Desert Isle Keeper
I’m not a great reader of paranormals, but all the buzz and good reviews I’d seen for Firelight the first book in Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series tempted me to read it; and once I did, I was totally hooked and have eagerly devoured all the subsequent instalments. Forevermore is the seventh and final chapter of the series; and because it pulls together a number of the seeds sown in the earlier novels and features several recurring characters, it’s not a book that will stand well on its own. That said, fans of the series are sure to enjoy it, as it contains all the elements which have made all the other titles such compelling reads; great characters, steamy love scenes, complex stories, lots of action and plenty of angst.
St. John (pronounced Sinjin – yes, it’s one of those weird pronunciation things we Brits so love!) Evernight is the younger brother of the three Ellis sisters, Miranda, Daisy and Poppy, whose stories were told in the first three books in the series. The sisters are all Elementals, able to control fire, earth and water respectively, but Sin, as the son of a powerful Elemental and a demi-god of chaos, is even more formidable than they are, and is able to control all the elements plus a lot more besides. In Soulbound, readers discovered that Sin had been manipulated into becoming a blood-slave of the seductive and evil queen of the fae, and that his sisters, not realising he was enslaved, had disowned him. But Sin’s being bound to Queen Mab allowed him, ultimately, to destroy her, and to assume even greater powers when he became an all-powerful being who is tasked with delivering the souls of evil-doers for final judgment.
After a short prologue which introduces the principals as children, the story proper opens with Sin pursuing an unknown entity through the darkened streets of London. It’s a being he has never encountered before and which he had discovered hunched over a freshly killed human body. Nothing is familiar about the creature, not the way it moves, or the way it smells – and certainly not the way it suddenly transforms upon capture, into a flock of birds, an ability that is extremely rare, even in Ms Callihan’s twilight world of shifters, angels, GIMs and demons.
Not long after this chase, Sin is reunited with his childhood friend, Layla Starling, a talented singer who has been gracing the stages of some of the worlds’ greatest opera houses. But something terrible is happening to her; she wakes from sleep covered in blood with no memory of who she is or what she is, her senses are heightened and she is scared she has become some kind of monster. On top of this, she can no longer sing, so she cancels all her engagements and heads back to London, intent on hiding herself away at her guardian’s house.
Layla’s guardian is Augustus, whom readers will recall is known as “Father” within the SOS and who helped Sin to free himself from Mab’s control. He is Sin’s mentor and has asked him to act as Layla’s bodyguard, knowing that she is being hunted by Damnation, the most powerful of all the demons. But first Layla must be told the truth about her origins, about the ‘other’ world of which she is part and about the fate from which Augustus is trying to save her. But when she learns who and what she is, will she be able to accept it? And complicating matters for her still further is Sin, strong and beautiful, his image the one she has carried with her always, the reason she has rejected all the marriage proposals to have come her way… and who has closed himself off to her, the boy she had once known all but disappeared.
Sin is as much in love with Layla as he ever was, but the years of his enslavement have profoundly affected him. Mab’s evil manipulations and machinations have left a dark stain on his soul, have left him without the family he longs for and filled him with self-loathing. All he knows of pleasure has been twisted into something sordid and he can’t bear the thought of tainting Layla by even the merest touch. Yet when he does touch her, he experiences something else, something that doesn’t speak of pain and humiliation and he begins to think that perhaps, if he can trust Layla with the truth about himself, she won’t reject him.
The author has introduced and continued numerous plot-threads throughout each novel, some of which are resolved by the end and some of which are carried forward to the next story. As Forevermore is the last in the series, it picks up a lot of these threads, which means that it’s a busy book – but somehow, it doesn’t feel TOO busy. It’s fast-paced, there is lots going on and there are several different PoVs, but the storylines are easy to follow and the balance between romance and action is just about right. As the showdown between good and evil looms ever closer, she knits those threads tightly together to bring the whole thing to a dramatic but gratifying conclusion.
I’ll readily admit to loving a good dollop of angst in whatever I read, so one of the things I’ve loved about this series is the high-stakes element given to the romances. Each couple faces a seemingly hopeless situation that threatens their futures together, and while that is also true of the relationship between Sin and Layla, the real rip-out-your-heart-and-stomp-on-it moments I so adore are actually found in the secondary plotlines. The truth about the relationship between the angel Augustus and the demon Lena is bitter-sweet and gorgeous in a heart-breaking way. Readers will recall that Lena has done many questionable things, not least of which was arranging the kidnap and torture of Jack Talent in Winterblaze. Yet she and Augustus share some of the most incredibly beautiful and poignant moments in the story, and I don’t mind admitting that I may have shed a tear or two. The same is true of the small sub-plot featuring Archer and Miranda, who remain one of my favourite couples of the whole series.
Forevermore is by no means perfect. Sin’s progression from a man who dislikes being touched and whose only sexual experiences have made him feel unclean to one who is able to enter into a loving relationship and consummate it without a problem is rather fast – mind you, he’s an angel of judgement, so perhaps that’s normal! It was a bit of a stretch to be able to believe that Miranda, Daisy and Poppy couldn’t have worked out that Sin wasn’t with Mab of his own free will. And as I’ve found to be the case in the other books, the final resolution and all-round trouncing of the evil-doer comes a bit too easily. But when all’s said and done, those weren’t major issues and didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story one little bit. Forevermore ends on a high – literally – and brings the Darkest London series to a resounding and satisfying close. I was emotionally worn out but happy when I finished it.