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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Alexandra Ivy: GUARDIANS OF ETERNITY

Author:  Alexandra Ivy (aka Debbie Raleigh)
Series:  GUARDIANS OF ETERNITY
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor3
Publisher and Titles:  Zebra
    NOVELS:
        When Darkness Comes (2007)
         Embrace the Darkness (2007)
         Darkness Everlasting (2008)
         Darkness Revealed (2009)
         Darkness Unleashed (2009)
         Beyond the Darkness (2010)
         Devoured by Darkness (2010)
         Bound by Darkness (2011)
         Fear the Darkness (2012)
         Darkness Avenged (2013)
         Hunt the Darkness (5/2014)

    NOVELLAS (Click on an anthology  title below to go to my review.)
         "Taken by Darkness" in Yours for Eternity (2010)
         "Darkness Eternal" in Supernatural (2011)
         "Where Darkness Lives" in The Real Werewives of Vampire County (2011)
         "Levet" (bonus novella included in Darkness Avenged)  

     This post was revised and updated on 6/24/14 to include a review of Hunt the Darkness, the 11th novel in this series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of novels 7 through 10.  

          NOVEL 11:  Hunt the Darkness          
     Recap: In Darkness Avenged, the witch Sally Grant was captured by the vampires after assisting the Dark Lord while under the mistaken impression that she was doing something good. Although the vamps know that Sally isn't really evil, vamps don't like witches and they definitely don't trust Sally. Styx didn't know what to do with Sally, so he put in in his dungeon and left Roke, the Nevada clan chief, to guard her. After a first meeting full of insults and sarcasm, Sally threw some magic at Roke and accidentally caused the mating marks to appear on both of them. At the end of Darkness Avenged, Sally escaped with the help of Yannah, the teleporting demon who is the love of Levet's life.

     As Hunt the Darkness begins, Roke takes off on his big, bad motorcycle to track down Sally, who is searching for her demon father because he is the only one who can break the mating spell. Roke and Levet find her on the east coast of Canada, searching one of her late mother's safe houses, where she has found a magical box. As they are leaving that house, they are attacked by Brandel, a demon who wants the box for himself. Then, after they manage to fend off the demon and find a new place to hide, groups of fey begin to follow them and leave them gifts. When Levet arrives back on the scene, he suggests that they head back to Chicago to meet with an imp who may know something about the mating spell, but before they get there, Brandel attacks again, nearly killing Roke with a poison especially created to take down vamps. Another imp saves Roke's life by teleporting the couple to Roke's clan home in Nevada, where several of his clan members chain him up to keep him away the Sally, whom they believe has bespelled Roke. They lock Sally in a dungeon and torture her because they believe that she knows how to break the spell.

     In a separate, but related, story line, Brandel and Raith (another demon) are collaborating on an elaborate scheme that involves kidnapping fey and draining the life force from each one. Brandel's fellow conspirator happens to be holding a prisoner who has a connection with Sally.

     Eventually, of course, the two story lines collide in the requisite showdown at the end of the story. At that point, Sally discovers major news about her true genetic heritage and the happy couple goes off to their HEA, just as you knew they would. In one of the final scenes, Cyn, Roke's womanizing friend, meets his true love, Fallon, a lovely fey woman. Although the book doesn't specify that Cyn and Fallon are mates, why else would she turn up in the plot and turn to Cyn to help her escape to mortal earth?

     I have to say this this book didn't hold my attention like the previous ones, perhaps because the major story arc involving the Dark Lord is complete, and it seems as if the author is just mopping up a few loose ends. Sally and Roke are certainly as anguished as any other paranormal romance pair, but their characters are flat and lacking in charisma. Sally has that annoying trait of feeling one thing and voicing just the opposite whenever she has a conversation with Roke. Then she gets upset when he listens and reacts to what she says rather than being able to read her mind and figure out how she really feels. At one point, she actually says to Roke, "You're not the boss of me." (p. 261) This type of adolescent behavior gets annoying very quickly. Click HERE to go to the Hunt the Darkness page on amazon.com and read an excerpt by clicking on the cover art at at the top left of that page.

          WORLD-BUILDING          
     If you haven’t been reading this series, here’s a synopsis: The series follows members of a Chicago vampire clan through the soul-mate process. The heroes are all tall, strong, handsome, and very alpha; the heroines are all gorgeous, smart, and ultra feisty. In the author’s words: “I love a kick-ass heroine.”

     In the early books, the heroes are vampires, generally the clan leaders. Later books include werewolves as heroes (and villains). The author provides short biographies of her heroes on her web site. Heroines, especially in the early books, seem at first to be human, but each actually has a different supernatural talent. Plots center around various violent acts against the soul mates (e.g., an evil spell cast by wicked witches, attempted murders and kidnappings by various evil vamps and shifters).

     One plot line that runs through several later books is the werewolves’ search for four purebred female siblings who were stolen from their nursery twenty years ago, with each sister becoming the heroine of one of the books. Levet, a pint-sized French gargoyle, provides comic relief. 

     In Devoured by Darkness, we get the beginnings of several more romantic stories; even Levet may have found love. Bound by Darkness will tell the SMR story of two characters we first meet in Devoured by Darkness: Jaelyn, a highly skilled, but very lonely, vampire Hunter, and Ariyal, a dangerous Sylvermyst (Fae) soldier who has become alienated from his people. In the later books, the action draws us closer and closer to an apocalyptic battle between good and evil. 

     Click HERE to read brief biographies of the Guardians. Alexandra Ivy also writes historical romances under the name of Deborah Raleigh.

                    THE HAPPY COUPLES                    
               >  When Darkness Comes: Dante & Abby
               >  Embrace the Darkness: Viper & Shay
               >  Darkness Everlasting: Styx & Darcy 
               >  Darkness Revealed: Cezar & Anna 
               >  Darkness Unleashed: Jagr & Regan 
               >  Beyond the Darkness: Salvatore & Harley 
               >  Devoured by Darkness: Tane & Laylah
               >  Bound by Darkness: Ariyal & Jaelyn
               >  Fear the Darkness: Caine & Cassandra
               >  "Taken by Darkness": Victor & Juliet
               >  "Darkness Eternal": Uriel & Kata
               >  "Where Darkness Lives": Luc & Sophia
                >  Darkness Avenged: Santiago & Nefri
                >  Hunt the Darkness: Roke & Sally    
                >  TBA: Cyn & Fallon        
                >  TBA: Levet & Yannah            

          NOVEL 7: Devoured by Darkness          
     The seventh book in the series follows a classic soul-mate recipe: Take one beautiful, immortal young woman and one sexy vampire, both of whom have lived long, lonely lives and don’t believe in love.  Mix them together, add one or two evil villains, and follow the happy couple down the romantic, if rocky, road to their happy ending. In this book, we follow Tane, the Charon (assassin) for his clan, and Laylah, a hybrid witch-Jinn, who has been rejected and emotionally battered by just about everybody. The evil villainess is Marika, Laylah’s power-hungry vampire aunt, who views Laylah as the key to world domination.

        NOVEL 8: Bound by Darkness        
     This book tells the story of the Sylvermyst prince, Ariyal, and the vampire Hunter, Jaelyn. When we last saw the couple in a previous book, Jaelyn captured Ariyal, but then he escaped and captured her. He now has her chained up in the ruins of Morgana Le Fey's former pleasure/torture palace on the island of Avalon. This plot is one more piece of the story arc that revolves around attempts by some bad guys to bring back the Dark Lord from the Underworld. 

     Most of the story revolves around the romance between Ariyal and Jaelyn, as they try hard to hate each other while being driven mad with desire for one anothers bodies. Soon enough, of course, they succumb to their passions and begin their bumpy ride to their inevitable HEA. In the meantime, they must contend with Sergei, the evil mage from past books; Rafael, the wizardly spirit of the villain Dane killed in an earlier book; and a new villain from beyond the Veil. Their goal is to rescue the baby girl who is the key to the ascension of the Dark Lord.

     We also get the beginnings another romance: Santiago, Styx's best tracker, and Nefri, an Immortal Onea vampire who left the world centuries ago to create a clan within another dimension. Meanwhile, Cassandra and Caine are MIA for this entire book. They are still in the hands of the bad guys, but their full story comes in the next book.

     This is another typical (really, stereotypical) episode in the series, with its impossibly handsome hero and over-the-top spunky heroine and its instantaneous love-at-first-sight-forever romance. It follows the usual pattern with its frequent graphic sex scenes alternating with action scenes in which Ariyal and Jaelyn are constantly in jeopardy, but always escape just in the nick of time. This is an above average genre series, so if you love basic paranormal romance, you'll probably like this one.   

          NOVEL 9: Fear the Darkness          

     The plot of the ninth book is set deeply into the ongoing story arc involving the Dark Lord and his/her attempt to achieve ultimate power by reuniting two magical babies. At the center of this episode of the story are Cassandra, who is the prophetess sister of Harley, Regan, and Darcy, and Caine, the werewolf who rescued Cassandra from her long-term captivity by the demon lords in a previous book. Both the good guys and the bad guys want Cassandra and her prophecies, so as the story begins, the couple is on the runand also falling in love. Their love story isn't quite as angst-filled as some have been in previous books, but there is still enough anguish to fill up a slew of dramatic interior monologues and passionate love scenes. 

     The action part of the plot follows various attempts to capture Caine and Cassandra. These attacks are orchestrated by Gaius, a minion of the Dark Lord who sold his soul in exchange for a promise to bring his dead wife back to life. (To review, Gaius is Santiago's father, and we saw his fall from grace in a previous book.) The Dark Lord has two goals in this book: to hear Cassandra's prophecies and to capture the remaining baby so that he/she can destroy the barriers between dimensions and return to mortal earth, bringing world-ending chaos around the globe. As one character says, "Hell would quite literally spew into the streets." (p. 187) Meanwhile, the rest of the good guys (i.e., Salvatore, Styx, and their warriors) attempt to keep up with the action.

     As the story builds up to its requisite climactic battle scene, the reader might think that this is the final book in the series, but keep reading a few more pages and you'll see that this is only an anti-climaxthat there's much more to come. Levet, the little gargoyle, plays an important role in the demonic battle, and it's obvious that his participation changes his life foreverbut the exact consequences aren't revealed to the reader in this book. This story line is so intricately tied to past events that a new reader would have a tough time understanding what's going on. I've read all of the books, and I still had to stop at some points to try to remember the histories of various characters who show up from time to time. If you've enjoyed the humor and sardonic verbal jousting of earlier books, you'll be disappointed with this one, because there's not much to smile about in this story. The series has been getting darker and darker as the Dark Lord's story arc moves along, and this is the darkest one yet.    

          NOVEL 10:  Darkness Avenged          
     The Dark Lord has been destroyed, so you'd think that the Guardians would have some peace at last, but no, that's not the case. When Sally (the witch who was helping Gaius and the Dark Lord) comes to Styx with the improbable story that Gaius is still alive, he sends Santiago to investigate. Styx believes that because Gaius is Santiago's sire, he will be able to track him through their bond. Sally insists that Gaius appears to be mentally damaged and seems to be protecting someone or something. Meanwhile, the Commission sends Nefri to Earth to find a mysterious being/spirit/power that has escaped from beyond the Veil and must be captured. Nefri is told that this "power" has taken up residence in Gaius' medallion, so she, too, must hunt down Gaius and get some answers.

     To review the Santiago/Nefri relationship, Nefri is the gorgeous, peace-loving vampire who heads the clan that exists beyond the Veil. Previously, Gaius joined her clan under false pretenses and used his presence beyond the Veil to help the Dark Lord in his attempt to return to Earth. During that episode, Nefri and Santiago fell in lust in Bound by Darkness, but then Nefri returned to her clan without even saying good-by to Santiago. Both are miserably lonely, but while Nefri is fighting the attraction between them, Santiago is fanning the fires.

     When the two meet up at Gaius' hide-out in Louisiana, their passion bursts into flame once more, so they hook up for some romance and team up to track down Gaius and his mysterious companion. To Santiago's disgust, they are accompanied by Levet, the miniature gargoyle who has provided comic relief throughout the series and who rose to hero status during the battle with the Dark Lord. As the trio follows Gaius north to his new hideout in Wisconsin, they bicker amongst themselves and encounter a few adventures along the way. The real action occurs when they confront Gaius, who gives them some new and shocking information and then puts Nefri in extreme danger.

     Back at Styx's mansion, Roke is assigned to guard Sally, who has been placed in a warded, magic-dampening prison cell in Styx's dungeon. The warrior and the witch fall in lust almost immediately, although both try to deny it. Sally plays an integral part in the Gaius plot line because of her genetic heritage, which she has kept hidden from everyone but now must reveal. The Roke/Sally relationship is the crux of the cliffhanger that ends the book.

     This is another of Ivy's well-developed plots that extends the series story arc another step. Santiago and Nefri have always been complex characters, with suitably tragic histories and colorful personalities and it's great to watch them get their HEA. The next book will no doubt follow Roke and Sally to their own inevitable happy ending, and I'm looking forward to that one.  

          BONUS NOVELLA:  "Levet"          
     At the end of Darkness Avenged, Ivy has included a bonus novella starring the courageous little gargoyle. In "Levet," he visits Paris, the city of his birth, after having been banished years before by his mother, the doyenne. Levet's family hates him with a passion because he is so different from them—much smaller and lacking their fiery powers. This time, however, Levet settles things once and for all. He also makes friends with a vampire and a nymph who are having some relationship problems. By the end of the story, all of the good guys get a happy ending. I was hoping that this would be the play-out of Levet's love story (with Yannah), but that will have to wait for another time.

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