Monday, October 17, 2011

REVIEW: "The Darkest Surrender" by Gena Showalter

TITLE: The Darkest Surrender
AUTHOR: Gena Showalter
SERIES: Lords of the Underworld #8
PUBLISHER: Harlequin
PUBLICATION DATE: September 2011
GENRE: Paranormal Romance
READ DATE: October 2011
SOURCE: Bought-Book Depository
SUMMARY: Possessed by the demon of Defeat, Strider cannot lose a challenge without suffering unimaginable pain. For him, nothing stands in the way of victory. Until Kaia, an enchanting Harpy, tempts him to the razor's edge of surrender.
Known among her people as The Disappointment, Kaia must bring home the gold in the Harpy Games or die. Strider is a distraction she can't afford because he has an agenda of his own-steal first prize, an ancient godly artifact, before the winner can be named. But as the competition heats up, only one prize will matter-the love neither had thought possible...

MY THOUGHTS:

Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series tells the tale of ancient warriors possessed by the demons that escaped from Pandora's box or dimOuniak.  These warriors were jealous of the fact that Pandora was chosen to guard the dimOuniak so they worked together to seduce Pandora, steal the artifact, and release the demons upon the Earth.  The Greek gods punished them by cursing them to act as hosts of the demons in order to prevent them from causing chaos.  Each of these warriors must deal with the idiosyncrasies of their demons which vary from demon to demon. 

I have read every installment of Showalter's series and, while I have enjoyed some books better than others, I have found this to be one of the most creative and improved paranormal romance series out there right now.  Tortured heroes are one of my favorite reading tropes so the prospect of warriors cursed with demons is right up my alley.  The Darkest Surrender is the eighth book in the series (not including the various side-novellas) and it is one of my favorites.  I loved almost everything about this book from the sexy yet vulnerable hero, the fiery but not annoying heroine, and the fast-paced plot.  

The hero of The Darkest Surrender is Strider who is possessed by the demon Defeat.  Strider's main curse is that he must win every challenge that is brought upon him or he will suffer from unbearable pain.  This has forced Strider, who was always impulsively competitive, to find the balance between aggression and restraint in order to prevent his demon from accepting challenges right and left.  This need to win has affected Strider's love life as well.  His demon makes it difficult for him to be in a relationship without worrying about being the woman's best lover or whatever.  But, these difficulties have definitely not lessened Strider's self-esteem.  He is extremely proud and confident in his looks, his fighting skills, and his bedroom prowess.

Strider is probably the sexiest warrior that Showalter has focused on in this series.  Please note, though, that this is before Paris, keeper of the demon Promiscuity, receives his book.  His confidence could have come across as arrogance, but it works for the situation he is in.  His pride is not overwhelming to the point of being annoying and allows him to be the perfect match for his heroine.

Kaia Skyhawk, the female protagonist, is half-Harpy, half-Phoenix and is an older sister of Gwen Skyhawk, wife of Strider's leader Sabin and twin of Bianka Skyhawk, wife of the warrior angel Lysander.  Due to an unfortunate incident in her adolescence, Kaia earned the moniker The Disappointment among the Harpies and has been the target of bullying and retaliation since.  Despite her traumatic past, Kaia is a vibrant heroine who has self-esteem issues, but rarely lets them affect her lifestyle.  Her loyalty to her friends and family is unwavering and she spends much of her time improving her fighting skills in order to protect the ones she cares about.  

Kaia is one of my favorite heroines that Showalter has written.  It is very difficult for authors to write feisty heroines without having them delve into the TSTL camp or the annoyingly angry camp.  Kaia is definitely none of those things.  She knows what she wants and goes after it without getting too far above her head.  She strives to prove her prowess to her family and her fellow Harpies, but ultimately figures out that she only needs to accept herself to be happy.  

Strider and Kaia have a vivacious and challenging relationship.  Strider's need to win could have clashed horribly with Kaia's competitive drive, but they build each other up through their altercations.  Kaia needs a consort who can keep up with her physically and not feel threatened by her.  Strider, on the other hand, needs a heroine who is not cowered by his strength and win at all costs attitude.  These two characters are very similar, in interesting ways, and supply the other with exactly what they need.  Their romance is sexy and vibrant and full of interest for readers.

I also enjoyed all the side characters in Showalter's world.  While the main story of The Darkest Surrender is focused on Strider and Kaia, readers are still provided information about other key players.  Specifically, in this book, Showalter concentrates on Kane, keeper of Disaster, and Paris, keeper of Promiscuity.  Paris's book is the next one to be published so readers are shown quite a few scenes of his journey to find Sienna, his lost love.  Kane is a warrior that has not been concentrated on yet so it was nice to find out what was going on in his mind and see some foreshadowing of his ultimate destiny.

In addition to the future heroes, there were many scenes with existing characters that I loved reading.  Due to the plot, there was a lot of interaction with Kaia, her sisters, and other Harpies.  This provided some fascinating background on the Harpies in the LOTU universe.  It was especially nice to see scenes with Bianka/Lysander and Gwen/Sabin as well.   I was also drawn to Kaia, Bianka, and Gwen's eldest sister Taliyah and her friend Neeka.   

Finally, I enjoyed the overall plot of The Darkest Surrender.  Kaia and her sisters' journey to win the Harpy Games caused the pace to move along quickly from setting to setting and provide the reader with unlimited entertainment.  There was always something to look forward to with this storyline and I thought it worked well in balance with Kaia and Strider's love story.



4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“There was something so best-musical-ever when people screamed and begged for mercy, and she could listen to a good musical all day.” --Kaia

"Now, I'm not doubting you, you understand, but I'm gonna need you to prove your love.  You do remember promising to do so, don't you?" --Strider

SERIES INFORMATION:

1. The Darkest Fire (prequel-novella)
2. The Darkest Night
3. The Darkest Kiss
4. The Darkest Pleasure
5. The Darkest Prison (novella)
6. The Darkest Whisper
7. The Darkest Angel (novella)
8. The Darkest Passion
9. The Darkest Lie
10. The Darkest Secret
11. The Darkest Surrender
12. The Darkest Seducation (Coming 2012)



INTERESTING LINKS:


Book Depository Page
Goodreads Page
Author Website

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