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Review: The Darkest Surrender by Gena Showalter

Review: The Darkest Surrender by Gena Showalter

Dear Ms. Showalter,

After reading Lord of the Vampires, I was encouraged to try another one of your books. Your voice can be light and funny and the sexual tension is fun, but that book fell flat for me. I noticed The Darkest Surrender in your Lords of the Underworld series had a lot of praising reviews, and the harpies sounded intriguing, so I decided to give it a shot. I’m happy to say that this was a fun read, and made me interested in other books in the series.

The Darkest Surrender by Gena ShowalterThe Darkest Surrender is the story of Strider, who is an immortal Greek warrior possessed by the demon of Defeat. Strider must accept all challenges and win to appease his demon. If he wins, he feels intense pleasure. If he loses, he feels shattering pain. It is also the story of Kaia the Disappointment, a bloodthirsty harpy who has declared Strider to be her consort. She just needs to convince Strider of this fact. Kaia also needs a consort with her for the upcoming Harpy Games – a brutal free for all where the other harpies are intent on destroying Kaia. If Kaia has a consort at her side, he can heal her and encourage her, so his part is crucial. Kaia also feels that Strider doesn’t truly want her because she once slept with Paris, the Lord of Desire.

I went into this book only vaguely knowing the details of the setting. I think I read the first novella in the series, so I was familiar with the general set-up, if not what has happened since. Greek warriors let loose the demons in Pandora’s Box, and now they are cursed to house them inside their bodies. They are immortal now, but tormented by their very specific demons. I thought this was an interesting premise, and I didn’t have any trouble following the story, though it was obvious that there was a lot of set-up and relationships that I had missed in previous books. I think this stood well on its own, however.

I really enjoyed the harpies. They are a race of brutal, winged warrior women who steal, carouse, and drink blood to heal yet live by very strict rules when it comes to conduct around other harpies. I wasn’t so keen on the fact that they are all tiny and delicate and their skin glitters like a diamond, but I’m willing to overlook that as more was made of Kaia’s warrior-ness than her glittering. In fact, everything that governs a harpy’s nature deals with fighting and attacking. Kaia attacks other women she thinks are interested in Strider. She challenges everyone she comes across. The harpy games were a natural extension of the aggressive, combatative harpy relationships, and I thought it was a fun storyline. I also found it intriguing that in harpy relationships, the woman is the dominant, and she selects her consort, not the other way around. It’s a nice change of pace from the soul-mate trope, where the heroine often has little choice or say in the relationship. Kaia is also very close to her twin, Bianka, and I loved the close, teasing relationship between the two.

“What are you going to say to Lysandy, anyway? Exactly.”

Bianka shrugged her seemingly delicate shoulders. “Exactly…I don’t know.”

“Try me. Pretend I’m your disgustingly in love angel consort and confess.”

“Okay.” A sigh, a straightening of the spine, then lovely amber eyes were staring over at Kaia with trepidation. “All right. Here goes.” A pause. A gulp. “Darling, I, uh, have something to tell you.”

“What is it?” Kaia said in her deepest voice. She propped her elbows on the bar, the hanger hooks digging into her skin. “Tell me quickly because I need to spread my happy fairy dust and wave my magic wand when–”

“He doesn’t spread happy fairy dust! He’s a killer, damn it.”

I did feel like the story was fast paced and fun, but I also felt like the relationship was the weakest part of the story. Both Kaia and Strider are childish characters. Kaia has the mentality of a sixteen year old boy. Her apartment is covered in beer cans and frat-like decor. She loves pranks and arguing. Strider is equally childish at times.  He’s competitive, sometimes surly, and his inner monologue is like that of a teenage boy. He even refers to his dick as Stridey-Monster.  That made me shake my head (and not with amusement). While alpha, he struck me as more Type A personality than aggressive alpha male, and this was probably due to the nature of his demon. Sometimes their bickering made me want to put both of them into time out, but I thought they were a well matched couple, and by the end of the book, I thought even the bickering and juvenile humor between the two meant they were right for each other.

I don’t know if this book would be for everyone. Like I said before, the book is light and snappy and full of frat girl violence and an equally childish hero. I felt like this passage pretty much summed up the hero and heroine:

 “When Kaia loses,” Juliette went on, “I’ll expect you to come to me. And maybe, after you beg, I’ll allow you to please me. And maybe, after you please me, if you can, I’ll let you use my Rod.”

Use my Rod. “That’s what he said,” Strider snickered.

She blinked at him. “That’s what who said?” When he offered no response, she demanded, “What did he say?”

Kaia would have understood the joke. Probably Kaia would have pretended a beer bottle was the Rod and jacked it off while laughing. Gods, he dug her sense of humor.

If that’s your kind of couple, you’ll probably enjoy this book. I did enjoy it, though sometimes I found the antics of both characters a little overdone. I am not sure that I’m interested in Paris’s book (which is next) but I liked the harpies enough that I’m going to go through your back list and read more about Gwen and Bianka. B

All best,


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What January is Reading as of 10/09/2011

What January is Reading as of 10/09/2011

It’s been an odd month for me, reading-wise. I’ve started many things and struggled to finish almost all of them. Here’s a quick grocery-list of what is currently on my Kindle.

Lord of the Vampires – Gena Showalter

I thought the premise of this miniseries was intriguing, if a bit muddled. I truly wanted to read the Jill Monroe book (since it seems based off of the Goldilocks fairy tale) but this one was out first, so I gave it a try. You are one of those authors I really love in concept but not in execution. This book has an interesting premise – a heroine is transported to another universe after unearthing a mysterious book. The heroine saves a sex slave from servitude to an unpleasant princess and they run off together. The execution is not terrible, but it’s not terribly exciting either. Full review here.

Gold Rush Groom – Jenna Kernan

I bought this under the theory of “I want something different to read” and this seemed to fit the bill. The story takes place in the Yukon during the Gold Rush craze. The heroine is looking for a companion to travel with her, and the hero is a ‘greenhorn’ and a dandy from the city who is looking to make his fortune. I love that the heroine is the Yukon-smart, knowledgeable one of the pair and the hero is the clueless one.  It’s well written but this story suffered from a major cramming of romance plot. This would have been delicious as a slow build up to the romance. Instead, the hero and heroine are insta-lusting after each other as soon as they meet, even when they’re angry at each other. It was ridiculous and felt contrived.

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Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish – Grace Burrowes

I heard so many pleasant things about “The Heir” that when I saw you had written a Christmas-themed novel, I requested it for review. I’m not averse to Christmas plots and the cover was attractive. Sadly, this book was not what I wanted. Lady Sophie is left with her maid’s young child and no idea how to care for the baby. Vim, the hero, sees Lady Sophie’s plight and they trot off together to Lady Sophie’s house, where Vim proceeds to show her how to diaper a baby and properly take care of it, and the romance spirals out from there. The story is sickly-sweet and peppered with anachronistic characters (Vim is an expert on babies despite being a single man) and unnatural-feeling word choices (Vim refers to the baby’s ‘tummy’ multiple times) and I’m putting this firmly in the DNF pile.

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The Favored Queen – Carolly Erickson

When this was offered for review, I was intrigued by the premise. We are drowning in a sea of Anne Boleyn fiction, and it feels as if there are so few books – if any! – on some of Henry’s other wives. This one is about Jane Seymour, who was wife number three and barely a footnote in history. I was eager to read it since she is an often-overlooked character in the infamous Tudor histories. Imagine my disappointment when in Jane’s own book, the majority of the plot is again about Anne Boleyn. Jane herself is prudish and dry and I wonder about the accuracy of the plot. Full review to come.

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I’m hoping October has more exciting reads to come.