Acheron was meant to be born a god, but he was cursed by the Fates to bring destruction to the entire Atlantean pantheon. With all of the Atlantean gods, including his own father, out to kill the innocent unborn babe, his mother, Appolymi, hid him in the womb of a human queen. From the moment of his birth, Acheron was beset by sorrow and woe. His unnatural eye color made his human father reject him as the bastard offspring of one of the Greek gods, and his mother similarly turned her back on him. If not for his life force being connected with that of his twin brother, Styxx, they would have killed him many times over. The only person who loved and cared for him as a child was his sister, Ryssa, but he was cruelly torn away from her when he was still just a boy and sent to live with his uncle in Atlantis. There his uncle turned Acheron into a sex slave, and for many years, his life was filled with misery, degradation and abuse. Through no fault of his own, neither man, woman, or god could resist his seductive pull. Eventually, he caught the eye of the goddess, Artemis, who claimed to love him, but would not acknowledge him as her lover. Finally, at the age of twenty-one, Acheron was granted his god powers, but even those could not save him from further abuse and ultimately, death. Artemis brought him back to the land of the living but bound him to her by blood for all eternity. After Atlantis was destroyed, Artemis's brother, Apollo, cursed his remaining Atlantean descendants, causing many to turn into soul-stealing creatures known as Daimons. Artemis set Acheron up as the leader of the Dark-Hunters, a new breed of immortal soldier that she created to battle the Daimons, and for 11,000 years, despite being a god, he has been enslaved to the Greek goddess.
For her entire life Tory Kafieri has been convinced that Atlantis existed. Her father and uncle died trying to prove the claims, and yet, they were still branded as crazy men by archaeological scholars. Tory is determined to prove the existence of the legendary city, but Ash is equally determined to keep its secrets forever buried. Even though he hates to do it, he discredits her in front of her colleagues, drawing her ire, but the passionate young woman intrigues him. When Ash is the only "expert" who can read an ancient journal she found, they accept a tentative truce. The more time Ash spends in Tory's company, the more he finds himself slowly trusting her and wanting to reveal all the secrets of his past that he has worked so hard to hide, but he knows that to do so would most likely be disastrous. Tory is nothing like any woman he has ever known, and no one has ever made him feel like he mattered in the way Tory does. But he fears that revealing his sordid past and his true nature as a god will drive her away. Not to mention, with him indentured to Artemis, a relationship with Tory is all but impossible. For her part, Tory is equally drawn to this gorgeous, enigmatic man and quickly discovers that he's not the arrogant ass she originally thought him to be. As she sees more and more of the gentle man inside, she realizes that he's been through hell. But they both have many enemies. Evil forces from the Atlantean hell-realm and Mount Olympus will stop at nothing to see these soul-mates destroyed before their love has had a chance to blossom.
Acheron is one of those larger than life characters who captured my imagination from the moment I first met him when I started reading the Dark-Hunter series five years ago. Since then I've been patiently making my way through the series, and it's been a somewhat rocky road. Some books along the way have engaged my attention better than others. There were times I wished I could skip ahead, but I didn't want to miss any crucial character or plot development. There were also a few times when I was reading a book that just didn't speak to me that I felt like giving up, but Ash's book was always there beckoning me. Now that I've read Acheron, I'm so glad I didn't stop. I knew it was going to be a great story, and overall, I was very satisfied with it. Now, that's not to say that it was a perfect book. There were a few small plot holes and unexplained occurrences which seem to be par for the course in Sherrilyn Kenyon's novels. Little things like how Ash could hear Tory's thoughts at Sanctuary when he hadn't been able to before, or how he can get drunk on Sprite, or why he drinks so much beer when he doesn't appear to eat or drink any other human food or beverages nagged at me. Another of the author's quirks is too much repetition, and in this story, the thing that stood out to me the most was various characters frequently snorting, which is weird since this is the second book in a row I've read with this exact same problem. Lastly, Ms. Kenyon loves her deus ex machinas, and she does use a couple in this story. However, she also surprised me with a much more clever solution to another problem that arose. Despite a few minor quibbles, I can't deny that this is the best of Sherrilyn Kenyon's books I've read to date and that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, so I didn't feel compelled to lower the rating even though it could have been ever so slightly better.
As I mentioned before, Acheron is what kept me reading this series. I've loved him from the start and after reading his book, I adore him even more. He is quite literally the most tortured hero I've ever read in a romance novel, and that's saying something since there are a few others who have suffered through similar circumstances. With Ash though, he has basically been a sex slave for 11,000 years until the perfect woman for him finally frees him. The first half of this book is admittedly rather torturous to read. Ash suffers though years of pain, humiliation, and degradation that is not for the faint of heart. Many times I found myself wanting to jump into the story and take him away from all that, because he was an innocent who didn't deserve anything that happened to him. As a child, Ash was a sweet, gentle boy who only wanted to be loved, but all he received was hate and scorn. Both his biological father, the god, Archon, and his human father wanted to kill him. The only person who truly loved him was his human sister, Ryssa. Acheron was such a kind, compassionate soul, he wouldn't have harmed a fly, and yet he was treated in such an abominable way, there aren't words to express how horrible it was. Every time he seemed to find a small measure of happiness, it was cruelly yanked away from him which completely broke my heart. Even after several millennia, he views himself as nothing but a whore and can't seem to escape that life. Once he came into his god powers, he got away from it for a while, but then bartered himself to Artemis again to save his Dark-Hunters and give them and their loves a happy life. No one truly knows all that Ash has sacrificed over the years, and he is so humble, he doesn't want them to know. It is truly amazing that no matter how much torment Acheron was subjected to in his life, he still treats others, especially those who are helpless, with kindness, gentleness, and respect. He takes no pleasure in other people's pain even those who've horribly wronged him. He takes his god powers and the responsibility that comes with them very seriously. He feels everything in a much deeper way than even most humans do. In spite of having a terrible childhood himself, he loves babies and children and is so tender with them. Even after all his heartbreak, he can't help wondering what it might be like to have a child of his own and a woman to love him unconditionally. Ash's little demon companion, Simi, is, in his mind, a daughter to him, and after seeing the depth of their bond in this story, I now fully understand why he got so upset with Nick for having sex with her. I love how Ash is charitable and constantly giving back to the community in various ways. When Tory comes into his life, Ash is completely undone, and yet, strangely empowered by her acceptance of him, warts and all. Every time she embraces a new part of him, he marvels at it, and her tenderness toward him is like nothing he's ever known before. Ash is such a sweetheart, I almost want to put him in my beta hero category, and the only thing that stops me from that is the fact that in his god form he is quite fearsome and his powers instill fear in the hearts of both gods and men. No matter what form he's in, no one deserves the true love and happiness Ash finally found more than he does.
Tory was first introduced as a brainy teenage geek who was helping her older cousin, Geary, in her quest to find Atlantis in Dream Hunter. Since then, she's put her intelligence to good use, getting her doctorate degree by age twenty and becoming a leading expert in her field. She's never given up the search for Atlantis, because she desperately wants to make her family's sacrifices mean something and to save her father's reputation. Unfortunately, even though he doesn't want to hurt her, Ash puts Tory's own reputation in question when he deliberately discredits her in front of a large audience in an attempt to prevent her from uncovering secrets he wants to keep buried. Tory is a geek girl after my own heart who is afraid of crowds and public speaking, but ultimately, throughout the rest of the story, she doesn't really exhibit any shyness or other nerdy qualities except for wearing glasses, without which she is practically blind, and being a little clumsy. On the contrary, we find out that she's a closet thrill-seeker, and at her first couple of meetings with Ash, she's a rather mouthy spitfire, entertaining some vicious fantasies of hurting him. I guess I can't blame her too much for being so upset with him, since he did basically ruin her career, but at the same time, I never would have thrown a hammer at the poor guy. Once she finally gets to know him though, Tory calms down and treats him with the utmost kindness. She is incredibly gentle with Ash while trying to coax him to eat and to take off his sunglasses so she can see his eyes. She is also very intuitive of Ash's painful, abusive past, figuring out that something terrible must have happened to him long before he finally reveals any of the gory details to her. One of the things I adored most about her was the way she chides her friends for ogling Ash and then tells them she likes him for his brain more than his body. That really hit home for me, because that's the type of person I am. The best thing about Tory though, is that while she may be surprised by certain developments at first, she ultimately, takes them in stride and loves each and every part of Ash as it's presented to her, including the things about himself that he's always hated.
I have to admit that throughout my reading of this book, I was hoping that Ash and Tory's relationship would build into something amazing, something that totally wowed me into believing they share a love worth waiting 11,000 years for. Maybe I had my expectations set just a wee bit too high, but I didn't feel like it quite reached that spectacular level where I was completely blown away by their romance. It was nice and sweet, and I don't deny that they fit together perfectly. Ms. Kenyon also did a great job of setting Tory apart from all the other women Ash had known in his life. Still, I couldn't help but feel like there was a little something missing. I think part of it was because in all the eons of Ash's life, he's never felt this way toward any woman, yet he doesn't seem to find it the least bit odd nor does he really try to fight it in any way. Also, after everything he'd been through as a sex slave and Artemis being the only woman he's willingly had sex with (and even then only in the beginning), I thought it a bit unusual that he would have such lusty feelings toward Tory. I guess I wanted their relationship to be built purely on emotion and be something incredibly special that the author hasn't done before and that only they shared, but in the beginning, it was really only the typical physical attraction that Ms. Kenyon uses in most of her stories. There just didn't seem to be a whole lot to set Ash and Tory's relationship apart from any other Dark-Hunter romance, and I also felt like it was slightly overshadowed by the fight to keep Tory safe and the journals from falling into the wrong hands. I would have loved a few more tender moments between Tory and Ash. There was definitely enough to convince me of their love and their rightness for one another, but oftentimes these scenes didn't last long before they were jumping into the action again. A couple more love scenes would have been extremely welcome too. They only have one moderately detailed scene and one other one that is pretty much skimmed over. Ash had more sex scenes with Artemis in Part I than he did with Tory in Part II, so I couldn't help feeling like they got a little cheated in this department. However, all of my little complaints, again, weren't enough to make me drop the rating, because in the end, I was convinced of Ash and Tory's love, even if their romance was slightly lacking. Not to mention, Ash alone made the story more than worth reading.
As might be expected, Artemis plays a huge role in the story. During the first half of the book, she is Ash's "love interest." She is as imperious as ever, always thinking herself above everyone else, but in the beginning, she's also incredibly naive. She occasionally feels twinges of compassion for Ash, but she never truly understands him or what he's been through. Ash intrigues Artemis and peaks her curiosity, because he doesn't treat her like a goddess. Yet despite her claims of friendship, she views him as more of a pet than a person. In spite of these qualities that were consistent with her characterization up to this point in the series, she had just enough humanity in her early on that it actually took a while for the real Artemis we all know and love (Not!) to finally come out and play. At that point, I completely despised her. She could profess her love for Acheron all she wanted, but it was never a real, true, or lasting love. Instead, her affections were nothing more than selfish obsession. She was kind to him when it pleased her to be, but then she could turn on a dime to become viciously abusive. If she had really loved him, she would have been willing to risk everything for him. Not to mention, she wouldn't have broken her promises to him, knowing how much it would hurt him. In fact, Artemis knowing what had been done to Ash, and yet still doing all the same things to him herself for all those centuries, made her actions even more abominable.
I've known from reading all of the Dark-Hunter books that Acheron and Artemis have a long, sordid and complicated history, and after reading this book, I now know the whole of it. In the beginning, I couldn't help feeling a bit jealous of the fact that Artemis could arouse desire in Ash after all that he'd been through. I suppose I prefer to think of my heroes only with their heroine and not with other women. However, this relationship is an important part of who Ash is as a person, and therefore, integral to the story. Given Ash's history, it wasn't at all surprising that he would enter into a dysfunctional relationship like this. He'd been told all his life that he was nothing but a worthless whore, so it's understandable that he would be drawn to a woman who didn't say those things or treat him badly (at first of course). When Artemis does start treating him like everyone else, it cuts deeper than anything ever has before, but he continues to allow her back into his life over and over, because he needs so badly to be needed, wanted, and loved by anyone that he's willing to risk the pain. He's a classic case of an abused person repeatedly going back to their abuser, because it's the only thing they know and somehow they feel like they don't deserve anything better. Not to mention that with Artemis being a goddess, Ash had very little choice in the matter. She could simply impose her will upon him, hurt him even worse than the humans did if he refused, or manipulate him, which is essentially what she did the couple of times that he did finally manage to get free of her.
Most of the Dark-Hunter and Were-Hunter heroes and heroines from both past and future books show up at some point during the story. I love the way they all pulled together to help Ash in his time of need. Those scenes were incredibly touching. Nick has a slightly more prominent role than the others which isn't too surprising given that he was Ash's best friend at one time. Although Ash is truly regretful of the events that his actions set into motion which destroyed that friendship, Nick is far from ready to let go of his animosity toward Ash. Still, it was good to see a small part of the old Nick back, and I was also glad to see him doing the right thing. After reading his final scene in this book though, all I have to say is he's going to need all the help he can get, because I don't think he has any idea what he's in store for with the new "friendship" he formed. Ash's twin brother, Styxx is also a major player in the first part of the book. He, like everyone else, is so incredibly horrible toward Ash, that it's difficult to think of him as a future hero, but I suppose that him being cursed to have Ash's memories has probably softened him up some, and he does do a "good deed" to help Ash out in a big way too.
Overall, I would say that, when everything is put into perspective, Acheron did mostly live up to the hype for me. I'll love and adore Ash, and he'll be one of all-time favorite romance heroes until the day I die. I loved watching him grow and slowly learn how to love and trust again. I had said before that after reading this book, all bets would be off as to whether I would continue with the series. At this point, I would say that I most likely will, at least for the time being, if for no other reason than I'm hoping for more Ash sightings. I know that Sherrilyn Kenyon has planned the culmination of the next major part of the story arc to be Jaden's book and the one after that to be Savitar's. However, I have to admit that neither they nor any other upcoming character has quite captured my imagination or affections yet in the same way Ash did from the start. With that being the case, it remains to be seen if anyone will instill the kind of loyalty needed to continue the series long-term in the way I have for Ash. He's simply one of a kind, and there's no other romance hero quite like him.
Note: The scenes of Ash being almost constantly raped, tortured, and abused from childhood on can be deeply affecting, disturbing, and depressing. I would strongly caution sensitive readers or anyone who has been the victim of physical or sexual abuse to be sure you can handle it before reading.
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