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The Darkest Night (Lords of the Underworld Book 1) Kindle Edition
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- Book 1 of 15 in Lords of the Underworld
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-New York Times bestselling author Karen Marie Moning
"The Darkest Surrender is another sure-to-please hit...Gena Showalter knows how to keep readers glued to the pages and smiling the whole time."
-New York Times bestselling author Lara Adrian
"The Showalter name on a book means guaranteed entertainment."
-RT Book Reviews on Twice as Hot
"A world of myth, mayhem and love under the sea!"
-#1 New York Times bestselling author J.R. Ward on The Nymph King --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
He ran his tongue over his teeth, wishing it were a blade over his enemy's throat instead. Most of the day had already passed. He'd heard the time seep away, a poisonous tick-tock in his mind, every beat of the clock a mocking reminder of mortality and pain.
In little more than an hour, the first sting would pierce his stomach and nothing he did, nothing he said, would change that. Death would come for him.
"Damned gods," he muttered, increasing the speed of his bench presses.
"Bastards, every one of them," a familiar male voice said from behind him.
Maddox's motions didn't slow at Torin's unwelcome intrusion. Up. Down. Up. Down. For two hours he had worked out his frustration and anger on the punching bag, the treadmill and now the weights. Sweat ran from his bare chest and arms, riding the ropes of his muscles in clear rivulets. He should be as exhausted mentally as he was physically, but his emotions were only growing darker, more powerful.
"You should not be here," he said.
Torin sighed. "Look. I didn't mean to interrupt, but something's happened."
"So take care of it."
"Whatever it is, try. I'm in no shape to help." These last few weeks very little was needed to send him into a killing haze where no one around him was safe. Even his friends. Especially his friends. He didn't want to, never meant to, but was sometimes helpless against urges to strike and to maim.
"I'm at the edge, Torin," he croaked. "I would do more harm than good."
Maddox knew his limitations, had known them for thousands of years. Ever since that doomed day the gods had chosen a woman to perform a task that should have been his.
Pandora had been strong, yes, the strongest female soldier of their time. But he had been stronger. More capable. Yet he had been deemed too weak to guard dimOuniak, a sacred box housing demons so vile, so destructive, they could not even be trusted in Hell.
As if Maddox would have allowed it to be destroyed. Frustration had bloomed inside him at the affront. Inside all of them, every warrior now living here. They had fought diligently for the king of the gods, killed expertly and protected thoroughly; they should have been chosen as guards. That they hadn't was an embarrassment not to be tolerated.
They'd only thought to teach the gods a lesson the night they'd stolen dimOuniak from Pandora and released that horde of demons upon the unsuspecting world. How foolish they had been. Their plan to prove their power had failed, for the box had gone missing in the fray, leaving the warriors unable to recapture a single evil spirit.
Destruction and havoc had soon reigned, plunging the world into darkness until the king of the gods finally intervened, cursing each warrior to house a demon inside himself.
A fitting punishment. The warriors had unleashed the evil to avenge their stinging pride; now they would contain it.
And so the Lords of the Underworld were born.
Maddox had been given Violence, the demon who was now as much a part of him as his lungs or his heart. Now, man could no longer live without demon and demon could no longer function without man. They were woven together, two halves of a whole.
From the very first, the creature inside him had beckoned him to do malicious things, hated things, and he'd been compelled to obey. Even when led to slay a womanto slay Pandora. His fingers clenched the bar so tightly his knuckles nearly snapped out of place. Over the years he had learned to control some of the demon's more vile compulsions, but it was a constant struggle and he knew he could shatter at any moment.
What he would have given for a single day of calm. No overpowering desire to hurt others. No battles within himself. No worries. No death. Just peace.
"It's not safe for you here," he told his friend, who still stood in the doorway. "You need to leave." He set the silver bar atop its perch and sat up. "Only Lucien and Reyes are allowed to be close to me during my demise." And only because they played a part in it, unwilling though they were. They were as helpless against their demons as Maddox was his.
"About an hour until that happens, so " Torin threw a rag at him. "I'll take my chances."
Maddox reached behind his back, caught the white cloth and turned. He wiped his face. "Water."
An ice-cold bottle was soaring through the air before the second syllable left his mouth. He caught it deftly, moisture splashing his chest. He drained the icy contents and studied his friend.
As usual, Torin wore all black and gloves covered his hands. Pale hair fell in waves to his shoulders, framing a face mortal females considered a sensual feast. They didn't know the man was actually a devil in angel's skin. They should have, though. He practically glowed with irreverence, and there was an unholy gleam in his green eyes that proclaimed he would laugh in your face while cutting out your heart. Or laugh in your face while you cut out his heart.
To survive, he had to find humor where he could. They all did.
Like every resident of this Budapest fortress, Torin was damned. He might not die every night like Maddox, but he could never touch a living thing, skin to skin, without infecting it with sickness.
Torin was possessed by the spirit of Disease.
He hadn't known a woman's touch in over four hundred years. He'd learned his lesson well when he'd given in to lust and caressed a would-be lover's face, bringing about a plague that decimated village after village. Human after human.
"Five minutes of your time," Torin said, his determination clear. "That's all I'm asking."
"Think we'll be punished for insulting the gods today?" Maddox replied, ignoring the request. If he didn't allow himself to be asked for a favor, he didn't have to feel guilty for turning it down.
His friend uttered another of those sighs. "Our every breath is supposed to be a punishment."
True. Maddox's lips curled into a slow, razored smile as he peered ceilingward. Bastards. Punish me further, I dare you. Maybe then, finally, he would fade to nothingness.
He doubted the gods would concern themselves, though. After bestowing the death-curse upon him, they had ignored him, pretending not to hear his pleas for forgiveness and absolution. Pretending not to hear his promises and desperate bargaining.
What more could they do to him, anyway?
Nothing could be worse than dying over and over again. Or being stripped of anything good and right or hosting the spirit of Violence inside his mind and body.
Jackknifing to his feet, Maddox tossed the now-wet rag and empty water bottle into the nearest hamper. He strode to the far end of the room and braced his hands above his head, leaning into the semicircular alcove of stained-glass windows and staring into the night through the only clear partition.
He saw Paradise.
He saw hell.
He saw freedom, prison, everything and nothing.
He saw home.
Situated atop a towering hill as the fortress was, he had a direct view of the city. Lights glowed brightly, pinks, blues and purples illuminating the murky velvet sky, glinting off the Danube River and framing the snowcapped trees that dominated the area. Wind blustered, snowflakes dancing and twirling through the air.
Here, he and the others had a modicum of privacy from the rest of the world. Here, they were allowed to come and go without having to face a barrage of questions. Why don't you age? Why do screams echo through the forest every night? Why do you sometimes look like a monster?
Here, the locals maintained their distance, awed, respectful. "Angels," he'd even heard whispered during a rare encounter with a mortal.
If they only knew.
Maddox's nails elongated slightly, digging into the stone. Budapest was a place of majestic beauty, old-world charm and modern pleasures, but he'd always felt removed from it. From the castle district that lined one street to the nightclubs that lined the next. From the fruits and vegetables hawked in one alley to the living flesh hawked in the other.
Maybe that sense of disconnection would vanish if he ever explored the city, but unlike the others who roamed at will, he was trapped inside the fortress and surrounding land as surely as Violence had been trapped inside Pandora's box thousands of years ago.
His nails lengthened farther, almost claws now. Thinking of the box always blackened his mood. Punch a wall, Violence beckoned. Destroy something. Hurt, kill. He would have liked to obliterate the gods. One by one. Decapitate them, perhaps. Rip out their blackened, decayed hearts, definitely.
The demon purred in approval.
Of course it's purring now, Maddox thought with disgust. Anything bloodthirsty, no matter the victims, met with the creature's support. Scowling, he leveled another heated glance at the heavens. He and the demon had been paired long ago, but he remembered the day clearly. The screams of the innocent in his ears, humans bleeding all around him, hurting, dying, the spirits having devoured their flesh in a rapturous frenzy.
Only when Violence had been shoved inside his body did he lose touch with reality. There had been no sounds, no sights. Just an all-consuming darkness. He hadn't regained his senses until Pandora's blood splattered his chest, her last breath echoing in his ears.
She had not been his first killor his lastbut she had been the first and only woman to meet his sword. The horror of seeing that once-vibrant female form broken and knowing he was responsible for it To this day, he had not assuaged the guilt, the regret. The shame and the sorrow.
He'd sworn to do whatever was necessary to control the spirit from then on, but it had been too late. Enraged all the more, Zeus had bestowed a second curse upon him: every night at midnight he would die exactly as Pandora had dieda blade through the stomach, six hellish times. The only difference was, her torment had ended within minutes.
His ... --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B018E37RG4
- Publisher : HQN Books; Reissue edition (January 18, 2016)
- Publication date : January 18, 2016
- Language : English
- File size : 655 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 321 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #44,878 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Have you ever read a book that made you go >:[
I was pretty excited to find this series-- interesting premise, interesting world, highly rated... what I got were two individuals who could barely speak in full sentences while in each others' presences. The female lead, Ashlyn, is a wounded virgin dove whose lines consisted primarily of "M-Maddox?" and 'Ashlyn whimpered'. Maddox's most outstanding quality is the super hot giant butterfly tattoo across his back (really...?) and he generally came out in my head sounding like a cross between Captain Kirk (oh no, not the Chris Pine interpretation. We're talking Bill Shatner) and our stereotypical cartoon idea of a caveman (or Tarzan. Whatever.).
It's hard to get into the action or the "action" (if you know what I mean) when you can barely stand the characters. Ashlyn is a woman with a curse of a gift who hears conversations going back as far as man could speak that took place in whatever location she's standing. This seems to make her an incoherent mess. Which would make sense, since I can see it being distressing to never be able to hear yourself think, but as the story progresses, you find she's certainly been coherent enough to read lots of romance novels and buy fetish costumes and fantasize about being cuddled in them. Once she finds Maddox, the voices shut up, and so she belligerently latches onto him like a barnacle and he ends up dragging her home. His friends are pissed, he's pissed, the voice in his head, who you'd think would be featured more prominently, rants and makes lewd suggestions that sometimes include stabbing. So he talks with the voice in his head about how hard he's going to bang her, and then other times, about how much he loves just talking with her. "Talking". More like grunting single syllabic words while she whines. And then he decides she's the love of his life. She sort of does the same thing, but waffles between wanting to snuggle/jump him, and suddenly being overcome with extreme distrust for the man she insisted on following home and staying with, while offering zero explanation for her behavior. And everybody's got some kind of a middle school idea of "flirting" and they all have inferiority complexes. "Why are you following me?" "I like you." "No, you don't." "But I like you?" "You could never like me. Nobody could ever like me." [lots of thinking about how other character said they like them, but must be lying and it can't be true].
Story wise, there's no real reason why (a common theme), in the middle of Budapest, the one batshit crazy American chick stumbling around in the backyard is suddenly "the one" after x thousand years. Maybe it's because she's attached herself to him like a growth. The voice in Maddox's head eventually flips a switch and starts liking her. The story kind of gets fuzzy after that. Reading was starting to feel like a punishment so I started skimming.
The "talking" scenes have a lot of Caveman Kirk grunting out semi sentences and demands. Eventually you forget what the hell they were talking about, since following any question, there are about 3 pages of purple prose introspection. Then Ashlyn contemplates the shamefulness of sex, but gosh darnit, really wanting that cuddle, so propriety be darned, she's going to go for it. Whenever it is she stops talking to herself about her virginity.
So I tried reading The Darkest Fire to check my sarcasm. Unfortunately, it sounded like mostly the same story, even up to [SPOILER] the ending where the chick repeats about 5 times, while staring soulfully into her mate's eyes, "I love you". While being disemboweled/cut in half.
Overall, I wanted to light myself on fire by the end of the book (or like, 25% of the way in.). The characters were 2 dimensional, the story and dialogue (dialogue? What dialogue?) were lazy, there was zero chemistry between any of the characters (even though all these guys have been living in the same house for the last x thousand years. And yes, like siblings, sometimes you want to kill each other, but you still have deep human relationships with them.). The hot scenes were mediocre at best (tepid like day old coffee). And the heroine made me roll my eyes with how ridiculous she was. I'm absolutely in the minority, so take my word for what you will! But if you need some basic plot integrity (or logic) to suspend disbelief (or a heroine with a freaking spine), maybe keep looking.
Based on the premise of this series, I was really looking forward to diving right in and getting started with this first entry. Unfortunately, the delivery doesn't in any way live up to the expectations I had.
We are introduced to all five of the lords of the underworld. They all, of course, have major issues. None of them have mates, yet they have existed for thousands of years. So, I get that an immortal creature's one true soul mate might take quite a while to finally come into his life, but it does seem a bit far-fetched that ALL five of them are in this predicament. Anyhoo, they all live together in a gothic-themed castle in Budapest. What purpose they actually serve is a bit unclear, but each of the lords was cursed with a demon that lives inside them. In this book, the H is Maddox and his demon is Violence.
Maddox, while certainly hot enough, was difficult to get to know. Ashlyn, the h and his destined mate, was freaking annoying beyond words. She was an American who works for a paranormal studies institute and was in Budapest with a group of her coworkers. She hears about the demons/angels that live in the castle on top of a mountain and just decides, hey, why don't I trek up there one day to see if they can help get the voices out of my head? Yeah. Ashlyn hears voices of departed souls as well as living people who have been in the areas that she visits. Everywhere she goes, the girl hears voices of people who were there before her.
Miraculously, as soon as Ashlyn meets Maddox out in the woods near the castle, the voices go away. This causes her to latch onto Maddox like a flipping leech. She chases after him, refusing to go away (annoying) and he, for some reason, feels drawn to her. Why, I have absolutely no idea. Their whole relationship just didn't click for me. I didn't buy into it at all.
The writing in this book really irritated me. Scene after scene, we get these long, drawn out conversations that never go anywhere. For example, Maddox would ask Ashlyn something simple (like, what's your name) and there would be two or three paragraphs of narrative between his simple question and her (finally) giving some lame response. She would stand around in a stupor rhapsodizing about one inane thing or another before answering a simple question. It drove me bananas.
By the time I got to about the 25% point, I felt a migraine coming on and I just had to stop. Why torture myself? I read fiction for an enjoyable escape from the realities of life, not to be irritated, annoyed, and generally miserable. I will definitely not be venturing further into this series.
Now, I need some Advil and a hot stone massage.
There was no suspense and that to me is a telltale sign that I’ll be hanging the series up. Make no mistake, there was character development - although I must say it was placed after many of the heady convictions which made me pause. Showalter was not daft in her writing: she made it clear that this is an instant-love type of story, the feelings evoked are massive, dizzying and quite frankly unbelievable! But that’s the story she wanted to tell and I appreciate that. If you like flowery romances with a hint of mystery, spiced with some imaginative concepts, then this series is for you.
Top reviews from other countries
It all starts when Ashlyn travels to Hungary on business and she hears about the fortress on a hill housing angels. You see, Ashlyn hears conversations. Yeah, good for her.. but, no. She goes to a place and she can hear every conversation that has taken place in that very spot (be it room, street, etc) that has taken place there. Gift or a curse? Anyway, it’s those voices Ashlyn hears that in majority label the lords in the fortress as angels as they have done a lot of good for the town. However, some don’t agree. Some call them demons. And in a way, they’re right- that’s the “darkness within” bit.
Ashlyn has tried to find a solution to her hearing abilities because it has messed up many things in her life- relationships, childhood, and you can only imagine the information overload she receives! However, her ability also landed her a job with an Institute that investigates and deals with the paranormal.
Now, she wants to meet those angels/demons to see if they can help her control her ability and enjoy a bit of the quiet life. What and who she meets though? She meets Maddox! ta-daa!
Maddox is a “warrior” from the times of Greek gods. His curse is to live in bloody ‘harmony’ with the Violence demon. Because of something he did. Something bad. To the whole world! Anyway, this curse sees him dying every.single.day (night). A death bloody and violent, and when he dies he also spends the night in Hell, burning. Until come morning and bingo-bango, he’s pretty much fresh as a daisy.
I found out so much about the backstory and characters themselves without it feeling like an obligatory “Hello, this is example 1 and he looks like zyx, and he does xyz”.. it was all just so bloody (pun!) seamless and nicely woven into the storyline, every snippet of need-to-know information delivered at just the right moments.
Even though our male characters have their own demons to fight (quite literally), they are not evil at their core. Oh! Did I mention they are immortal? Well, unless you get to chop their head off, but other than that- yep, totes immortal! And each of them with their unique curse to carry. I swear, this was so entertaining. Even though Ashlyn did piss me off at times because when she was asked a question she hardly ever answered! grrrr!
Anyway, to sum up- there’s a decent plot here. Once Ashlyn and Maddox meet, there’s a more at stake. People get hunted, kidnapped and flown on a warrior’s wings to fetch a purse with painkillers. Quite neat! Truly! Handsome (I expect to various levels to meet everyone’s taste) males and females and some paranormal shebang. There’s the cruelty and chasing and killing… but also kindness…good guys v bad guys v good guys who might not be good or bad… You get the gist… and then there’s the love!
This is as good a time as any to go back to the shebang… let’s address the bang part of it. There’s sex in this book, peeps. On-the-bed-sex, in-the-shower-sex and against-the-wall-sex. So, three instances of sex which is totally manageable and doesn’t overshadow the whole main idea of this book/series… I hope it stays this way throughout because, you know, exhausted and headaches!
All in all… I truly enjoyed this series. It fits the bill for me with plenty of action and drama, a bit of spine-tingling love and some pretty good dialogue which in places had me chuckling.
If you’re into the paranormal romance thing at all- don’t miss this. This one blows Twilight’s Edward&Bella jam out of the park, folks.
I found Ms Showalter's writing style very easy to read; she captivated my imagination with her world building, the complexity of her characters and the balance of violence, humour, passion and romance.
I knew that these demon possessed warriors were men I could get behind when they battled internally with the "evil"; fighting the urges, feeling guilt, regret and shame for their less than angelic actions.
But it wasn't just the alpha warriors that keep me hooked, the female characters are written with plenty of gumption and intelligence.
This book is cliffhanger free (woohoo!) regarding our romantic main couple, however the background story arc is definitely not over and we are left with a myriad of questions and mysteries to solve in the subsequent books as well as other demons to tame. ;-)
DNF at 41%.
I really tried because the writing was actually pretty good - the story telling left much to be desired. If there was a plot to this book, I couldn't find it. Characterisations were ugh; I literally hated every single character in the book. This whole macho 'me alpha male, you puny female sex machine,' and the insta!lust "mineminemine" mentality made me want to gag. The women tried so hard to be that 'strong female' character that we all love in books, but just came across as brain-dead idiots. I could feel my blood-pressure rising as I read.
Not my cup of tea.
Based in modern times it brings the story to a medieval castle in Budapest. Basically, it is an unusual romance between damned warrior Maddox, and Ashlyn a young woman with paranormal abilities who is being used unwittingly to find the warriors.
I liked the conflict, then the mistrust that alters to lust then love between the main characters, and the inbuilt demon of violence as an internal antagonist within the protagonist is an unusual concept.
I found myself becoming accustomed to the names of the first set of warriors introduced at the start of the story and their demon/punishments they are responsible for, as in death, lust etc. However, Gena, introduces a second set of new warriors two thirds of the way through the story and there were suddenly so many it became confusing for a while. I can imagine this being off putting for some readers.
Yes, I will read the next and maybe more as this seems to be turning into a quest series where each of the Warriors will have a story to tell, and maybe a romance. The romantic scenes are tastefully erotic. I hope that by the end of the next story I will be accustomed to the many characters.
The novel is generally well written, though a few typos, which shouldn't really be found in a book published by such a major company. Overall I give it four stars.