Reviewed: May 23, 2012
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Grimm's Circle, Book 4
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 128 Pages
Disclosure: This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Centuries ago Luc and Perci lived a happy life together as man and wife. It's tragic what a little death can do. Since becoming Grimm, guardian angels who protect humanity from soul-stealing demons, they've worked side-by-side as partners. Luc, blind but for when he sees through another's eyes, and Perci, whose disability is far less noticeable and infinitely more debilitating, have not once been apart in all that time. Nor have they been together.
Their marriage died when they did, because the sad truth is that no matter how many years pass, Perci has never recovered from the circumstances surrounding her death, nor risen above the agony of the losses she suffered at the vicious hand of a madwoman. Not like Luc has. Not at all.
And though Perci knows that Luc loves her and yearns for their former life together, she also knows that she doesn't. And no amount of regret or length of time is going to change that. Still, partners they remain, locked in a devastating cycle of co-dependency and grief, until Will, leader of the Grimm, gives Perci a new job. On her own.
She's tasked with guiding the odd and ferocious Jack Wallace, a man who does things and knows things that no human should be able to do or know. A man who stirs Perci's heart and body in a way that she hasn't felt in several lifetimes. A man who willingly, almost gleefully, engages in battle with demons at every opportunity and fights like he is riding a death wish straight towards hell.
Together, Perci and Jack are two broken souls who may just be able to heal each other, but only if they survive not only the demons who hunt them, but the very traumas that made them.
I'm happy to say that this fourth book of Walker's Grimm's Circle series has more story and character development than its predecessor, which was my biggest issue with Crazed Hearts. And Walker is right back on track with complex, layered characters, complicated backstory, gripping emotion, and solid romance. Unfortunately, in Tarnished Knight, I still had some issues that came from a couple of other directions.
On one hand, I can't help but commend Walker for creating such a damaged character, one who ran a serious risk of being utterly unsympathetic. Perci is not an easy woman to like at the beginning. We know she's suffered for three hundred years (we find out the details later in the book), but her damage seems almost cruelly self-involved when held against Luc's love and dedication to her. Plus, Luc's blind, so she's leaving a blind man who relies on her to see, one who is in love with her, because she's too wounded to forgive him or herself for their past.
Yeah, for a long time Perci was utterly unsympathetic.
In fact, I hated her. And my heart ached for Luc. It was made worse for me because of the parts of the narrative that are told in Perci's first person point of view. There was nothing to buffer me from thoughts and feelings that I found distasteful, and while she was obviously regretful, she was also resolute about not loving Luc any more. It was and intense way to flesh out a character, but it did nothing to endear Perci to me.
I wasn't crazy about the narrative shifting point of view from first to third and back again, either. Being in Perci's head wasn't any kind of fun, but the back and forth was worse. I found it made the pace of the book jerky in places and distracted me when I was reading.
But then there was Jack, and for all that Perci first made me mental, I loved Jack immediately. His life is cloaked in mystery, his knowledge of Grimm, his mother, his far-better-than-human abilities, and the teasing glimmers of his past were all brilliantly conceived and fabulously executed. I loved his personal journey, and as pieces started to fit together, drawing tattered wounds of the past closed in a bloody bundle of emotion and horror, I found myself rooting for Jack and hoping he got the woman he didn't know he always wanted.
The pity in that was that I wasn't nearly as happy for Perci. I was too emotionally fatigued by Luc's pain to be fully on board with the romance when it started heating up. I couldn't help but feel that Perci didn't deserve such a quick chance for a Happily Ever After.
Still, for all that I thought Crazed Hearts lacked the sort of emotional impact that Walker is so damn good at, this one doubled it up and served heaps of it. I was wrung out by the end, and yes, by the end, I was far more mollified by the story and no longer begrudged Perci her peace. If she'd been more palatable for me earlier in the novella, though, I would have been much happier about the read overall.
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