Review: Lord of the Abyss by Nalini Singh

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Author: Nalini Singh
Genre: supernatural/paranormal fiction, romance novel-ish, fairytale retelling
Series: Royal House of Shadows #4
Pages: 282 (Nook NetGalley ARC edition)
Published: expected November 2011
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

Once upon a time…the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden. To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance. Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs…and time is running out.…

As the dark Lord who condemns souls to damnation in the Abyss, Micah is nothing but a feared monster wrapped in impenetrable black armor. He has no idea he is the last heir of Elden, its last hope. Only one woman knows—the daughter of his enemy.

Liliana is nothing like her father, the Blood Sorcerer who’d cursed Micah. She sees past Micah’s armor to the prince inside. A prince whose sinful touch she craves. But first she has to brave his dark, dangerous lair and help him remember. Because they only have till midnight to save Elden.

The fourth and final volume in the multi-author series called the Royal House of Shadows, Lord of the Abyss is tale of the youngest Elden princeling. Micah was only five when his parents were murdered and his mother's last act of magic cast him far far away - farther than all three of his siblings. Micah ends up as the Guardian of the Abyss - far from the Blood Sorcerer, his memory, his family or even basic civilty. In this loved-up and mature version of Beauty and the Beast, Nalini Singh unveils more than one surprise and entertained me thoroughly. 

As for Ms. Singh herself this was my first foray into her writing, after hearing it hyped for a while. I can happily say that her style and language more than met my expectations: I was carried away into her story easily and quite quickly. She metes out more details and information about the history, the world(s) of the universe of her story quite well and naturally.  Given new ground to break in with the before-unseen Abyss, Singh's tale felt fresh and new in a series that is pretty limited in most aspects. She also more than excelled at creating a complex chemistry between her characters, allowing for a romance that felt natural - through all the inevitable ups-and-downs it endures in this short tale.

Micah himself was a more than adequate male protagonst. Being directly honest he's probably my second favorite male in the series: after Dayn but before Osborn and way above Nicolai. He's an interesting (and often slightly amusing) mix of dread beast and silly, immature boy. While his appeal strengthens the more pull Liliana has with him, he stills comes across as quite young for most of the novel. He can be a bit too possessive (Mine!) and often too commanding for my tastes, but he has ample amounts of roguish charm to make up for his lack of manners and etiquette. I had to laugh out loud at all the "growling" and "snarling" Micah uses to make his wishes known. Surprisingly, unlike his elder brother Nicolai's Neanderthal speak from book one Lord of the Vampires, Micah's beastial communications amused me rather than irritating me.

Though this is seems to be the tale of Beauty and the Beast (signs: a woman in a castle no woman has been in before, a rat friend, a foreboding castle with beastly man included), Micah's female counterpart is named Lilliana and she is far from a beauty, instead described as rather mismatched and ungainly. From the start I liked this surly blood sorceress: I liked that she wasn't beautiful but brainy and devious, I liked that she was independent and imperfect. Above all, I liked her for Micah. Instead of seeming tailor-made for one another and annoyingly perfect, they conflict and contrast - often with heat (in more than one sense of the word . . ba dum dum!) Though Lili's father is cause of Micah's pain and anguish, her life was not scot-free and easy. Living under the often-literally-torturous heel of her tyrant father Lilliana possesses just as much horror and mental pain as Micah himself. They both are two supremely lonely beings, both because of the geographical place of the Abyss but also because of their respective childhoods.

The final confrontation with the built-up Blood Sorcerer was sadly a let-down for me. It fell a bit flat and almost boring after four books of buildup and anticipation with "Avenge. Survive. And have lots of sex." as the tagline. It was all a bit unsatisfying to read and left me slightly cranky. There's no grand-meetup of the four long-lost siblings. There is a slight bit after the final big conflict/battle with a nice amount of easy/happy-ever-afters for Nicolai and Jane, Dayn and Reda, Breena and Osborn and even Micah and his Lili (even Lili's small twist at the end didn't bother me - much.) I just wished we could have seen some of that unfold, rather than hear about it in a few short sentences. Maybe I just wanted more Dayn time. (I totally did.) It doesn't even really feel concluded, final to me. There just seems like more could be done in this series/world.

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