Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Darkest Heart, by Juliette Cross - Review

Title:  Darkest Heart
Series:  Dominion 
Author:  Juliette Cross
Publisher:  Entangled: Amara
Release Date:  August 20, 2018
Reviewing:  eARC
Reason for reading:  Big love for Juliette Cross' writing in general, and this world in particular. And also, OMG will you just LOOK at that cover??!!
The Short Answer
If angels and demons are your thing, and if you love finding the flame of romance in the midst of the gritty, apocalyptic ruins of civilization as we know it, then this is the book (series) for you.

If you know Cross, you'll be ready for her trademark immersive worldbuilding, red-hot love scenes, and tortured hero; and if you don't know her, then you should. Because see above. If it's not clear, I loved this book: I rate it 4.5 stars, Top Pick!
The Blurb
Anya—a stoic, blue-winged angelic warrior—was bitten by a demon prince in battle, and now she has precious little time to find a cure for his deadly venom. But the only archangel with the power to stop the dark poison from corrupting her body and soul is missing. She’ll have to trust her guide, the outcast high demon Dommiel, who is as handsome as he is dangerous if she has any hope.
An outcast of his own kind, high demon Dommiel stays under cover while the war between angels and demons rages on. When the only person who ever showed him kindness asks for his help, he has no choice but to try to save the angel. Venturing back into the dens he has avoided for so long, Anya makes him want and feel things he never thought possible.
But Dommiel knows there is no way an angel can ever love a demon…
The Characters
The redemption arc doesn't get much more canonical than a fallen angel turning his back on demonkind in an epic battle of good and evil, and finding love in the process. In fact, Dommiel is never revealed to be that awful; although his internal narrative tells us that he thinks he has been as corrupt and depraved as the bad guys, his actions tell us otherwise. He has a code of honor that he lives by, even though he doesn't seem to know it himself. However, being kicked out of heaven is enough to give a fallen angel a bit of a complex, I guess, and then that pesky honor gets him in trouble with the demons, to the point where he doesn't really have an easy identity.

For Anya's part, seeking out the archangel Uriel provides the engine and adventure for the story, while Dommiel engages with purported reluctance... but goes far beyond his initial obligation.

I recently met a personal goal and read (well, listened to) a whole non-fiction book about how to read for layers of meaning in literature.  The very first chapter is about the quest story, and the takeaway is that the real quest is pretty much never the stated reason for the quest... in this case, finding Uriel matters, but not in the way Anya thinks it will. (I hope that's not too spoilery!)  Anya is fierce and sweet; she saves Dommiel as surely as he does her, but I have to admit that for me, Dommiel stole the show.

The World
While Darkest Heart is a continuation of the world from The Vessel trilogy and bridged by The Deepest Well, it stands alone just fine, as long as you are OK with not having a lot of context for the supernatural war that forms the backdrop of the book. The Dominion books (Deepest Well, Darkest Heart) are set in modern times, though there is a timelessness to the setting. Most modern conveniences are destroyed, and the usual focuses of post-apocalyptic fiction like establishing a food supply line and dealing with the breakdown of infrastructure are downplayed in favor of the supernatural battle raging between the two angelic factions. Plus, many of the characters in the series, including both Anya and Dommiel, are centuries or even millennia old. No one expects these characters to speak middle English or archaic Sumerian, or whatever would be historically accurate for a biblically-originated character, but Cross does a good job of eliminating obvious contemporary slang and colloquialisms , and using a gently formal diction for these characters, which adds to the feeling that the story could be taking place any time in the last few centuries.

Favorite Quote
Never before had I thought to have someone care for me like this. To crave me on a primitive, savage level. Never before had I thought to return those raw emotions. The fact that it was Dommiel, a demon, who'd cracked through my independent resolve and showed me that my perfect black-and-white world didn't exist somehow seemed poetic. He showed me that even the darkest heart yearns for the light.
Hard not to zoom in on that, given that it's the likely inspiration for the title.

Around the Blogosphere
Here's what other reviewers are saying!
Edgy Reviews
Books of my Heart
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Feeling Fictional
Suey Library (wow, this blogger's style really made me smile -- she is all in!)


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