Ares and his three siblings were born of a union between an angel and a demon. Their destiny is as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who carry the power over the potential end of the world on their shoulders. As War, Ares is drawn to conflicts of all sorts and knows little else besides the life of a warrior. When his brother, Reseph's seal breaks, releasing his alter-ego of Pestilence, it's up to Ares and his remaining two siblings to try to stop their brother from bringing on the Apocalypse. At the same time, Ares must prevent Pestilence from breaking his own seal which is housed in a agimortus, an object or being which acts as a vessel to hold it. He goes searching for the fallen angel who is his agimortus, only to see Pestilence kill the angel, but at the last moment, the angel transferred the agimortus to a human woman. To keep both her and the seal safe, Ares takes her to his private island off the coast of Greece, where he can protect her. However, a human was never meant to carry the seal, which means that if they can't find another vessel for it soon, she will die within a matter of days. As they frantically search for another fallen angel or a loophole that will keep her alive, Ares begins to have unfamiliar feelings for her. Not only is it now painful for him to even think of her dying, if she does, the seal breaks, turning Ares into the same evil monster his brother has become and taking them one step closer to the Apocalypse.
Cara Thornhart used to be a holistic veterinarian, but she's been living in fear ever since a home invasion left her feeling helpless and her boyfriend left her, unable to cope with the aftermath. She possesses a healing gift which she had used to help animals, but on the night of the attack, her power accidentally manifested in such a way that she killed one of her assailants. Now she avoids using it out of concern that she might kill again. One night, a neighbor brings her a dog he hit with his car, but it's not quite like any other dog she's ever seen before. As she's trying to treat the animal, several armed men show up out of nowhere. They want the dog and seem to believe that Cara is a threat as well. Just as they're about to do her bodily harm, a handsome stranger comes to her rescue. She eventually discovers that he's one of the Horsemen, that the supernatural world is real, and that the "dog" she was treating is actually a hellhound that has bonded with her. Although Ares hates hellhounds with a passion, the fallen angel who is his agimortus took the beast and he needs Cara's gift in order to track it. But when they find him, the angel turns the tables by transferring the agimortus to Cara just before he dies. Her bond to the hellhound will help keep her alive longer than an average human under the same strain, but it won't last forever, leaving them in a desperate race against time to save her life and keep the seal from breaking. As they search for a solution, Cara finds herself passionately drawn to the handsome Horseman who's become her protector, leaving her all the more saddened that they may have only a short time together.
Eternal Rider is the first book in Larissa Ione's Lords of Deliverance series, which is a sub-series (or continuation) of her Demonica series. While Lords of Deliverance follows a new set of characters, there are lots of cross-over characters from the earlier Demonica books, so I personally recommend reading them all as one series. This way, the reader gets the full impact and understanding of who these characters are and how they fit into the world-building. That said, though, there's a lot of originality within this book, as we see the beginning of a new story-arc involving the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In the previous Demonica book, Sin Undone, Sin accidentally started a war among the warg clans, which had the unintended consequence of breaking one of the Horsemen's seals. Each of the horsemen are half demon/half angel, and as long as their seals are intact, they operate in a fairly neutral zone. But if a seal is broken, that horseman goes full-on, evil baddie, wreaking havoc on the Earth. The seal that was broken was that of Reseph aka Pestilence, who is now spreading illnesses and plagues far and wide, and it's up to his three siblings to stop him. But at the same time, they must protect their own seals in order to prevent Armageddon from happening. This made for an action-packed, suspenseful story, but also one that didn't skimp on the romance and hotness.
Ares aka War has lived for millennia. His demon mother switched him at birth with a human baby, so he grew up in the human world, thinking he was one of them. When he was twenty-eight, his sister, Limos, who grew up in Sheoul, went looking for her brothers and informed them that, together, they were the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Whether human or Horseman, all Ares has ever known is being a soldier and fighting battles, something that he's naturally drawn to. His seal or agimortus was being held by a fallen angel, but when Reseph became Pestilence, he went after the angel to kill him so that Ares's seal would be broken, too. At the last moment, the angel transferred the agimortus to Cara, a human woman. However, humans weren't meant to carry such a large burden, so she has mere days to live unless they can find another bearer for it. If they can't and she dies, the seal breaks, Ares turns evil, and Armageddon will soon follow. As they search for a loophole or another fallen angel to take the agimortus, Ares gets close to Cara and begins falling for her. But he's always thought that love makes a man weak, so at first, it's hard for him to comprehend his feelings for her. Larissa Ione's heroes tend to be pretty intensely alpha, which can be hit and miss for me. There were times during the first half or so of the book when Ares annoyed me and made me want to smack him, and luckily Cara gave him a verbal smackdown several times, which made me happy. I was also pleased, though, to see him soften a little as the story progressed. He becomes very protective of Cara to the point of making sacrifices to keep her alive that the Ares before meeting her wouldn't have. He's also a deliciously intense lover, who may like it a little rough, but who knows how to make a woman melt. If not for all this, I probably wouldn't have liked him, but in the end, I definitely warmed up to him.
Cara has no family and her boyfriend dumped her after a home invasion that left her with emotional scars. She has the ability to heal animals and worked as a holistic veterinarian before the attack, but during the home invasion, her gift accidentally went haywire, killing one of the attackers. Ever since, she's avoided using it for fear of harming someone else. Then one night, a neighbor brings her an injured dog that is different than any dog she's ever seen before. While she's treating the animal, a bunch of guys appear from out of nowhere, trying to take the dog away and hurt her, too, until a handsome stranger comes to her rescue. Eventually Cara discovers that the paranormal is real and that the "dog" she was trying to help was actually a hellhound that has bonded with her. As a result, she can communicate with the beast, which is something Ares needs. Although he hates hellhounds as a rule, the fallen angel who has his agimortus took the hound and now Ares needs to find them both to keep the seal safe from Pestilence. Later, when the angel is in mortal danger, he transfers the seal to Cara, so Ares takes her with him to his private island off the coast of Greece to protect her. When he isn't annoying her with his overbearing nature, Cara finds herself deeply attracted to Ares, and as they battle the forces of evil who are trying to kill her to unleash Armageddon, they grow close. At first, Cara is understandably overwhelmed by learning about this new world that she never knew existed, and her reactions are very realistically rendered. The home invasion really traumatized her, leaving her feeling weak, but as she learns to fight demons and other monsters, she gradually rediscovers the strength within herself that was always there. She had the perfect mix between her softer, gentler side, and the kick-ass female who's prepared to fight to her last breath to help Ares win the battle.
As I mentioned before, Eternal Rider has lots of supporting characters, both new and cross-overs from the earlier Demonica books, many of whom starred in books of their own - or will - as the series progresses. Among the new characters are Ares's brothers and sister, who will each have a book of their own: Limos, who appears to have some secrets will be paired with Arik, the head of R-XR in the next story, Immortal Rider (I was very amused by the way she kicked his ass in this book); Thanatos (Lethal Rider), who stubbornly believes that Pestilence can be saved; and of course, Reseph aka Pestilence (Rogue Rider) who turned so villainous in this book that it will be interesting to see just how the author manages to redeem him. From previous books, we also have Reaver, the fallen angel who earned back his wings by stopping Armageddon the first time. He's a heavenly watcher over the Horsemen, whose Underworld counterpart is the newly introduced fallen angel, Harvester. These two will be paired in Reaver, which, again, will be very interesting, considering that they're strongly at odds throughout this story. We get an introduction to Hades who gets his own self-titled book later in the series. And then there are visits with a bunch of previous characters. Eidolon (Pleasure Unbound) and Shade (Desire Unchained) help Cara as she weakens, while Eidolon's mate, Tayla, is present at the birth of her sister's child. Kynan, the charmed Aegis Guardian, becomes an ally to the Horsemen, while he and Gem await the blessed event. Last but not least, Wraith (Passion Unleashed) shows up to help fight the final battle, along with Sin and Conall (Sin Undone), while warg paramedic, Luc, helps treat casualties. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention, Hal (short for Halitosis - LOL) the rather cute hellhound pup who bonds with Cara.
Overall, Eternal Rider was a great story. I thought that Ares and Cara were a very well-matched couple, who challenged each other to be better versions of themselves, while making a great team in the fight against evil. They also heat up the pages with plenty of steamy moments that are just this side of erotic. I'm not sure how she does it, but Larissa Ione has a real knack for keeping the story moving and giving the reader a sense of urgency in the characters' mission. Many times, she made me think that all was lost, but then her fertile imagination pulled out a last-minute reprieve that never felt forced or unnatural. I love how she manages to have everything make sense in the end and gives our star-crossed lovers a nice solid HEA. She didn't skimp on the emotional connection both between Ares and Cara and between her characters and her reader either. Eternal Rider was a real page-turner that has me eagerly looking forward to the next book of the series and all that's yet to come.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook