Azagoth was once a powerful angel, but eons ago, he volunteered to become a fallen angel in order to create Sheoul-gra, a holding tank for demon souls. As such, he's also become known as the Grim Reaper and holds ultimate power over all the souls he collects. But as part of his bargain with Heaven, he must also impregnate seventy-two angels every year to create the special class of angels known as Memitim and he alone is the father of all Memitim on Earth. However, Azagoth has grown weary of playing the stud and is lonely, trapped in his own prison of Sheoul-gra. He demands that Heaven send him an angel he can keep as his mate and the female they provide him turns out to be someone he both admires and who amazes him with her abilities. But if he discovers her true purpose, it could ruin the bond they're beginning to forge.
Lilliana is an angel with the unusual ability to travel through space and time. She'd always been a paragon of virtue until a recent incident in which she broke the rules while time traveling. It didn't matter to the archangels that it had been for a good reason, so now she's faced with a choice: go to Sheoul-gra to become Azagoth's mate or undergo a procedure to remove her time traveling ability that will leave her lobotomized. Although she doesn't particularly want to mate the Grim Reaper, she chooses that option to keep her mind intact, and also because if she goes, she's been given an out. If Lillian can steal a time traveling device that Azagoth has in his possession, all will be forgiven. However, once she's in Sheoul-gra, getting to know Azagoth, he turns out to be a decent guy and the reality of his emotionless existence draws her sympathy. She finds herself falling for him, but if he learns the truth of her original mission, there might not be any second chances.
Azagoth is the first book in Larissa Ione's Demonica Underworld series, which is a spin-off or sub-series of her greater Demonica series that follows characters who live in the Underworld. Nearly all of the books in this series are on the shorter side, roughly long novella or short novel length, so meatier than a short story but not quite as involved as the main novels of the series. In this one we have Azagoth aka the Grim Reaper, who is in charge of Sheoul-gra, the world between the human realm and Sheoul, and a kind of holding tank for the souls of demons and other evil beings. Azagoth has lived a rather lonely existence, trapped in his own realm, and is tired of being alone. He's decided that he wants a mate and demands that Heaven send him one. Lilliana is the angel who shows up for the job, but given a choice between two unsavory scenarios, she didn't have a whole lot of say in the matter. However, she's offered a chance to get out of the deal and earn redemption for her "sins" if she finds and steals a time-traveling device which Azagoth possesses. When she first arrives, Lilliana thinks that Azagoth is a jerk and has every intention of finding the device and getting out as soon as possible, but the longer she stays and the more she gets to know him, the more she sees Azagoth's gentler side and begins to fall for him. But when he discovers her original intentions, he may not be so forgiving.
Eons ago, after Satan's fall and his subsequent creation of demonic creatures, the demons who died had nowhere for their souls to go. They were too evil to ascend into Heaven, so their souls roamed the Earth, sowing chaos. Into this conundrum came Azagoth, who volunteered to become a fallen angel in order to create the new realm of Sheoul-gra, where demon souls are held until he deems them worthy of reincarnation. He agreed to do this, in part, because he couldn't bear to feel anymore and the job would allow him to shut off his emotions. But after centuries of living with virtually no emotion, his existence has become unbearable in a different way. Also as part of the job, he was expected to provide stud services to Heaven. Each year seventy-two female angels are sent to him with the expectation that he will impregnate them to create a special class of angels known as Memitim. As a result, he's the father of all the numerous Memitim who now walk the Earth. Sick of sleeping with so many different females and tired of being alone, Azagoth demands that Heaven send him an angel that he can keep as his mate. He receives Lilliana, a feisty angel who he admires for being able to hold her own with him. Together, they use his chronoglass to travel outside of Sheoul-gra for the first time since he created the realm, an experience that utterly delights him. As a result of Lilliana's presence and their little jaunts, he finally begins to feel something again and starts to fall in love with her. But when he learns the truth of her mission, it could lead to a massive heartbreak. Azagoth has earned a spot among my favorite heroes of the series. He has some hard edges, but at the same time, he has goodness in him and a kinder, gentler side. I especially loved his childlike enthusiasm when Lilliana took him outside Sheoul-gra. I also thought that having him so deeply connected to the realm itself was a particularly nice touch.
Lilliana is an angel with the rare ability to time-travel. She's spent hundreds of years doing just that until a recent event in which she broke out of her shrowd, the magical bubble that keeps humans from seeing her. Even though she did it for a good reason, her pleas for mercy have fallen on deaf ears. The archangel Raphael has given her a choice: she can either undergo a procedure to remove her time-traveling ability, something that will leave her essentially lobotomized, or she can go to Sheoul-gra and become Azagoth's mate, which comes with the perk of being able to time travel for one hour a day using his chronoglass. Although not thrilled with either of her options, she agrees to go to Sheoul-gra, especially when she's given the chance to earn redemption by stealing the chronoglass. Once there, Lilliana isn't initially impressed by Azagoth who seems like a bit of a jerk, but after they go time-traveling together and she learns of his emotionless existence, his plight begins to draw her sympathy. The more time she spends with him, the more she falls for him, until she's ready to stay permanently. But when he learns the truth of her original intentions, she may not get a second chance with him. Lilliana is a nice mixture of sweet and sassy. She can hold her own when Azagoth is being difficult, but she's kindhearted toward him when she learns of his past and his reasons for being where he is. I thought she was an excellent match for him and her grand gesture at the end really solidified their HEA for me.
Azagoth may be a shorter book but it still has several cross-over characters in supporting roles. Since Azagoth is Idess's (Ecstasy Unveiled) father, we get to see her when she comes for a visit with an important purpose. We briefly see Conall (Sin Undone) when Lilliana goes to Underworld General in search of Idess. Harvester (Reaver) shows up at the end to repay a debt she owes to Azagoth, and although her mate Reaver isn't actually seen in the story, his presence is felt in a big way. Hades comes up from the Inner Sanctum once to get Azagoth's help with a pressing matter, and we're introduced to Cataclysm or Cat for short, an Unfallen angel Azagoth hires to be Lilliana's assistant. These two are paired together as the hero and heroine of the next Demonica Underworld story, Hades. Then lastly we see a fair bit of Zhubaal, Azagoth's assistant, who will become the hero of the book, Z.
Overall, Azagoth was an excellent start to this new spin-off series and a great addition to the overarching Demonica world. I loved Azagoth and Lilliana as a couple and think they were perfect for each other. Their relationship has a Beauty and the Beast kind of vibe that I adored, while also being extremely steamy. I admit I had a few doubts about how I would like reading a series set entirely in the Underworld, but so far, so good. Larissa Ione is a masterful writer who is excellent at pulling off the seemingly impossible. Sheoul-gra isn't nearly as scary a place as I was expecting, especially after certain "changes" begin to take place. It's also interesting how she seems to be starting to build a new story arc. Unfallen angels are being hunted by demons and many are trying to find places to hide out, a turn of events that I have a feeling is leading to something big, and I look forward to seeing where it all goes. But for now, this was a perfect read that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, including a scene involving light bondage and a bit of spanking, that could be objectionable to sensitive readers.
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