seeing that mentioned somewhere. I’ll see if I can dig up more info.

  19. Tiffany
    May 05, 2009 @ 08:57:37

    Hey I just finished all three books of this series, and was hoping to get “The Darkest Fire” as a paperback cover to add to my collection.

    Purchasing it via e-store is good enough for now! :)

    I found “The Darkest Kiss” my favourite book of this series. I couldn’t imagine a sassier goddess to tame the Keeper of Death.

    I highly recommend this series. If you’ve already read it, I also recommend Kesley Cole books, an excellent author that dabbles in romance fiction as well.

    Can’t wait till more Lords of the Underworld books arrive!

  20. Chella
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 00:34:28

    The Darkest Fire is coming out in an anthology @ the beginning of next year I believe.

  21. Tammy
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 15:37:12

    I just read all the lords of the underworld, love them, favorite is maddox. can’t wait for gideon

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