Dance with the Devil
Dance with the Devil picks up right where Night Embrace left off. At least that’s what I’m assuming based on the names of the lead characters in the review of the prequel (without having read the previous books in this series). There are so many secondary characters and brief mentions about back-story and memories that reading this was like trying to watch one episode of a serialized drama in the middle of the TV season. Fortunately for the reader, it’s like watching a really good TV show, so good you want to come back next week and catch the previous episodes in reruns.
Zarek of Moesia is a Dark-Hunter, a soulless immortal created by the goddess Artemis to stand between human kind and Daimons (vampire-like creatures). Only 900 years ago Zarek was banished to what is now Alaska, as punishment for killing the village he was supposed to protect. Or was he? Zarek has little memory of what happened that fateful night long ago. He was given a second chance recently in New Orleans, and he blew it. Now he returns to his remote home outside of Fairbanks to await his punishment: death.
Fortunately for Zarek, Acheron, head of the Dark-Hunters, wants him judged first, so Astrid is sent to Fairbanks. She is the youngest sister of the legendary Fates. In all her years Astrid has never found a man innocent. She’s starting to question her abilities and fears she has lost her ability for compassion and judging fairly – until she meets Zarek, who cracks her heart and makes her feel again. Unfortunately she meets Zarek as he is on the run from Thanatos, a creature created by Artemis for the sole purpose of killing Dark-Hunters. Artemis cannot control Thanatos because he is fueled by the need to avenge wrongs in his past by killing Zarek.
I haven’t even touched on half the action in this story, and there is a lot going on. Zarek and Astrid falling in love, exploring Zarek’s back story, the relationship between Zarek and the other Dark-Hunters, the relationship between Acheron and Artemis, Thanatos’s back story, squabbles between the gods on Olympus, etc. Confused yet? With another book I might complain, but Kenyon has such a story-telling flair that instead of feeling left out and lost, I was just curious and fascinated. I wanted to learn more about these characters. I wanted to know their stories. The only problem was that on occasion I was more interested in the secondary characters, especially Acheron, than I was the leads.
Zarek is a true tortured hero, in that during his brief human life he was a Roman slave and a whipping boy. Spat upon, beaten, and starved, he eventually died crawling on the ground like an animal. If that wasn’t enough he’s forced to endure nearly a millennium alone, freezing in Fairbanks – shunned not only by humans, but his fellow Dark-Hunters. This is a man who has never known compassion, and worse yet, doesn’t think he deserves it. He’s surly because it’s easier to reject others before they reject them. The only real drawback to his character is the “poor me” routine. It lasts from page one to virtually the end, even after he makes some discoveries about friends and Astrid.
While Astrid questions her ability to judge and be compassionate, she doesn’t have nearly the baggage that Zarek does. She handles his issues with spunk and wit, and knows when to bend the rules to get the job done. She listens to her instincts and the evidence, which is what makes her the perfect judge. Unfortunately it also causes her to dwell and question to the point that you just want to shake her and say get on with it. But she’s the perfect foil for Zarek and only her thoroughness would get him to believe that he is worthy of love.
If you’re looking for something a little different, with rich and well developed characters, and several different story threads, give Dance with the Devil a try. This is a strong story to start with, but be warned it is the middle of a series. Only Zarek and Astrid’s story is wrapped up with a nice little bow, the other threads will tempt and nag at you (in a good way) so you go looking for those stories as well.