For thousands of years, Hades has run the Inner Sanctum, the prison realm of Sheoul-gra, where he's the jailor of some of the most evil souls imaginable. His job is to torture them until his boss, Azagoth, deems them worthy of reincarnation. It's a rather lonely existence, but one that Azagoth demanded as repayment for a debt Hades owes him. Recently Cat, a gorgeous Fallen Angel, one who Hades would dearly love to get to know better, has also come into Azagoth's employ, but Azagoth has forbidden him to touch her. However, when Cat inadvertently gets them locked in the Inner Sanctum together, starting a riot among the evil souls, Hades is the only one who can come to her rescue, and he isn't sure how much longer he can keep his hands to himself.
After unwittingly helping another angel's plot to cause Armageddon, Cataclysm was banished from Heaven, but all she really wants is to earn her wings back. In the meantime, she's taken a job as an assistant to Azagoth's mate, because Sheoul-gra is safer for her kind than the human realm. One day, while cleaning, though, she accidentally opens the tunnel of souls, allowing some to enter the Inner Sanctum without Azagoth's knowledge. Too afraid to tell him the truth, she hopes no one will notice, but when she discovers that a good human soul was among them, she knows she must make it right. Cat enters the Inner Sanctum, where she finds herself hunted by the evil souls who want to use her to escape. But when the handsome Hades, whom she's been admiring from afar, comes to her rescue, she may have found someone who could derail her plan to get back into Heaven.
Hades is the second 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, and it's the thirteenth book in the larger combined series. Nearly all of the books in this series are on the shorter side, roughly long novella or short novel length, so not quite as involved as the main novels of the series. In this one we have Hades, who runs the Inner Sanctum of Sheoul-gra where the evil souls are tortured before being reincarnated. He's paired with Cataclysm, a fallen angel who now works for Azagoth in Sheoul-gra. The two have been admiring each other from afar, but Azagoth has told Hades that Cat is forbidden to him. Then one day, Cat accidentally lets souls pass through Azagoth's tunnel between the other realms and the Inner Sanctum. In doing so, she inadvertently sent a good human soul to the wrong place, where he's about to be used in some dark magic that could allow the evil demons to escape. Wanting to fix the trouble she caused, Cat enters the Inner Sanctum, thinking she can find the human soul and return him to Heaven, but in doing so, she accidentally sets herself up to be used by the demons as well. Hades comes to her rescue, but because of all the events that have been set in motion, the portals between the Inner Sanctum and the rest of Sheoul-gra are now jammed shut, leaving them stranded. As Hades and Cat try to figure a way out of their predicament and stop an apocalyptic level catastrophe from happening, they grow much closer. But even if they make it out alive, neither of them is quite sure how they'll ever convince Azagoth to allow them be together.
Hades has presided over the Inner Sanctum of Sheoul-gra for millennia. He was once an angel and knew that he wasn't supposed to meddle in human affairs, but he was so disturbed by the atrocities that humans often commit against each other that he eventually started trying to prevent evil people from harming their fellow humans. This morphed into him sometimes killing people, and one of those humans happened to be protected by a Memitim (one of Azagoth's children), whom he also killed. Ever since, Azagoth has been punishing him for it. Hades has been charged with torturing evil souls until Azagoth deems them worthy of being reincarnated, something he has no problem doing, but he lives a pretty spartan existence in the Inner Sanctum. He's also rarely allowed outside of Sheoul-gra, and even then, only for extremely short periods of time. As a result, he's been celibate for a long time and has never felt any strong connection with a female. When Cat comes to work for Azagoth, Hades is immediately attracted to her. When he discovers her in the Inner Sanctum, he fights tooth and nail against a horde of the vilest demons around to save her life. Hades knows he wants Cat, but Azagoth has forbidden him to touch her. However, he finds himself in a major battle with his own feelings, trying to follow Azagoth's edict while deeply desiring something more. I really liked Hades. Even though he's been living a rather stark life with few pleasures, he doesn't come off as particularly tortured as one might expect. Although the activities that led to him losing his wings and becoming a Fallen Angel got out of hand, he did them for the best of reasons. Despite being Sheoul's jailor and resident torturer, he has a gentle side when it comes to Cat. He also risks everything, including his own life, to first save Cat and then to be with her, so I couldn't help but admire him.
Cataclysm is something of a walking disaster. She accidentally got caught up in Gethel's plan to murder Thanatos's baby and bring about the apocalypse. I can't recall if she was seen in that book or not, but either way, I couldn't help wishing that Ms. Ione had given a little more detailed recap of how Cat got involved in Gethel's plot. In any case, she lost her wings for it and now resides in Sheoul-gra as a Fallen Angel. However, she really wants to find redemption and earn her way back into Heaven. Azagoth hired her to do housework and to be Lilliana's assistant. Cat tries her best, but she's caused a lot of accidents, breaking things and such. But none was quite so egregious as her inadvertently pressing the button that opens the tunnel to admit souls into Sheoul-gra while cleaning. Azagoth always monitors these souls as they're passing through, but several make it to the other side before Cat figures out how to close the door again. She's too afraid of Azagoth to tell him the truth, so she hopes it will simply go unnoticed. Then Reaver shows up, telling Azagoth that he has the soul of a good human that needs to be returned. When Cat hears about this, she decides to enter the Inner Sanctum to make it right, but in the process, she ends up making things worse, trapping herself and Hades inside. Despite their dire circumstances, the two romantically connect with each other and share a few tender and lusty moments, so when Hades saves Cat's life, she knows she must screw up her courage to go to bat for Hades with Azagoth. Cat is a rather humorous character. She has a big heart that's always in the right place, but her attempts to do the right thing often turn into disaster. I liked her because she made me laugh a few times, and because she bravely goes toe-to-toe with Azagoth to protect Hades and fight for their relationship.
Overall, Hades was another respectable entry into this series. I liked both Hades and Cat, but a part of me wished the story was a little longer to flesh out their characterizations and their relationship a bit more deeply. I didn't feel a strong connection between them until late in the story. They share a few misadventures of the typical type for this series, which draw them closer together and make the story interesting. The ending is a combination of steamy and sweet, but maybe a little more simplistic than we usually see from this author. I can't fault it too much, though, because it did draw emotion out of me. I enjoyed all the little touches of humor, too. There aren't as many cross-over characters seen in this installment. Azagoth and Lilliana (Azagoth) are the main supporting players, with Reaver (Reaver) showing up in one scene. Then Zhubaal, Azagoth's assistant, shares a scene with Cat in which they reveal how a misperception about them sleeping together came about. During the course of this scene, we learn some interesting information about Zhubaal that makes me very much look forward to his book Z, which is the next in the Demonica Underworld group of stories. But before that, there's another story in the greater series story arc that I'm eager to check out.
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