Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Gena Showalter - The Darkest King

To become a king of the underworld at long last, William must resist an irresistible beauty--or a curse
will ensure his end... A merciless prince feared by all... Cursed by a vengeful witch, William of the Dark will die if he ever falls in love--murdered by the woman who steals his heart. His lone shot at redemption is a book filled with indecipherable code. Break the code, break the curse. Now, centuries later, he's condemned to a string of one-night stands...until he finds the only woman in the worlds able to set him free. A rare creature of myth and power... One of the last living unicorn shifters, Sunday "Sunny" Lane works from the shadows as a cryptanalyst, on the run from assassins and poachers. Then the darkly seductive William abducts her, holding her captive in Hell. The closer they get, the more she hungers for his touch...and the stronger a mystical desire to kill him becomes... But which desire will prove stronger--lust or death? And who will give in first?

Comment: This is installment #15 in the Lords of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter. With some clues here and there depending on the year the books were written, this has been a more or less consistent series, featuring men and women who got possessed withe demons escaping the box Pandora opened. The world created by the author has been quite original among the myths and general premises one tends to think about when recalling the main notion in which the series is based upon.

In this story we have William as protagonist. He is a fictional creation of the author, someone part of the world where the lords and the mythical character live in. William has been raised as an adopted son of Hades and he has been part of too many adventures, and a big part of his arc is centered on a book he has, where the curse that weights on him is written. William knows he needs to decode his curse so he can be free of it and the only thing he knows is that his life mate will be the one to decode it but that means she will, then, try to kill him.

That's how he now comes in contact with Sunny, a rare unicorn shifter who can break codes and who also has reason to want William dead, after what happened to her village, because of him. However, thew more time these two spend together, the more they realize their opinions of one another might not be correct and there might be a reason why they are life mates after all...

Looking back on what I wrote above, it would feel as if this is a cute romance between two opposed personalities feeling attracted to each other and putting aside all the buildup on William's relationship with the desired by the fans hinted at heroine Gilly (whose previous installment's story ended up being a positive one for me), this romance with Sunny seemed it could special enough to turn his long awaited book into a good one.

In fact, William's presence in the series has been long. Always hints on his curse and the book he carried, on what it meant to him... always some kind of focus on him as a character, on how fun he is, how witty, how special... It's quite expected that this installment was quite anticipated by readers of the series and if the hopes of seeing him with Gilly were crushing for so many, then this installment has to be a great one. However, for me, it wasn't so... I just couldn't avoid being distracted by the things I (now) tend to find annoying in the series/writing style so, the way this is told didn't wow me after all. It's quite a pity, though, especially because Gilly's book ended up being good to me so I know the author can do an amazing job.

I'd say the big issue for me is on how the characters are being characterized lately. In the first books there was quite a focus on their dramas, the things they wanted but couldn't have, the curses he suffered because they "hosted" the demons...the challenging part was to see how the author would turn a bad situation around. I have fond memories of some of those dramas in the first books while the main characters were a perfect mix of strength and vulnerabilities.

Now, generalizing, it feels as if they can do anything, fight any adversary, and it feels rather silly how they can't just get/do whatever they need, so great are their abilities all the time. William can't undo his curse but he can defeat pretty much anyone, it just doesn't make that eager to see how his problems are going to be solved. Even his "softer" side feels like a concession... I think the author could have done a better job in developing him. His heroine too, as well as practically all the other female characters, has the power to do great violence, to battle enemies, to win fights, etc...when they say they feel weak or unrecognized or unappreciated, it just feels things aren't in sync.

I suppose the writing choices can be a part of this. Sometimes the writing feels a bit too silly, other times a bit too childish, in some books too polite, I suppose it depends on mrs Showalter's mood and preferences while writing...I don't think it has been a consistent style throughout the whole series. Someone commented on her writing other genres and that it might have influenced this series too... I also would add that the inclusion of sex scenes, sometimes every single book has had, can be distracting because not always those scenes feel meaningful (even more so by how promiscuous almost all characters seem to be before they get their book).

In this book, it also caught my attention how the first half of the story, more or less, felt just like a very bid hide and seek between Sunny and William while they exchanged cringe-y and pointless dialogue. Had the author planned this better or had she introduced Sunny before, even if not naming her, perhaps it would be easier to accept their banter and quick developed relationship. I felt the interesting part only started from the middle of the book on, and too much time is spent on sex and sex talk and things that feel superficial... I think the writing lacks the intensity and focus of the fist books.

I mean, I'm glad William got his HEA and I still like knowing things from this universe the author picked and exploited according to her imagination, but... not all books feel as good to me. Again, I'd say, no real consistency...

Grade: 6/10

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