Centuries ago, when they were only teenagers, Strykerius, the demigod son of Apollo, and Zephyra, a common girl, had a whirlwind romance and marriage. When Apollo made threats against Zephyra, the young Stryker, not knowing what else he could do, bowed to his father's wishes and walked away from her to marry another woman of Apollo's choosing. Now many years later, he is the leader of the accursed Apollites and will stop at nothing to protect his own and vanquish his enemies. In an attempt to avenge his sister's death and annihilate the Dark-Hunters, Stryker unleashes an evil greater than himself, with the intent of bringing the world to an end on Christmas Day. Unfortunately, his rash actions result in consequences he never would have predicted.
After Stryker left her, Zephyra got by the best way she knew how, even though that meant placing herself in the service of Artemis for life. She became an accomplished warrior, and when Artemis summons her with orders to kill Stryker, Zephyra still harbors enough animosity toward him to be more than happy to comply. When her hand is stayed by an unexpected source, Stryker makes a deal with her to give him two weeks to win her back. If at the end of that time, she doesn't believe that he never forgot her and still loves her, she can kill him without a fight. Zephyra thinks it will be an easy win for her, but she didn't plan on being reminded of all the reasons why she fell in love with him all those years ago. She also didn't count on having to team up with her enemy to stop the evil he unleashed before it's too late for both of them.
The last full-length, Christmas-themed book in the Dark-Hunter series was just OK for me, and perhaps for that reason, I went into reading One Silent Night with low expectations. The fact that Stryker had been an antagonist in several past Dark-Hunter books and my uncertainty about him being the hero of his own story only added to my lack of anticipation. Well, maybe that was a good thing, because I ended up finding this book to be pretty entertaining. Admittedly, the mythology was rather muddled and overly complex, and often events occur for the sake of the plot, two things that are typical for Sherrilyn Kenyon's books. I often find both annoying, but in this case, I mostly ignored them and just tried to go with the flow. Part of what made it so enjoyable, though, were the inclusion of several other characters we already know and the introduction of a couple of new characters, all of whom I liked very much. Usually having the action and POV straying away from the main couple this much dilutes the romance for me, but this time, I found it to be a plus. So, overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this story.
As I mentioned, Stryker has been the villain in several previous Dark-Hunter books, so I wasn't sure how I would like him as a "hero." Oddly enough, he still isn't quite what I would call heroic even in his own book. I guess I would have to say I'm ambivalent about him even after reading his story. He starts out by unleashing a creature who is more evil than he is, all for the purpose of killing Acheron and Nick, the two people whom he hates the most. By the end, he has realized the error of his ways, and must strike up a temporary truce with his mortal enemies in order to defeat this evil creature and save the life of someone he loves. There's a part of me which understands that many of the things Stryker does are to protect his Daimons from his father's terrible curse, but another part of me feels like he's done some pretty reprehensible things for which he needs to pay penance. Unfortunately, that didn't happen here, and I can't say that I'm entirely surprised. Based on the way things ended, I'm sure he's going to be back to antagonize Acheron and his Dark-Hunters some more in future books. This was somewhat disappointing, because if a bad guy is going to be redeemed into a hero, I like to see him get his comeuppance and know that he's going to be a good guy in the future. As a romantic hero, he was perhaps a little better. His teenage marriage to Zephyra ended with him walking out on her, but we get to see how much that tore him up inside and that he only did it to protect her from his father's wrath. When it comes to Zephyra he has a definite soft spot and would do anything to win her back, even promising to allow her to execute him without a fight if she isn't convinced of his love for her within two weeks time. She's the only woman he's ever truly loved, and he always treats her with the utmost gentleness and respect. I also liked that he was even off-put by some of the seemingly bad things that she did, which I thought showed him to have some honor and scruples, even if only in small measure. For these reasons and because he showed a few other vulnerabilities, I couldn't help liking him... somewhat. However, I can't go so far as to say that I fell for him in the way I like to fall for romance heroes, because I simply couldn't forget all the bad things he's done to characters I do love.
Zephyra is a definite alpha female who I felt was a good match for Stryker, but maybe that's because she can be just as ruthless as he is if not more so. Although she's loathe to admit it, she was hurt deeply by Stryker's abandonment of her centuries ago and is still holding a major grudge for it. Throughout that time, Zephyra has done what she had to do to survive, some of which hasn't been all that pretty. From the moment she sees Stryker again, she's ready to kill him on the spot. It's only her daughter's voice of reason and her belief that perhaps they can work together toward a common goal, that stays her hand... temporarily. Stryker also offers her his tempting bargain to allow him to win her back, which initially, she thinks will be a piece of cake. She just didn't count on Stryker getting under her skin again. I admired Zephyra for being so protective of her daughter, but she's such a tough girl, I had a hard time relating to her on a more personal level. There have been some kick-butt heroines in this series, but for the most part they've always had a softer side, which is something I never really saw much of in Zephyra. Like Stryker, I too was put off by her torture and enslavement of someone who didn't entirely seem to deserve it. I'm willing to admit though, that maybe I don't know enough about this character yet to understand why Zephyra mistreats him, but I really liked him and wanted it to stop. Because of this, I would have to say that Zephyra is the most hard-ass heroine I've read so far in this series. At the same time though, I'm also willing to admit that perhaps this was pure genius, because it made me feel that Styker wasn't quite so bad after all and that they deserved each other... err... were well matched.:-)
Since neither Stryker nor Zephyra quite made it onto my favorite heroes and heroines list, it was really the secondary characters who made this book so entertaining for me. I was worried that after Ash found his HEA in his own book we might not see much of him anymore, but he plays a prominent role in this story. Nick is a key player too. He's still finding his way after all the recent events in his life, and even more changes occur for him here. He's still holding a huge grudge against Ash and is on a vendetta to kill him, which I can't help feeling is a little unreasonable on his part. Both Nick and Ash screwed up, but considering that Ash has apologized for his part in the death of Nick's mom and never intentionally intended to hurt her, I feel like Nick should just get over it. His old mentor, Menyara, tells him as much, and it looks like the changes Nick experiences in this book may be putting him on that path. I certainly hope so at least. Tory and Simi are also there beside Ash, and Savitar shows up a few times to lend his support as well. So do Alexion and Danger (Sins of the Night), and Sin and Katra (Devil May Cry). Stryker's son, Urian, is in a couple of scenes, but there's no happy father/son reunion, as Urian understandably hasn't forgiven his father for killing his wife (or him for that matter). We're also introduced to a new character, Jared, who I have a feeling is going to play a big role in upcoming books of the series. I fell for him almost instantly. He also has a little demon companion named Nim (much like Simi is to Ash), who is just too cute for words. I can't wait to see more of this pair, and hope that there might be a book for Jared at some point in the future.
The other thing that made this book enjoyable and one that Dark-Hunter fans shouldn't miss is the advancement of the overall story arc. As I mentioned there were major changes for Nick, which I'm sure will affect future books. There are also some big changes afoot for Stryker and the Daimon army he leads. With Zephyra's help they realize it's possible to do something they'd never before considered, because they thought it would mean death and/or enslavement. I'm certain this will make things much more difficult for the Dark-Hunters from here on out. Stryker, Ash, and Nick may have taken the saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" to a whole new level in this book, but it's most likely going to be business as usual by the next one with a new twist added. The one small downside to the story was that the Christmas theme was more of an afterthought rather than a integral part of the narrative. The only nods to the holiday season were Ash and Tory decorating a Christmas tree and a couple of mentions of Stryker's scheme bringing the world to an end for the humans on Christmas Day. In the grand scheme of things that was a pretty small complaint though. Even if I couldn't entirely get on board with Stryker and Zephyra being "heroic" characters, they exhibited just enough vulnerability and sympathy factor to make me like them well enough. All the other tidbits added to the series story arc also made One Silent Night a nice addition to the Dark-Hunter series. After reading Acheron, I wasn't sure if I was going to continue with the series, but this book has piqued my interest sufficiently to make me stick with it for a while longer.
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