Reviewed: September 4, 2009
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Lords of the Underworld, Book 4
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 406 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Disclosure: This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
I have to hand it to Gena Showalter, I've always been happy with her romance and paranormal romance books and she keeps getting better with each publishing. The Darkest Whisper is no exception. I've been a fan of the Lords of the Underworld series from the beginning, though I've heard some readers be critical that the premise is very reminiscent of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series and Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed series (and others). Honestly, that's true in that there are a group of mega alpha males working together (and have been for centuries) to fight against an almost unbeatable foe. That war spans the arc of the series with each book highlighting a battle or skirmish or development in the war and goes hand in hand with at least one main romantic pairing. It's not an original premise, but so what? I totally dig that type of paranormal romance series - which is why I read so many of them. And the series is not defined by its premise, by any means.
Showalter sets Lords of the Underworld apart in a couple of different ways that really work for me. I love the backstory on the Lords and think it's unique and imaginative. Showalter does really well whenever anything revolves around ancient Greek mythology - her knowledge and ability to modernize ancient history is superb. She also has an absolute smashing gift of making really good choices in her romantic pairings. I can't say that about all my favorite authors in the genre. In that regard, she's tops in the field.
Sabin (Doubt) and Gwendolyn the Timid are a perfect example of that. I just loved them together. I've always been fascinated by the idea of Doubt as a demon and was really looking forward to reading Sabin's story. I found it totally satisfying! Gwen is a half-harpy who starts out as a walking contradiction - timid, yet ferociously deadly - and really grows into her wings and claws. Sabin (Doubt) is a Lord whose entire life is destroying the enemy and now finding Pandora's box and he struggles with regret and...well...self-doubt...as he fights an attraction to a woman he respects and admires...while every other woman he's cared about has ended up dead or destroyed courtesy of his demon. I can't say too much without spoiling the story, but I found their romantic resolution to be particularly satisfying as it relied in parts on the very nature of them both, instead of being a more external force.
On a personal note, I wasn't totally thrilled with one scene in particular at the end of the book and wish it had taken a different turn. It was a choice I wouldn't have supported had I been housing a demon at the time, that's for sure. I thought it made the non-romance plot aspects end on a weak note. It was the only weak note for me though. Otherwise, the threads that Showalter are starting to weave into her books with growing complexity - Paris' continuing downward spiral; Aeron's feelings of being watched and struggling not to slip back into psychosis (I love Legion, and the idea of her waltzing around in a tiara is priceless), and anything to do with Torin (who I have the most sympathy for - but I adored the beginning of the crossover with Kresley Cole's character Nuckin' Futs Nix!!) - have added a rich and luscious depth and intricacy to the books that were missing in the first couple. Those threads are really elevating the quality of the books overall and adding what was once a needed dimension.
Overall, this is in my "must read" column, but you'd miss a lot if you don't start at the beginning of the series - I suppose you could read The Darkest Whisper as a standalone, there's enough explanation to give you a rudimentary understanding of what's going on, but you'd lose a lot of the atmosphere and feeling of the growing familiarity with these characters.
One caution to those who don't like a lot of darkness in their heros - the Lords of the Underworld are demons with histories that are lengthy and brutal, and The Darkest Whisper in particular had some scenes of brutality and torture that were written out and some just alluded to. Sabin can be a ruthless killer - they all can, but it's his book. I personally felt that this book was the darkest and most intently violent of the series. Not horribly graphic in description, really, but in tone. I don't have a problem with darkness and violence, but I know that some do.
Overall, I'd give The Darkest Whisper a 4.5 stars (I really didn't like that scene at the end, but the rest was so good it just detracted a little) if I could, but as we're limited to full stars it definitely gets rounded up. A must read for all paranormal romance fans!
Oh, and just one more thing...I can't help myself - I have to say I love the title of this book. It just could not be any more perfect.
Doubt is, after all, the darkest whisper.
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