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REVIEW: The Darkest Kiss by Gena Showalter

Dear Ms. Showalter,

book review Even though the prequel and first book of your Lords of the Underworld series failed to impress me, I wasn’t ready to give up on such a great premise. I hoped one of the later installments would work better for me. With this second book in the series, I have to say I’m glad I made that choice.

Times are tough for the Lords of the Underworld. Their bosses, the Greek gods, have been overthrown and locked in Tartarus. Their new overlords, the Titans, are harsh masters. One of their number has been driven insane (more than usual, anyway) by an order handed down by Cronus, the Titans’ leader. Hunters are intent on destroying them by finding Pandora’s Box, the very object that cursed the Lords to becoming demon-holding vessels in the first place. Their only hope is to find Pandora’s Box before their enemies do but that task is easier said than done.

Lucien leads the faction of Lords that live in Budapest. He holds the demon of Death inside him and it’s his duty to escort souls to the afterlife, whether that be heaven or hell. Long ago, when being a demon vessel was still new, he fell in love with a woman. It didn’t last long; she contracted a disease and became mortally ill. Even though Lucien knew he had to usher her soul to the afterlife, he couldn’t let her go and as a result, she lived weeks beyond the time she should have died. Soon her existence became excruciatingly painful and her love changed to hate. After Lucien finally performed his duty, he scarred his face and body to make him unattractive to the opposite sex and thus spare himself from going through that experience again.

Anya is the minor goddess of anarchy. Daughter of the goddess of lawlessness, she unfortunately shares her mother’s reputation for promiscuity. However, Anya is also the illegitimate daughter of Tartarus, the guard of the gods’ prison, and she bears the final gift of his paternal love: a key that opens any lock in existence. Because of this key, Anya is a danger to the Titans because she is the only one capable of freeing the gods from their prison — never mind the fact she couldn’t care less. She’s already freed the only people she cares about (her parents) and would rather leave the rest of the gods, who treated her poorly, to rot. But Cronus refuses to take that risk and orders Lucien to kill her.

I was pleasantly surprised by Lucien and Anya. While I usually like opposites attract storylines, Anya was so over the top wild, I initially found her interactions with the solemn and serious Lucien to be silly. And in some respects they remained borderline ridiculous but as I continued reading, I discovered I was having too much fun to care. Anya’s irreverent nature went a long way to balancing the unrelenting angst that can plague a series with this concept. That was part of my problem with the previous book. As I get older, my tolerance for unrelieved angst-filled brooding and posturing gets lower and lower. So it was nice to have a heroine like Anya who didn’t mind calling out Lucien when he let himself get carried away.

Unaware of his inner turmoil, Anya glanced around the room. “While throwing your tantrum, did you destroy our supplies for the Arctic?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t believe I once thought you were too controlled. Seriously, learn some self-discipline, for gods’ sake. You should be embarrassed.”

“I am.”

“Good.”

On the other hand, I hope I’m not picking up on a pattern that will continue throughout the series. Like Ashlyn of the previous book, Anya is a virgin. Now I can buy an inexperienced heroine with an experienced hero. That’s not my problem. I’m just not sure I can believe that every single couple of a series will follow this dynamic. I think romance readers are ready for more variety for that. Secondly, while Ashlyn’s reasons for remaining a virgin made sense, Anya’s reasons seemed very contrived. It felt like they existed for the sole purpose of keeping her “pure” for the hero, and I like to think we’re past that convention as readers.

Without the clunky setup and worldbuilding that plagued the previous book, I thought The Darkest Kiss was much better focused. The conflict of Lucien having to kill Anya and Anya not wanting to give up the All-Key carried through the entire book. That said, the ending was a letdown and I couldn’t help but wonder why Lucien didn’t do what he ultimately chose to do in the first place. It sounded like it would have saved Anya and him a lot of grief and trouble.

Even though some plot logistics and explanations (the reason for the butterfly tattoos) really bothered me, I still had a lot of fun reading this book. Sometimes you read the right book at the right time, and you end up liking it more than you would otherwise and vice versa. Maybe I’m just being easy today but a B- for me.

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

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]!

12 Comments

  1. Jill Monroe
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 12:52:18

    As to the virgin heroine…I know Gena is trying to pattern these heroines after her own life, but can assure you, that in the third book, the heroine is indeed NOT a virgin.

    ReplyReply

  2. Emma Petersen
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 13:43:31

    As to the virgin heroine…I know Gena is trying to pattern these heroines after her own life, but can assure you, that in the third book, the heroine is indeed NOT a virgin.

    This is why I have a I HEART Jill T-shirt. LMAO.

    ReplyReply

  3. gena showalter
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 14:23:23

    Indeed the third heroine is not a virgin — just like me, as of this morning!

    ReplyReply

  4. gena showalter
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 14:50:32

    damn it Jill

    ReplyReply

  5. dayna
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 14:55:34

    Gina…that’s more info than I needed, really. :P

    And I’m still waiting for Reyes’s book.

    ReplyReply

  6. Crystal Jordan
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 15:14:32

    So, what you’re saying is that Gena (and her self-extension heroines) are very bad girls? I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you! And running out to buy my copy.

    ReplyReply

  7. Lorelie
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 15:22:16

    *snicker*

    I’d noticed that virgin trend and am quite happy to hear it doesn’t continue.

    ReplyReply

  8. JolieDreyson
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 15:47:35

    I really liked this book and the series is very promising. What a cool concept. I didn’t find Anya’s reason for virginity contrived… I thought it fit the story well. Had she (whoops, SPOILER) had no curse, I can’t see how the story would have moved as nicely as it did. Her attitude and sass were refreshing and a perfect contrast for Lucien. Loved it and can’t wait for Reyes. PS. Gideon keeps me in stitches.

    ReplyReply

  9. RStewie
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 16:24:55

    I’m hoping this series continues past the original intention of the three? books. I really like where it’s going, and, getting rid of the virgins will only make it better. Pesky hymens…get rid of them all, I say! There’s nothing wrong with a little experience! Or a lot…

    ReplyReply

  10. Jia
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 16:43:44

    I really like where it's going, and, getting rid of the virgins will only make it better. Pesky hymens…get rid of them all, I say!

    LOL!

    According to Showalter’s website, there will be more books in the series but they won’t be coming out until late 2009/early 2010. Wow! That’s a really long time to wait!

    ReplyReply

  11. rebyj
    Jun 11, 2008 @ 08:20:02

    I commented on the first book when it was reviewed here and said I’d give book 2 a chance since I realized book 1 was setting up the scene and the world building etc.
    I’m glad I got this book! It moves faster and as you say in the review, much better focused. The fight scenes between Anya and Lucien are hilariously exciting.
    As for the virginity thing, the sound of cherries popping in romances is a familiar sound but a little hard to take when the heroine is centuries old, I couldn’t wait 2 decades personally! LOL

    ReplyReply

  12. Laura Stephens
    Jun 11, 2008 @ 22:49:46

    I bought the first and second books based on a recommendation and on the cover alone (on that note who knew that a Cover Artist could ACTUALLY follow what the author wanted). LOL! I inhaled both in the space of two days and I’m wishing that it was July already for the third book. I have to say that I LOVE both of them and I think this will be a new keeper series on my shelf!

    I *love* Gideon. Man, I can’t wait for his book. It’ll be hilarious with the heroine misunderstanding what he says each time. LMAO!

    ReplyReply

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