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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Larissa Ione: LORDS OF DELIVERANCE


Author:  Larissa Ione
Series:  LORDS OF DELIVERANCE 
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Publisher and Titles: Grand Central
         Eternal Rider (4/2011)     
         Immortal Rider (11/2011) 
         Lethal Rider (5/2012)  
         Rogue Rider (11/2012) 
         Reaver (12/2013) 
         "Azagoth" (part of the 1001 Dark Nights project)(novella, 6/2014)
         Revenant (12/2014)
         Apocalypse: Lords of Deliverance Compendium (nonfiction e-book, 5/2012)      

     This post was revised and updated on 6/26/14 to include a review of  the novella, "Azagoth." That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first five novels.   

             NOVELLA:  "Azagoth"               
     Although Ione has labeled this a DEMONICA novella, I'm putting it in my LORDS OF DELIVERANCE post because it is so closely tied to the events and characters in this series. The novella is available in both electronic and paperback formats. "Azagoth" is part of the 1001 DARK NIGHTS series of novellas being published by well-known authors. Click HERE for more information about that series.

     Azagoth, who was once the angel known as Azrael, is the creator and ruler of Sheoul-gra, a unique realm designed specifically as a holding tank for demon souls. Azagoth is feared and despised by most angels, who call him the forgotten one, the collector of souls, or the Grim Reaper. He has the power to annihilate souls, and he deals with demons every day, including Hades and Satan, so he's a pretty scary dude. For thousands of years, he has also been tasked by Heaven to be the sperm donor for the Memitim race. Here is a description of the Memitim from Ione's glossary at the beginning of the novella: "Earthbound angels assigned to protect important humans called Primori. Memitim remain earthbound until they complete their duties, at which time they Ascend, earning their wings and entry into Heaven." As this story opens, Azagoth gives Heaven an ultimatum: stop sending him angels to breed with, and instead, send him a willing mate. When a Heavenly messenger threatens to have Azagoth killed if he tries to quit, he tells her that if he dies, he has built in a safeguard that will allow all demon souls to be released from Sheoul-gra. Reluctantly, the angels agree to find him a mate.

     That "willing mate" is Lilliana, a relatively young angel whom we have met previously in this series when she had dealings with Reaver. The arrogant Raphael calls Lilliana into his Heavenly office and gives her two choices: either become Azagoth's mate or have her angelic ability (time traveling) stripped away and spend eternity doing menial labor. Raphael also offers her a nefarious deal on the side. If she steals Azagoth's two-way chronoglass and brings it to Raphael within 30 days, he just might forgive all of her transgressions. Those transgressions include violating a time-travel rule after she was taken prisoner by an angel who tortured her and forced her to travel into the past to search for a holy object that he intended to use against another angel. When angels time travel, they must stay within an impenetrable bubble called a shrowd, which keeps them invisible and prevents them from interacting with anyone outside the shrowd. In desperation, Lilliana broke out of the shrowd in hopes that when the alarm was raised, the angels who answered it would rescue her. Instead, they punished her and refused to listen to her explanation.

     The relationship between Azagoth and Lilliana begins on a hostile note but soon develops into a lustful one. Azagoth has not left Sheoul-gra for thousands of years, so when Lilliana takes him on a few one-hour time travels, he feels emotions for the first time since he left Heaven. This has a number of effects on him and on Sheoul-gra. Namely, it amps up his lustful feelings for Lilliana and results in positive changes in the landscape of Sheoul-gra. The two have several graphic love scenes, in one of which a spanking bench is a prominent feature. Unfortunately, Lilliana's side deal with Raphael about stealing the chronograph rears its ugly head just when the couple seems to be getting along fine, and their romantic situation gets very dark for awhile. But never fear, this is a paranormal romance, and that means that the couple gets their HEA by the time the story ends.

     The romance has high levels of angst because both Azagoth and Lilliana have led lives filled with darkness and tragedy. Luckily this is a novella, so the plot is not overloaded with lengthy, anguished interior monologues. The two do have a few of those, but just enough so that we get their entire sad back stories. Lilliana does have one major TSTL moment when she succumbs to jealousy and does some severe damage to Azagoth's life, but she manages to redeem herself.

     This novella is important to the series because it provides answers to several questions: What is Azagoth's connection to Lilith? How did Lilith become so powerful? What is Azagoth's connection to Reaver and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? It also serves as a follow-up on Lilliana, who until now was just an anonymous angel who risked angelic punishment to help Reaver. Click HERE to read an excerpt on the amazon.com page for this novella. Just click on the cover art at top left on that page.  

             WORLD-BUILDING             
     This series is an follow-up to Ione's DEMONICA series and begins immediately after the fifth novel in that series: Sin Undone. Click HERE to read an overview of the mythology and reviews of the books in the DEMONICA series. Here are the titles of those books: 

          > Pleasure Unbound (2008)
          > Desire Unchained (2009)
          > Passion Unleashed (2009)
          > Ecstasy Unveiled (2010)
          > Sin Undone (2010)

     To summarize: The DEMONICA series follows the adventures of a group of demon brothers as they fight for the good of the world and find their soul mates along the way. The brothers run the Underworld General Hospital (UGH) beneath the streets of New York City to care for members of the supernatural world, particularly demons—who come in dozens of colors, shapes, sizes, personalities, and violence levels. The series follows the havoc created by the bad-seed brother, whose actions eventually lead to an Armageddon-like battle between good and evil. Characters include human demon slayers, fallen angels, vampires, and demons. Each book begins with a glossary of demonic terms, and Passion Unleashed (DEMONICA, book 3) ends with a forty-page addendum titled “Demonica: A Demon Compendium,” which describes in detail the types of demons, the hospital, and the key players in the DEMONICA world, and ends with a short-story prequel. The books should be read in sequence, but the reader may wish to read the “Demon Compendium” and the prequel first.

     The title characters in the LORDS OF DELIVERANCE series are the children of the succubus Lilith: three boys and a girl (Reseph, Ares, Thanatos, and Limos).  They were raised believing that they were human, but then learned of their demonic identities the hard way when the demons from Sheoul (the demon realm) killed their earthly families. In their war for revenge against those murderous demons, the four siblings managed to get most of the earth's human population killed, so they were punished by the heavenly realm. Each was given a Seal, and each Seal had two prophecies. If each sibling protects his or her Seal and keeps it from breaking until after the prophecy comes to pass, his or her soul, and the future of humankind, will be saved. If he or she allows the Seal  to break before the prophecy comes to pass, he or she will become evil and will be called by one of these names: Pestilence, War, Death, and Faminethe Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (in this case, three horsemen and one horsewoman).

Here are the happy couples in each book:
     Eternal Rider: Ares & Cara
     Immortal Rider: Arik & Limos
     Lethal Rider: Thanatos & Regan
     Rogue Rider: Reseph & Jillian
     Reaver: Reaver & Harvester 
     "Azagoth": Azagoth & Lilliana (novella)   

     On her web site, Ione includes some informative pages. Click HERE to read  Demonica Overkill: Snippets of Demonic Life, which consists of short stories to update readers on the lives of the DEMONICA characters, many of whom appear in LORDS OF DELIVERANCE as supporting characters. Click HERE for a link to an on-line version of the Demon Compendium—everything you ever wanted to know about Demons and DEMONICA.

             BOOK 1:  Eternal Rider             
     In the Prologue to Eternal Rider, Reseph's seal breaks, and he becomes evil-to-the-core Pestilencethe first of the Horsemenand the countdown to Armageddon begins. Pestilence's goal is to break each of his siblings' Seals, beginning with Ares, whom we first met in Sin Undone (book 5 of DEMONICA). According to the rules of this diabolical game, each sibling has an Agimortusa trigger that causes the Seal to break. The Agimortus for each  sibling is different, and it may take the form of a person, an object, or an event. For Ares the trigger is the death of the being who has Ares' Agimortus symbol branded on his or her body. As the story begins, Ares' Agimortus is on the body of a fallen angel, but just before Pestilence kills him, the fallen angel quickly transfers the brand to a human woman: Cara Thompson, a beautiful, but emotionally damaged, woman who has a magical talent that she has tried to suppress. The story follows Ares and Cara as they attempt to evade Pestilence and (of course) fall for each other along the way. We also meet the rest of Ares' family: Thanatos ("Than"), who believes that his Seal will break if he has intercourse, and Limos, who must remain a virgin or she will become the bride of Satanso now you know what the next two books will be about. Many of the leading characters from the DEMONICA SERIES show up, so if you haven't read that series, those parts of the story may be a bit confusing. I think, though, that you can understand the main points of the story without the DEMONICA background. After all, it follows the typical paranormal romance formula: meet, fall in lust, hate each other, have sex, like each other, have sex, achieve HEA, have more sex.

     The author gives us an appropriately evil villain in Pestilence, but we also get to see the fun-loving, good-brother guy that he was back before his Seal broke, when he was called Reseph—an interesting juxtaposition that gives depth to the character. The plot has the usual damsel-in-distress and angst-ridden hero/heroine moments, but the emotional chest-beating is not overwhelming, and the interplay among the siblings is both entertaining and poignant. The author includes a brief glossary of demonic terms at the beginning of the book. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Eternal Rider.


             BOOK 2:  Immortal Rider             
     In the second novel, Arik Wagner (a soldier with the U.S. Army's paranormal unit, the R-XR, and a DEMONICA SERIES regular) falls for Limos, and vice versa—with dangerous consequences for them and for the world at large. As the story opens, Arik steals a kiss from Limos and is immediately dragged off to Sheoul (the Demon realm) where he is subjected to endless mental, physical, and emotional torture. What Arik hadn't realized is the fact that Limos is the fiancée of Satan, promised to him since birth. She has worn his chastity belt for five thousand years, but has, so far, been able to put off the actual marriage. Part of her betrothal contract says that if any man speaks her name while he is in misery, the marriage will immediately take place. Limos manages to call out this crucial bit of information to Arik as he is being dragged away to Demon land, and Arik manages to stand up to the torture without saying her name. What a guy! The primary plot follows Limos and Arik's romance through its various ups and (mostly) downs. As it turns out, Limos gave in to her demon side in her earlier years and did some terrible things. She's been lying about this ever since, but now Pestilence forces her to tell the truth and reap the consequences. The search for Limos' Seal is also a big part of this story.

     A secondary plot involves Thanatos ("Than") and The Aegis (a society of human warriors dedicated to protecting the world from evil), with whom the Horsemen have had a rocky relationship over the centuries. The Aegis sends a young woman (Regan) to seduce Than with the goal of her becoming pregnant with his child. They have studied an ancient scroll (which unfortunately is a fake manufactured by Pestilence), and that scroll says that the child of Thanatos can stop the impending apocalypse. That story line is complicated by Pestilence's devious reasons for wanting Than to father a childall to be explained in the next book.

     A related story line involves Reaver and Harvester, the Angelic and Sheoulic Watchers who are assigned to keep an eye on the Four Horsemen. Watchers are supposed to follow a set of complicated rules as they observe the Horsemen's trials and tribulations. Naturally enough, both Reaver and Harvester walk a fine line between "legal" and "illegal" activities, and in this case, Harvester goes way over that line. 

     Both this series and the DEMONICA series have typically had extremely complex plot lines, and Immortal Rider is no exception. There are so many story lines, each with its own cast of characters and historical information, that the plot sometimes becomes uncomfortably dense. I didn't enjoy this book as much as I did the DEMONICA books. Pestilence is so dark and evil here that I could barely endure reading his scenes. The violence is so blood-soaked and stomach-turning that I found myself skipping over sentences and paragraphs of gory detail.

     This is definitely not the book you should read first. Once again, I suggest that you read the DEMONICA series before LORDS OF DELIVERANCE, but if I can't convince you of that, you should at least read Eternal Rider before reading this one. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Immortal Rider.


             BOOK 3:  Lethal Rider             
     The third novel picks up the love/hate story of Thanatos ("Than") and Regan eight months after Regan's betrayal and Than's resulting violence at the end of Immortal Rider. Regan is now in the final weeks of her pregnancy and has been living in seclusion at Aegis headquarters in Germany. Than has spent the past eight months paralyzed and heavily sedated by Limo and Ares in order to keep him under control after he went on a mindless killing spree after Regan betrayed him. Having intercourse with Regan did not break Than's seal after all. As it turns out, Than's Agimortus is actually the baby. If the baby dies, Than's seal breaks. As the story opens, Than escapes and is able to track Regan down because of his connection with his unborn child. He kidnaps Regan from Aegis and brings her to his estate, planning to punish her, or kill her, for what she did to him. When Than learns she plans to give the child away, he is even more enraged. This, on top of his months of imprisonment, nearly drives him over the edge. Regan loves Than, but she is sure that their relationship will never work out because of what she has done to him and because his rage has, in the past, driven him to kill innocents, including his closest friend and his father, so she fears for her life and the child's life.  

     In the meantime, Pestilence is up to some new and devious tricks. He is working on a plan to release thousands of demons, and he is turning the day-walkers against Than. In this book, we learn just what the mysterious relationship is between Than and the vampiresboth day-walkers and night-walkers. We also learn more information about the identity of the Horsemen's father. Mostly, the book follows the romance, as Than and Regan try to work through their distrust, anger, and hurt feelings and get back to the passion that we (and they) know is there. The climactic ending sets up the premise for Reseph's story, which will be told in book 4.

     Once again, Reseph is responsible for a lot of stomach-churning, sadistic violence, but Than, too, does his share of mindless killing. By the end of the story, several elements of the mythology are changed, particularly the vampire myth. The Aegis organization also undergoes some major alterations. The Harvester-Reaver story line that was emphasized in the previous book continues here with some unpleasant surprises for the Horsemen. 

     This is another solid addition to the series. Ione writes in such a natural manner, effortlessly juxtaposing sarcastically humorous conversations with scenes of blood-and-guts ferocity. The story line in this book is an integral part of the series story arc, so it definitely needs to be read in succession, not as a stand-alone. By this point, if you don't know the characters and their histories, you don't stand a chance of getting the full implications of the action. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Lethal Rider.


            BOOK 4:  Rogue Rider             
Book four is the long-awaited story of Reseph/Pestilence, the first of the Horsemen to have his seal broken—way back in the Prologue to Eternal Rider. From that point until the ending of book three, Pestilence murdered, raped, tortured, and otherwise brutalized millions of human and supernatural innocents—including members of his own family. In fact, the plots of the first three books all revolve around the efforts of the remaining three Horsemen to rein in their gone-to-the-dark-side brother, and as this book begins, they believe that they killed him at the end of the previous book.


     But Reseph is not dead. Reaver, one of the Horseman's "Watchers," has saved his life by wiping his memory and dumping him into the mortal world, specifically into a snowy forest in the mountains of Colorado. There, he is discovered—naked and unconscious—by the beautiful Jillian Cardiff, who has retreated to an isolated cabin to try to get her life back in order. At the height of Pestilence's demon battles that raged all through the first three books, Jill was attacked and badly injured by a demon, and she has never truly recovered emotionally from that assault. Although the worldwide demon attacks ended with Reseph's supposed death, Jillian is not convinced that the demons are gone. She believes that she can be safe only if she lives far from civilization.


     The romance part of the plot follows the growing attraction between Reseph and Jillian as Reseph falls in love for the first time in his 5,000-year life. As he begins to get flashes of his memory back, he worries that he is not the good guy that Jillian believes him to be. When his brothers and sister track him down, his memory fully returns, and all of Pestilence's horrific deeds come flooding back into his mind, causing a major mental breakdown. Jillian must decide whether she can accept Reseph as he is—with his dark side still somehow intact—or whether she will turn her back on him forever. In turn, Reseph is torn between his great love for Jillian and the knowledge that Pestilence may emerge and hurt Jillian, not to mention the fact that he cannot forgive himself for all the harm Pestilence has inflicted.


     The action part of the plot follows the machinations of the Aegis and the demon world when they learn that Reseph is still alive and that Pestilence still lives deep within his mind. Aegis wants to kill him (and his fellow Horsemen), while some in the demon world want to revive Pestilence while others want to drag him to Sheoul and torture him for eternity.


     In a separate, but related, story thread, Reaver and Harvester continue their conflicted relationship. In the course of events, Reaver learns some shocking information about events in his life that took place before his memory was wiped, and Harvester takes actions that lead to devastating consequences for herself. The next book will resolve their relationship. 



     This story is just as anguished and tortured as you would expect. How can Reseph live with himself as he remembers the horrible things he did while he was Pestilence? How can his family members forgive him for what he has put them through? Will he ever find love and redemption? As Reseph muses to himself in a bit of an understatement, "Tormenting your family and killing millions of people wasn't an easy thing to put behind you." (p. 309) Of course, all of those questions are answered in this book, and in a very satisfying manner. This continues to be a strong paranormal romance series in which the series story arc is cleverly contrived and is just as important as the romance. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Rogue Rider.  

             BOOK 5:  Reaver               
     In this novel, we finally get the backstory for Reaver (aka Yenrieth) and Harvester (aka Verrine), along with some shocking information about Raphael the archangel and Revenant, the new Sheoulic Watcher. As the story opens, Harvester has been captured by her father, Satan, and is being tortured mercilessly. The traitorous Gethel is currently pregnant with Lucifer in a bizarre case of rebirth (because Lucifer was killed in a previous book). In the two main story lines, Reaver sets off to rescue Harvester, and Raphael and the archangels plan to subvert Gethel's pregnancy in a horribly cruel manner. I can't provide many plot details because there are so many twists, turns, and shocking surprisesall of which would be spoilers. I will say, though, that Raphael shows his true colors in this novel and that he receives all that is due him.

     The romancewhich is, of course, the primary story linemoves along just as unsteadily and roughly as you would imagine. Remember: Both Reaver and Harvester have had parts of their memories wiped away, so all of their feelings for one another have been built on emotional instinctand that emotion has mostly been hate. As it turns out, both Reaver and Harvester have done things to hurt the other, but they have also had a period of time during which they loved one another. After Reaver rescues Harvester from her hellish torture, they spend the rest of the book trying to escape from a wide variety of enemies, both demonic and angelic. Their lengthy and dangerous dash for freedom is over-stuffed with repetitive scenes of demon attacks, some of which could have been omitted, but the two fugitives eventually begin to bare their souls (and body parts) to one another, and their memories start to come back.


     One scene that demonstrates the author's clever manipulation of her mythology takes place in a marketplace in Persephone's Playgrounda place in which demons with inner-goodness tendencies can meet up with others having the same problem. Harvester explains it to Reaver: "You know how, in the human realm, there are places where evil gathers to see blood spilled at dog fights or to sell human children? Well, in Sheoul there are places where non-evil people can meet with their own kind and not be judged….Just like a Christian white-bread male might fall to temptation and sneak out for a night of drinking and debauchery, people [here]…sometimes get the urge to be rebels and visit the other side of the tracks now and then. The good side." (p. 215)


     Except for the overdone demon attacks, this is a great, complex story that provides many, many "Aha" moments as we learn the causes and effects of past events, some that have been delineated in previous books and some that are all new to usbut are part of the characters' history. If you are a fan of the series, this book is a must-read. If you are new to the series, this is not a good place to start. 


     I thought that this was going to be the final book in the series, but it seems that there is at least one, and probably two, more couples whose love stories must be told. The next novel will follow the romance that develops between Revenant, the newest Sheoulic Watcher, and Blaspheme, a doctor at Eidolon's Underworld General Hospital who is masquerading as a False Angel. And I'm guessing that we'll also be getting Tavin's story. In Reaver, Tavin, a Seminus demon, is one of three assassins who accompany Reaver on his rescue mission to Sheoul. Unfortunately for Tavin, his life is forever changed after Reaver heals the grievous injuries he suffers during one of the demon battles. This series just keeps getting better and better.


The author includes a brief glossary of demonic terms at the beginning of the book. Click HERE to read the Prologue from Reaver.

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