Naughty or Nice?

Night Embrace

Night Pleasures

Dance With the Devil
by Sherrilyn Kenyon
(St. Martins, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-98483-9
Dance With the Devil is a sequel to the books Night Embrace,and Night Pleasures and if youíre coming into this series cold, as I did, youíre in for a rough road. Fantasy romances involving demons, vampires, and the gods of Mount Olympus need sufficient backstory to draw readers in, and this one didnít have quite enough.

Zarek is a Dark-Hunter, an immortal being who hunts down Daimons, which are evil creatures similar to vampires. He was empowered by the goddess Artemis after his brutal earthly life as a Roman slave boy was cut short, but about nine hundred years ago Zarek messed up. The village he was guarding ended up being destroyed, and he was banished to the frozen North Ė now Alaska Ė as a punishment. In the book Dark Embrace he was apparently given a chance at restitution, but that went awry, and now heís headed back to Fairbanks.

Artemis wants Zarek dead and plans to send an evil being named Thanotos to kill him. Acheron, head of the Dark-Hunters and Artemisí lover, insists he be given a trial of sorts. Artemis reluctantly agrees, and Astrid, younger sister of the Fates, is sent down to Earth to judge him. Astrid has never judged anyone to be innocent and is afraid she is losing her sense of compassion and fairness. Zarekís trial will be a test for Astrid, as well.

Zarek believes himself to be soulless and has no love for anyone, and Astrid is a puzzle to him even as her beauty lures him. Astrid is equally intrigued by Zarek, in whom she senses a world of hurt. His revelation of his tragic past unleashes her passion for this man, and they embark on a steamy relationship. Zarek has friends as well, but he does not trust, and Thanatos is uncontrollable. If Zarek and Astrid are to survive, Zarek wil need to overcome nine hundred years of isolation and bitterness. Not an easy task, especially for a man accustomed to rejecting others before they can hurt him.

For all that Zarek is immortal and has been hanging around in Alaska for centuries, heís remarkably mortal in many respects. His emotional baggage hangs over him like a cloud, and there are more than a few pity parties along the way. Astrid will have none of it, and itís her take-no-prisoners attitude that shakes Zarek out of his self-imposed solitude and into a new life. Her sass and wit are a great foil for his broodiness.

This is definitely an action-driven romance, with the threat of destruction hanging over the story almost from the first page. Zarek and Astrid eventually find a happy ending of sorts, but itís clear that the series is by no means finished. Itís also a challenging read if you havenít read the previous books, though Kenyonís style is breezy and enjoyable. Zarek and Astrid are enjoyable characters, except for Zarekís tendency to hang onto his self-pity, and the sex was steamy enough to make me forget that for a while.

Dance With the Devil is definitely out of the ordinary. If your taste runs to fantasy with a touch of the supernatural, it will likely engross you. Sherrilyn Kenyon is carving a niche in a subgenre that is too often ignored.

--Cathy Sova

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