VOWED IN SHADOWS (Marked Souls #3)
New American Library/Penguin
Available April 5th
Received from author for review
Jonah Walker and his brethren are possessed by demons. Repentant demons granted, but demons nonetheless. Their possessions have granted them increased fighting ability and supernatural healing–vital aids in their war against the variety of evil beings who have no desire to make amends for their past actions.
Since losing his wife decades ago, Jonah has been alone despite being surrounded by his brothers in arms. The steadily increasing intensity of the war he and his brothers are fighting isn't the only change taking place as one by one his comrades are finding mates–women who are also demon possessed–leaving the pair stronger and more efficient together than they were separately. When he gets the extra sense that precedes the finding of one's mate, Jonah has no choice but to seek her out.
Nim, exotic dancer extraordinaire, has kept a careful eye on the man who's been watching her during her shift for the past week. And when he finally approaches her, he changes her entire life by revealing a world she could have never expected. Now, with the knowledge a soul-deep weakness allowed a demon to take possession of her, she must learn to fight an insurmountable evil while also struggling with an attraction that seems equally impossible.
Vowed in Shadows, third in the Marked Souls series, is a story of intensity and complexity, its pages home to a dark world where demons run rampant–some seeking to harm and others to repent–but all coming together in a gripping battle revealed to us chapter by chapter. Fighting what seems to be a losing battle is a set of characters who are intriguing in their circumstances, their possession by demons who wish to make amends a conceptually fascinating idea, and their relationships to one another are both humorous and sobering. Their distinct personalities often clash and result in witty banter, but the seriousness of their mission and the reality of their demon-ridden lives always lurks beneath the levity of their vocal interactions. Ms. Slade has written a story infinitely creative and mesmerizing in its beautiful grimness, each book a bit stronger than the one before as the unusualness of the world settles in and the strength of the characters comes to the forefront.
Heroine Nim exudes confidence and sensuality, her naked body often used as a weapon to distract men from seeing the emotional scarring that pulses beneath a thin layer of flesh. She has a sharp tongue and a quick wit, frequently putting people in their places before they have the opportunity to make an attempt at breaching the armor she wears like a second skin. While her mouth is a constant source of amusement, her continued denial of Jonah's affection for her is a bit frustrating as she proceeds to clutch to the familiarity of lust as opposed to a true and honest connection. Though her resistance is certainly understandable in the beginning as her life is completely ripped from under her without her conscious knowledge, it becomes a bit grating when Jonah ventures to make his feelings known yet she refuses to let even his deepest sentiments pierce that well-polished and seemingly metal-plated exterior.
Jonah seems to be a man of dual natures, his previous life of dedicated missionary work alongside his wife in fairly direct contrast to the life of a man possessed by a demon and fighting demonic entities on a daily basis. His resolute determination not to be entertained by Nim's many charms is satisfying, and reading as she sweetly corrupts him bit by bit with a sexual tension that positively sparks between them is no hardship. We can't help but wish his communication with Nim might be a bit more open though, his expression of feelings for her often done so only internally through a personal monologue as opposed to externally where he might actually be able to more thoroughly convince her of the veracity of his statements. While he does eventually own his emotions and admit them aloud, so much of the time they spend arguing or in weighted silence might have been avoided if honesty and openness played a bigger role in an otherwise enjoyable romantic pairing.
It should be known that Ms. Slade's world is extremely complicated, and while things are a bit clearer in this third book, the first in the series is weighed down with a significant number of unfamiliar terms and complex differentiations between evil demons, repentant demons, and all the specific types of each on either side of the war. Even in Vowed in Shadows, where terms are no longer quite as burdensome, the extensive descriptions of fantastical creatures at times can be overwhelming, our minds stuttering and struggling to create an image of what's being described but often failing to do so. Her impressive characterization keeps the story from being lost in an unknown darkness though, and I look forward to whatever the future holds for these fighters.