Zhubaal was once one of a powerful and rare class of heavenly angels known as the Ipsylum. He fell madly in love with a fellow Ipsylum and swore an oath of fidelity to her. Unfortunately she was cast out of heaven and killed before they could be married. Knowing that her soul went to Sheoul-gra, Z willingly fell himself to become the assistant to the Grim Reaper in hopes of finding her again. He knows that she was reincarnated decades ago, but as hard as he has searched for her, he's come up empty so far. Until one day when an emim called Vex shows up on Azagoth's doorstep. Z senses his true love's soul within her, but when he finds out the truth of who Vex really is, will he be able to accept her as she is now?
Vex is an emim, the offspring of two fallen angels, who is also a daemani, meaning that she often picks up lost souls who hitch-hike in her body. Until now, she's been selling them off to soul-collectors, but lately the market has dried up. She's just picked up a very powerful soul that she knows she must get rid of ASAP, so that it doesn't try to possess her, and the only person who might be able to help is Azagoth. When Vex goes to the Grim Reaper, his attractive assistant, Z, senses the soul of his beloved and thinks that she's hitching a ride inside Vex. Vex feels a strong connection to Z, and thinks that his lost love, Laura, is somehow influencing her, but when they finally discover that she is actually Laura's reincarnation, Z has a hard time accepting how different they are. Even if he can comes to terms with it, paving the way for a future between them, Azagoth is having trouble removing the SuperEvil soul from Vex, which places her life in jeopardy.
Z is the third book in Larissa Ione's Demonica Underworld series, which is a spin-off or sub-series of her greater Demonica world that follows characters who live in the Underworld, and it's the fourteenth book in the larger combined series. In this one, we have Zhubaal, who used to be a special class of angel known as an Ipsylum. He was madly in love with Laura, a fellow Ipsylum, and they were planning to be married. But before that could happen, Laura was cast from Heaven, and by the time Z found her, she'd been killed. He then willingly became a fallen angel and started working for Azagoth (aka the Grim Reaper) in hopes of finding Laura's soul again. He knows that she was reincarnated thirty years ago, but he hasn't had much luck locating her until a daemani shows up in Sheoul-gra, asking for Azagoth's help offloading some souls she's picked up. When Z touches her, he senses Laura's spirit and hopes that they'll finally be reunited. Vex is an emim, the offspring of two fallen angels. She grew up in the human realm and loves her life, except that being a daemani means that she often picks up hitch-hiking souls. Until lately, she'd been able to sell them to soul-collectors, but the market has dried up. She knows that one of the souls currently inside her is a powerful one that could have the potential to possess her. Desperate to get rid of them, she goes to Azagoth for help. There she meets Z and discovers a strong connection with him, but thinks it's just Laura's soul influencing her. When Z figures out that Vex is the reincarnation of Laura, he's over the moon, but even Azagoth is having trouble ridding her of the SuperEvil inside her. If she can be saved, will Z be able to accept that she's not really the same person he's been waiting for all these years?
Z was devastated when he lost Laura, who was the love of his life. Although they hadn't yet been able to marry when she was taken from him, he had made a vow of undying love to her that he refuses to break. He's remained a virgin all these years, determined to someday find Laura again and share the life they were always meant to have. Although Azagoth approved the reincarnation of Laura's soul thirty years ago, he had no knowledge or control over where her soul went, so Z has been searching tirelessly to try to locate her again. When Vex shows up and a simple touch tells Z that Laura is a part of her, he thinks his lost love is one of Vex's hitch-hikers. But once all but the SuperEvil soul has been expelled, he realizes that Vex herself is the woman he's been looking for all these years. He's thrilled to have finally found her, but although he sees occasional glimmers of the angel he once knew, Vex is a very different person. Their souls connect and the love is still there, but Z struggles between wanting back the woman he knew and fully accepting the woman who has returned to him, while Vex's life still hangs in the balance. For a Fallen Angel, Z is a real sweetheart and probably as close to a beta hero that Larissa Ione writes. I love that he loves Laura so deeply that he never gave up on finding her and never broke his vow to her. He may be a virgin but he has good love-making instincts that made their first time together magical.
Vex adored her parents and has enjoyed her life thus far, although finding out she's a daemani, basically a magnet for lost souls, has been kind of difficult. She has no real control over her powers, so if she's close to a demon when they die, their soul gets sucked inside her. She had made a business out of selling these souls, but lately the market has dried up and no one will take the five souls currently residing inside her, one of which is extremely evil and extremely strong. Concerned that SuperEvil, as she's dubbed that soul, may try to possess her, she goes to Azagoth, hoping he will exorcise all the souls and perhaps hire her to collect more for him. When she meets Z, she feels an instant connection, but when he tells her that he thinks Laura is inside her, she believes the feelings she's experiencing for him are just Laura's influence on her. It soon becomes apparent that Vex is the reincarnation of Laura but she's really nothing like the woman Z remembers. As they search for a way to rid Vex of SuperEvil, she and Z connect more deeply, but if Z can't get past the differences between her and Laura, they might not have a future together. Vex is a pretty tough, no-nonsense type of heroine. She's had a good life and is well-adjusted, and she's also very body and sex positive. She often tends to lead with that when interacting with Z, but once their souls connect, she remembers the love she feels for him, even though she's not really the same person anymore. I love how sweet she is when she finds out he's still a virgin, never poking fun at him for waiting so long, and instead helping build his confidence by giving him the lead.
Z is a mid-length novella, and at 150 pages, it's about three quarters the size of the other Demonica Underwold stories I've read so far. As such, the plot isn't quite as involved. However, I still very much enjoyed it. Even though Vex isn't exactly Laura anymore, her soul does recognize Z, so it has a reunion romance vibe. Z and Vex having this prior connection made the rapid development of their relationship much more believable. It was also very sweet because Z had been waiting so long to be reunited with his lost love. Their scenes together are a nice mixture of romantic and passionate, as are the love scenes that are superbly done. There's a touch of suspense as they try to rid Vex of the SuperEvil before it possesses her, and the identity of that soul is a bit of a surprise. Probably due to its shorter length, there aren't a lot of supporting characters, but there are a few key players. Azagoth and Lillana (Azagoth) are seen the most, but Revenant (Revenant) puts in an appearance at the end where we learn that changes Rev has made since taking over Sheoul might not be working out and could lead to trouble down the road. We're also introduced to Razr, Z's assistant, who becomes the hero of the next book Razr. Overall, Z was a fun, sweet, and sexy short that was a nice addition to this series and the greater Demonica world.
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