Book Review: The Poison of A Smile by Steven Jensen

9473237Title: The Poison of a Smile
Author: Steven Jensen
Genre: Supernatural, Gothic Horror, Romance
Publication Date: October 2nd 2010
Review copy provided by Night Publishing. Visit their website.
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Author’s Website

She will take her pleasure in your destruction ….

When Gabriel Holland and David Leigh are lured to the haunted town of Carliton in search of their beloved Helena, they find only mystery and malice. And Christian Salazar, connoisseur of torments, master of Alatiel, the creature that Helena has become, awaits their company…

The Poison of A Smile is a haunting, terrifying and breathtaking trip into the mausoleum of things rotten, undead and vicious; a journey through the asylum of the deranged and mentally disturbed; a one-way ticket to hell. The writing style is pretty disturbing on its own, like you just lost track of reality, like things are slowly falling out of your grip, and your mind is getting detached from your body – or is it the other way around? When I first started reading this novella, I vaguely wondered if I hadn’t somehow dozed asleep and stumbled into my worst nightmare, or if I had unconsciously taking some kind of narcotic that made my thoughts uncomprehensible, strange and deranged, and, since I hadn’t been feeling very well that day, I remember constantly checking my temperature to see if this wasn’t the result of some high fever. It wasn’t any of those three options, I can say. The Poison of A Smile is mesmerising, thrilling, but also gruesome, detached, insane, and uncomprehensible. Truly a masterpiece.

Alatiel, a woman of great beauty but with hideous secrets, becomes the new muse of a group of self-acclaimed artists, who struggle to make a living in the city of Paris in the 19th century. The sister of one of these artists, Helena, soon becomes the new subject of interest for Alatiel. In a desperate search to get their beloved back, Gabriel Holland and David Leigh make a trip to the haunted mansion of all haunted mansions, to the palace of sins and destruction, to a mausoleum of unspeakable crimes and to the home of creatures so vicious and rotten they cannot be anything other than Satan’s spawn. And in that place of sheer darkness, in that house of torture, blood and murder; they must face the master of all evils, the instructor of pain himself: Christian Salazar.

Its sheer beauty lies in the fact that it’s so abstract, macabre, terrifying and at the same time, utterly fascinating. From page one, i had the feeling that The Poison Of A Smile was devouring my own soul to feed its own unholy pages, because each sentence transported me further and further away from my safe and well-known home, to unfamiliar, dreadful and nightmarish surroundings. The descriptions are beautiful, haunting and written in that gorgeous, crafty style that was so popular at the turn of the 19th century. This novel vaguely reminded me of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Woman In Black and Dracula, as the settings are very much the same, and I got the same dreadful feeling with those novels as well. Looking back upon this, I sometimes wonder if nowadays hack and slash horror hasn’t forgotten about the most important aspect, namely the horror that is within oneself. The horror that is one’s soul, when it’s as deranged and bestial by nature like the soul of this story’s antagonist, Christian Salazar.

Although some of the scenes in this novel are particularely gruesome, this isn’t just your average horror story. The scenes may cause you to feel like vomiting, but that isn’t the real horror Steven Jensen is trying to describe. By creating this feeling of otherworldliness, disentachment, confusion, his novel is constantly feeding of your own basic worries, indulging in human’s own wicked nature, and gettings its very own inspiration from the things that haunt the corners of our own minds. I was suffering from the ‘haunted mansion’ disease that is common in older fictional works like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre from the very start of this novel, as the eerie atmosphere and creepy characters introduced themselves to me. This feeling of uncomfortableness, sometimes even downright fear, continued throughout the entire novel. The words escape me to explain to you how surprised and impressed I was by this masterfully-crafted tale of horrors, this unmistakable piece of art.

What can I compare it with? I have never read any scary novel before that managed to frighten me as much as The Poison of A Smile did, and never before have I been so close to the distortions and monstrosities that hide in human nature. It was an experience both terrifying and enjoyable, as it was truly an entertaining read, even if it was fear rather than good tension that glued me to my chair. If I had to compare this novel with another fictional work, I would choose The Picture of Dorian Gray, for that is the only novel that comes close in comparison, and has the same haunted and disturbing atmosphere.

There is no characterization, or character development. The characters are loose words on paper, as estranged from the reader as they are from themselves and the world they are living in. They have no actual personalities, and the only emotions often portrayed are nothing more than bestial. The need for vengeance, bloodlust, sexual lust…But that is all. Humans are reduced to animals, the good only slightly better than the wicked because they do often fall to prey of the same bestial desires. The story is difficult to follow at times, a plot practically non-existing, and the entire tale seems to be made out of seperate, equally macabre scenes, that work together and form one long, breathtaking, mesmerising and ghastly story of terror.

If you ask me if there’s anything about this novella that I didn’t like, then the answer is yes. In my opinion, it shouldn’t have ended. At about 80 pages long, I wish the author had just continued till the end (write maybe a 20 or 50 pages more or so) and then put a hold to it. I don’t know what it’s with people and sequels or even trilogies nowadays, but they seem to have forgotten that the best novels ever written are all stand-alone novels. As a stand-alone novel, The Poison of A Smile is as good as horror can possibly get; but I fear that it might not retain this statute in the sequels. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to write an equally haunting story without diving more into characterization and plot building – and by doing so, sacrificing the deranged, insane and going-out-of-your-mind feeling that I got when reading this novel.

I’m completely overwhelmed by The Poison of A Smile, and even now I’m still haunted by the writing style, the detached narrator’s voice, the characters’ primate natures, and the eerie, shivers-running-down-your-back atmosphere. In all fairness, I believe I have discovered a masterpiece of gothic horror literature; a work of art that very well might succeed to redefining the horror genre all together. After reading The Poison of A Smile, you’ll never think about gothic stories in the same way again.

Book Review: Polyxena: A Story of Troy by Herb Allenger

7897157Title: Polyxena: A Story of Troy
Author: Herb Allenger
Genre: Historical Fiction
Review copy provided by Cindy Dashnaw at BohlsenPR.
Rating: 4,5 stars

After Troy falls, Neoptolemus claims Polyxena as his prize, but she rejects his advances. In a fit of rage, Neoptolemus contrives a story that dooms the ill-fated Polyxena. She knows what she must do to survive, but she cannot change her destiny. Polyxena, the daughter of King Priam of Troy, knows her misfortune has been to have Neoptolemus fall in love with her. As she prepares to die at the commemoration rites for Neoptolemus’s father, Polyxena reflects over her past year, relating her thoughts to Aphrodite, the Goddess she believes is responsible for orchestrating the events that have beset her. As she tries to make sense of it all, Polyxena converses with all the well-known personages associated with the Trojan myth-Achilles, Agamemnon, Cassandra, Helen, and many others-while seeking solace in the hope that her existence has not been futile. In this moving story of forbidden love, a young woman who is an integral part of the romantic legacy surrounding Troy comes to a surprising and satisfying conclusion about the life she has lived.

As she is waiting to be sacrificied to the Gods, Polyxena reminisces about her life, about the people she loved and the people she hated. About the events that led her here, like a lamb to its slaughter, courtesy of Neoptolemus. That’s how this gripping, nearly paralyzing piece of historical fiction starts off. Polyxena tells us that she is  one of the daughters of King Priam of Troy, and not just anyone of his daughters – she’s probably the most intelligent, stubborn and brave one. Rather than spending time with the other women at court, doing whatever it is women did in those days, she prefers to go horseback riding, and having actual intelligent conversations with people. Although she is already past the age that girls should get married, she still hasn’t found a suitor, nor is she desperate to find one. Independent enough to live on her own, and not at all concerned with love, marriage and children – especially not with the war still going on, and her beloved brothers dying one by one – Polyxena seems the excellent choice to go visit the Amazon queen, Penthesileia, and persuade the latter to help the Trojans win this war.

When Polyxena travels to the Amazon grounds, she is in for the surprise of a life time. Not only does she meet and befriends the great heroic queen, Penthesileia, but she also feels attracted to her general, Antiope, a young and beautiful woman. In the first relationship of her life, Polyxena feels a strong connection towards Antiope, but is forced to depart her behind after an attack gone completely wrong. That’s when she meets Achilles – the Achilles – the strong and brave warrior who is the sole reason the war that ruined her country has continued for this long, the man blessed with power that can only come from the Gods, and the murderer of her beloved brother Hector. Face to face with the man who practically ruined her life, Polyxena is surprised by the way she feels about him. And as their attraction towards each other blossoms into something new, she knows very well that she’s betraying everyone and everything, and that this relationship might end disastrous. For the both of them.

Once I started reading Polyxena: A Story of Troy, I had a hard time putting it down. The characters were sublime, powerful, crafted with the utmost precision and as real as if they were standing right next to you. The story itself was imaginative, confronting, gripping and very emotionally touching. I was practically sucked into the book, breathing the words and living the sentences. It’s been a while since I had such a good time reading a book, and I have to thank H. Allenger for making me enjoy his novel so much that I hardly know how to express what I feel into words.

I’ll start by talking about the characters. Polyxena, well, she could have been my best friend. I loved her. She was rebellious, but not openly; brave, but not too sure of her own courage; headstrong but not stubborn; and she possessed that nice balance of qualities that turns ordinary people into heroes. She was friendly and kind, but impatient with people that treated her unkindly. If she had been a man, I’m sure she’d make a nice general for Troy, a skillful warrior even. I loved her relationship with Antiope, that started out as friendship at first, but then turned into so much more. H. Allenger focused more on the love-aspect, and the emotional aspects of their relationship than on the physical parts of it, which I thought was a very good choice, as it made me understand them, and their attraction towards each other more than I would have understood it had the focus been on the physical relationship. I knew that their relationship was destined to end some time, but the ending was bittersweet and left me vaguely sad for both of them. It was nice to see that Polyxena was capable of putting her own initial thoughts and the ancient traditions of her own country behind her – like that women should only love men, and that no woman could love another woman in that way – and that she was strong and independent enough to get beyond that, and acknowledge her true feelings for Antiope. The way H. Allenger described this progression was wonderful, realistic and very touching.

I liked how the author portrayed Achilles as well. At first, we see Polyxena’s view of the strong warrior brute who murdered her own beloved brother, but that are her opinions of the man before she even meets him. Then, we gradually see a change in her feelings towards Achilles as he manages to enlight a fire inside of her, she didn’t even know that was there. We see how she likes him more and more, and he likes her as well, as he offers to bring her back to the gates of Troy. I thought their relationship developed a bit fast, but I guess that’s normal when your days together are very limited, or when it’s love at first strike. I was enthralled by Polyxena’s inner battle, and her contradictory feelings as she saw Achilles as post a murderer, and as a possible lover. This was very well and very thoroughly described in the novel, and left me amazed.

The story focuses a lot on mythology and the battle of Troy and the cast that played a role in it. Thankfully, I already knew a lot of Paris, Helen, Priam, Cassandra, Achilles and Agamemnon – because I think this novel would have been confusing at first, if I hadn’t. It’s obvious that the author knows a lot about his characters, their personalities, their weakness and their background, and someone who has only vaguely heard of the war of Troy might be oblivious to certain details this novel touches, or certain events that take place but aren’t described in detail. I thought that sometimes the author tried to include too much too soon, but as I said, I already knew a great deal about Troy, so it was no issue for me. On the contrary, I learned even more about Troy through this novel, and that means that the author more than succeeded at getting his message and story across.

I was warned from the start that Polyxena faced a death sentence, that she was to be sacrified to the gods, but by the time we got to the ending, I felt like crying. I had grown to know this character like she was my best friend, I knew all of her heartaches, pains and suffering, and I wished she got a better fate than the one that was waiting for her. Her message, even at the end, was powerful. She was happy with the life she left, and held no regrets. For me, she was a true heroine.

I would advise this novel to everyone. Even if historical fiction isn’t your favorite genre, Polyxena: A Story of Troy, will touch you in so many different ways, it will draw you in, amaze you and surprise you, and it won’t let you go. Just go read it, and you’ll know what I mean.

Book Review: Possession is Nine Tenths: Ardeur by Danielle Gavan

9884946Title: Possession is Nine Tenths: Ardeur
Author: Danielle Gavan
Genre: Adult Romance, Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.

Desperate to evict her demon, Necromancer Ardeur Blaise Lisle never dreamed of finding herself in Mount Angel Abbey, or that it would be a sanctuary run by angels. It seems to be the perfect solution to her problem when she discovers the key to getting rid of her co-pilot. She persuades the Angel of Death to intercede; but the consequences are direr than expected. He’s playing for keeps.

A promise kept…

Released from military service, Werewolf Brody Callaghan has never expected to find the woman he’d sworm to find running down the street towards him, and straight into the path of a speeding BMW. Fate steers him towards the Abbey and will give him what he wants – but he’ll have to fight Death for it, and the angel is playing dirty.

Her freedom might be the end of Ardeur’s relationship with Brody and a life away from everything she never thought she’d have in the arms of a werewolf with dimples and a charmer’s grin. They’ll have to race to save their love, and unborn children, from an off his rocker angel. With the clock ticking they’ll have to figure it out, and fast.

Ardeur, or Ardy as we get to call our heroine, grew up being feared and disliked by her own family. Most of this has to do with the fact that she can see and communicate with the dead – a natural trait for a necromancer, but not exactly something a parent wishes for their offspring. Even though her parents aren’t that fond of Ardy (this being an extreme understatement), they do manage to use her for one very interesting purpose: money. From a very young age, Ardy is forced to hold séances, summon spirits and practice black magic of the worst kind. Like this wasn’t enough reason to call forth the child protection services; her parents decide they need to take things a bit further and they actually sell Ardy to a bunch of people who are definately up to no good. Not only do they summon the spirit of a demon, Shade, and put him in the young child’s body, but they are also the ones who order said demon to commit a series of gruesome murders. Plagued by the fact her own body is used as a killing machine and is co-inhabitated by a demon who keeps telling her she is useless and no one ever loved her, Ardy swears to get rid of the demon someday and grasp control of her own body again.

A couple of years and a whole lot of murders later, Ardy keeps up to that promise. Pushing the demon to the back of her mind, she takes back control of her own life. But the fight definately isn’t over: still tormented by the demon, chased by her previous kidnappers, and she finally discovers a part of herself she had no clue existed up till now. But more than that, Ardeur is torn between two possible lovers. On the one side, there’s the alpha werewolf Brody – currently without a home – who has loved her ever since he laid his eyes upon her more than ten years ago. But on the other side is Death itself, dark and cruel and capable of unimaginable things. However, the latter might have a touch of goodness and compassion inside of him, and not all things are as they seem, as Ardeur struggles not only with who and what she really is, but also with who she loves – and how far she is willing to go to hold on to that love.

Possession is Nine Tenths: Ardeur was a nice surprise. I had expected this novel to be entertaining, but I hadn’t expected it to focus on so many different things, and actually build a rich and wonderful world where humans and angels, demons, necromancers, etc. live side by side. Ardeur started out quite dark, with the dispatchment of an unwanted child. The parents stroke me as cruel, uncompassionate and uncaring, but throughout the novel it became quite clear that in fact, Ardy’s parents were more freaked out than anything else. They probably feared their own daughter, or atleast it scared them that she was something other than normal. I liked this evolution and explenation, and I could actually relate and understand her parents a little bit as the story continued. It can’t be easy to have a daughter who talks to a dead nanny and plays with the souls of children long gone and is destined to become a full-grown necromancer. Of course that’s no excuse, but I felt relieved that I atleast got to know why her parents disliked Ardeur.

Even from the start, Ardeur is a strong, independent and intelligent young girl, but as she grows up – carefully hidden in her own mind, behind the demon in charge – those qualities only strenghtened. I loved her personality, and the way Danielle Gavan described her fears and paranoia was absolutely spot on. Once freed from Shade, she is determined to live a life on her own, even though that will be difficult if not impossible with her previous kidnappers still looking for her. But no matter how courageous and determined Ardeur is, the first thought that comes to mind when following her through her new found life is ‘lost’. She is still just as lost as she was when her parents sold her to the highest bidder and turned her into a vessel for a vindictive and evil demon.

I loved the strong feelings and topics that were touched throughout this novel: abandonement, love, friendship, courage, independence, fear. I absolutely adored the fact that although Ardeur is always looking for a real home, and a real family, it takes practically till the end of the novel before she finds that. Before she finds a place she can call home, and people she can call family. The relationship between Brody and Ardeur is heart-warming, bittersweet and very touching. I wasn’t completely convinced of the character of Brody at first – he seemed sort of random, and I didn’t like the cliché that he felt some sort of connection with Ardeur and then went to look for her after ten or so years, plus I wasn’t fond of the possible werewolf-necromancer relationship – but he developed into an admirable character.

The story is deep, very deep, especially for a fantasy novel. As I already mentioned, it touches so many sensitive and interesting topics, and waves them into one fast-paced, well-written and highly entertaining story. It’s very dark though, a lot darker than I had at first anticipated, but that’s the part that makes this novel more than ‘just another fantasy story’ and turns it into something a lot more memorable and interesting.

Now here’s the part that I didn’t like about the novel. Caution: there are some minor spoilers in this paragraph. I didn’t understand the way Ardeur reacted to Azrael when she figured out he was actually the one that caused her to be the person she is today, although it was quite clear that without his interference, she would have died. Personally, I think I would have reacted quite differently. For starters, this is the Angel of Death we’re talking about. The Angel of Death who actually breaks a bazillion heavenly rules and turns against everything he stands for to save the life of one human baby. But then Ardeur gets upset because she blames Azrael for her miserable life, the fact that her body got inhabited by a demon for over ten years and the fact that her parents never really loved her. Uhm, hello? Wake up call needed much? In my opinion, the Angel of Death did quite enough. What was he supposed to do? Check up on the baby he already did a lot more for than anyone could expect from him? He was supposed to kill her. He risked everything to save her. But hey, let’s all be angry at the fellow because he didn’t check up on that baby. Let’s blame him for the horrible life she had, and all the horror and tragedies she had to go through. Because that’s totally fair. Didn’t think so. If I was Ardy, I would have been thanking him from the bottom of my heart – because atleast she got to live a life, thanks to him. Saving someone’s life doesn’t mean you are responsible for what happens to them next. It actually dissapointed me that Ardy didn’t figure that one out by now.

Needless to say that up until a couple of chapters from the end, I was actually more a fan of the pairing Azrael/Ardeur than Ardeur/Brody. I still think it would have been a better fit, although it’s quite clear that Ardeur really loves Brody. But oh well, I’m a creative reader, I’m allowed to think about alternative endings.

Putting that aside, I did really enjoy reading Possession is Nine Tenths: Ardeur, and I would recommend it to all fantasy fans. It might be dark and angsty, but it actually has a message to get across: that no matter how tough life is, and no matter if you’re on your own, you have to keep going on. You have to find the courage and determination within yourself to make life work, no matter what. And you should never stop believing in love, because at the moment when you least expect it, or when you need it the most, there will be someone who loves you. That’s a very strong and hopeful message, that perfectly fits with this extraordinary and remarkable novel.

Book Review: Kiss of Darkness by Loribelle Hunt

9931657Title: Kiss of Darkness
Author: Hunt, Loribelle
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 3,5 stars

Winter, a hybrid, has spent her life at war. A group of humans who are part demon, the hybrids, along with the lupines and nightwalkers, have dedicated their lives to defeating demons and protecting humanity. Yet, despite their united cause, the three groups share an uneasy alliance.When hybrid military compounds come under attack from demon insurgents, Winter has no choice but to turn to the lupines and nightwalkers for assistance. It’s a partnership based on necessity and she has no intention of letting down her guard with either group.
Marcus, the nightwalker Lord, has other plans. The immediate attraction between him and Winter promises a passion he can’t ignore. To claim her as his own, he’ll not only have to fight the demons who seem hell-bent on destroying her, but her own misconceptions about him and the nightwalker race. It’s a battle he refuses to lose.

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about this novel. On the one side, I loved the main character, Winter Bennett, and her two best friends, Gia and Dupree, and their interactions. I also really liked the storyline: especially the merging of human and demon souls, and the great war against demons. The world-building was wonderful, with safety houses and compounds, and this entire we’re-at-war vibe, that was carefully crafted throughout the novel. Plus, I liked the division between hybrids (as Winter and her friends are), Nightwalkers (a fancy name for Vampires) and Lupines (werewolves). Now, on to the things I didn’t like that much.

The point of view constantly switched between about six characters, which made this book very hard to read. Sometimes I had to reread entire parts to actually know who was talking. I’m a great supporter of switching the points of view to keep things interesting, but it was a bit too much here, and it would have been better had the author only focused on maybe three or so characters. The story was very fast-paced at times, but the middle part of the novel was a too slow for my liking. Sometimes I really had the feeling I had to urge myself to continue reading. But once you get past those fifty-or-so occasionally slow pages, there is enough action and nearly-dying going on to keep you occupied till the end of the novel.

What really, really bothered me about this novel, and is the reason it only got a rating of 3,5 rather than 4 is the way all males – but with that I mean, all males – in this novel respond to falling in love. They feel an uncontrollable possessiveness towards the object of their affections. And not just the Nightwalkers, or the Lupines, mind you, for whom this despicable character trait might be part of their nature, but even Dupree, dear old hybrid Dupree, doesn’t escape from the need to control every move his love interest makes. Not only did I feel like going all Buffy The Vampire Slayer on all Nightwalkers in this novel every five minutes, but it also made me so annoyed I had trouble finishing the book. I mean sure, you can add one character whose immensely posessive, but do you have to make all of them like that? Plus, I’m not saying a little bit posessive, no. I mean totally over-the-top, extremely awkward clingyness. If another man just as much as touched their love interest, those Nightwalkers went berserk. I wasn’t too fond of these traits at all, and they annoyed me, as they were a major part of the story.

However, I must admit that the rest of the story amazed me. I loved the little plot twists and turns, the overall background story, the description of the war against the demons, and the way the tension was built up slowly. I liked this novel, but I would have liked it a lot more if it wasn’t for all the male characters to be overly posessive. If there’s ever a sequel out, I would like to read it though, just to know what happens to the characters.

Visit the author’s website.

Book Review: Demon’s Fall by Karalynn Lee

Title: Demon’s Fa9318237ll
Author: Karalynn Lee
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 4 stars

She was an angel at the gates of Hell.

When Kenan, an incubus, finds a caged angel for sale in the Hellsgate marketplace, he sees her as a challenge. Certain that his skills in seduction will work as well on a heavenly creature as they do on mortal women, he buys Jahel, intent on having her soul as a novelty in his collection.

Knowing he must gain Jahel’s trust if she is to come to his bed willingly, Kenan treats her more as his guest than as his slave. When she reveals what brought her to the mouth of Hell in the first place—retrieving the soul of a young girl she was guarding—he even offers to help her complete her mission.

Though he has promised Jahel freedom, Kenan soon realizes she has captured his heart instead. And as their passion for one another grows, they find themselves caught in a struggle between Heaven and Hell, one that will lead them to the very edge of the apocalypse…

Trying to get back the lost soul of a girl she was supposed to protect, the angel Jahel gets captured in Hellsgate, a town right before Hell proper; caged and eventually sold to an incubus demon named Kenan. Although he initially only has intentions to capture Jahel’s soul, he comes to like the angel and eventually aids her on her mission to reclaim the lost soul of her protegée. As his feelings for Jahel are growing beyond simple attraction, he learns that Jahel is not the only angel who got lost in Hellsgate as of late…and the other one has plans to commence a war between Heaven and Hell.

I’m usually not a very big fan of novellas, as I tend to believe it is hard to do some decent world-building, create believable character-development and make the reader feel a bond with your characters in such a short amount of time. However, Karalynn Lee manages these three jobs quite well, much to my amazement. The world-building in this novella is impressive. In just under 80 pages, she creates a world existing of three planes: the mortal plane, Heaven and Hell, an obscure ‘third path’ for people who choose neither Heaven nor Hell, and some towns with mixed inhabitants, both mortal and angelic in Heavensgate (although angels only fly over it, and hardly stop to walk through it) and human and demons in Hellsgate. I really liked the world she created: nothing too complicated, but a decent and solid base to fall back upon.

The currency in this well-designed world is souls: Angels want to save them, whereas Demons trade them for other goods. Kenan, one of two main characters, is used to collecting souls from his victims, who give him their full name and soul willingly once he seduces them – which is quite easy, considering he’s an incubus. Initially the only reason why he buys the Angel Jahel, is so he can secude her and then claim her soul. I loved how the dynamics between Kenan and Jahel slowly changed once he had taken her back to his home, and goes to great lengths to earn her trust and respect. The attraction between the two of them is clear from the start, but their affections towards each other develop slowly throughout the story – which was great, because I hate it when a romance blossoms too fast and then you lose every interest in the characters or their further relationship. This is definately not the case here.

The story is very action-driven, from reclaiming a Princess’ soul from a Hellhound, secuding a wicked queen and trying to prevent a war between Heaven and Hell, a lot of things are happening and sometimes it’s just too much. Had all of this taken place in a 400 page novel, it would have been fun and entertaining, but to push all of that in a 70 page novella is a bit too ambitious. It left a lot of questions unanswered (for instance: Why use souls as a currency? Why would an angel want to start a war between Heaven and Hell? What actually happens when you lose your soul?), and little room for details. All in all, this left me a bit dissapointed. There were things I wanted to know more about, and things I think could have easily been left out, for example the whole Snow White sidestory. To be honest, I was a bit confused about all that: when you have a novel with a great storyline and interesting characters, then why suddenly fall back upon a well-known fairytale? It just seemed out of place.

All in all, Karalynn Lee was perhaps a bit too ambitious considering all the things she wanted to include in the novel, but on the other hand she did do a great job writing her novella. I loved the characters and their relationship, the fast-paced action and upcoming Apocalyps/War Between Heaven and Hell backstory. The ending really left me impressed, although I won’t get into more detail about that. 😉 I would love to read more from her, and can’t wait until she writes another book. Perhaps a novel this time?

You can visit the author’s website here.