I am behind in my reviews again. Shame on me because this series is SO much fun, and they should absolutely be discussed. Unfortunately I like them so much, that I simply start the next in the series instead of reviewing the one I just read. I’m actually already reading Night Play (Book six), and am already hooked. That’s the thing about this series. Each book catches me from the start, and I don’t find my attention waning (as it sometimes does when I start a new book).
All right, so on to the wonderful Zarek. In a past post, I commented on how Zarek reminded me of Zsadist (from the Black Dagger Brotherhood series). While I did hope to like him as much as “Zsadist”, his book didn’t quite hit that level for me. Don’t get me wrong. Zarek was wonderful, and his book was exciting (and sad). While both characters have lived similar tormented lives, with injustices that brought about much bitterness towards the world, the difference is that Zsadist really resisted Bella, and the angst that he experienced went right to the bone. With Zarek’s book, there wasn’t as much emotional tension between the two main characters, as I was expecting.
In this book, Zarek returns to his personal “ice-hell” in Alaska. He was banished there, by Artemis, hundreds of years ago, to live in seclusion. It was his punishment for having destroyed his town that was his to protect. While he couldn’t remember the events of his supposed rage and destruction, he had enough flashbacks to hold guilt deep inside. He lived in a tiny shack, often without any of the normal comforts we often take for granted.
And people wondered why he was insane.
Up until about ten years ago, he’d had no contact whatsoever with the outside world during the long summer months that forced him to live inside his remote cabin.
No phone, computer, no television.
Nothing but the quiet solitude of rereading the same stack of books over and over again until he had them memorized. Waiting in eager anticipation for the nights to grow long enough for him to be able to travel from his rural cabin into Fairbanks while the businesses were still open and he could interact with people.
For that matter, it had only been about a century and a half since the area had been sufficiently populated for him to have any human contact at all.
Before that, for untold centuries he had lived up here all alone without any human being anywhere near him. He’d only occasionally caught sight of natives who were terrified to find a strange, tall Caucasian man with fangs, living in a remote forest. They would take one look at his six-foot-six height and musk-ox parka and a run as fast as they could in the other direction, screaming out that the Iglaaq was going to get them. Superstitious to the extreme, they had built up an entire legend based on him.
Unbeknownst to him, Artemis demands that he be judged for his recent acts (which again, have been greatly misconstrued), and sends a god of justice (Astrid) to earth to determine his fate. Known as one who always judges one guilty, Acheron sees deep into Asterid’s heart, and knows she is always fair. He trusts that she will see in Zarek, what he sees, and agrees with Artemis that she is a good choice. Astrid arrives on earth blind (so that she judges him with her heart and not her eyes), and she gets to know him under the pretense that she is a neighbor of sorts.
Wounded from a physical attack during a horrible Alaskan snow storm (there is a bounty on his head), Zarek wakes to find himself being cared for by Astrid.
Zarek watched her draw near to him. She moved his side again, intruding on his personal space. He was torn between wanting to stand beside her and wanted to curse her nearness.
He decided on pulling away. “Look, could you just stay away for me?”
“Does it bother you for me to come here?”
More than she could imagine. When she was near him, it was easy to forget what he was. Easy to pretend he was a human being who could be normal.
But that wasn’t him.
That had never been him.
“Yes, it does,” he said, his tone low, threatening. “I don’t like people to get near me.”
“That’s none of your damned business, lady,” he snapped at her. “I just don’t like people to touch me and I don’t like them to come near me. So back off and leave me alone before you get hurt.”
The wolf growled at him again, more fiercely this time.
“And you, Kibbles,” he snarled at the wolf, “had better lay off me. One more growl and I swear I’m going to geld you with a spoon.”
“Sasha, come here.”
He watched as the wolf went instantly to her side.
“I’m sorry you find us so bothersome,” she said. “But since we seem to be stuck together for a bit, you could try and be a little more sociable. At the very least civil.”
Maybe she was right. But the bad thing was, he didn’t know how to be sociable, never mind civil. No one had ever want to converse with him either in his human life or his Dark-Hunter one.
Obliged to stay with her until the weather lets up, Zarek begins to experience emotions other than the usual hatred that has fueled his life.
Helping to care for a blind woman, and allowing her to care for him, they develop a friendship that warms his heart during the lengthy ice storm. Astrid, realizing that he is skittish with any emotional contact, reaches out to him gently, all the while, attempting to stay unbiased as she realizes that she is falling in love with a man that has been greatly misjudged.
She wished she could strip his bad memories from him. Give him a happy childhood filled with love and tenderness.
A life of joy and friendship.
He laid his head down between her breasts stayed there quietly as if content to feel nothing more than her under him while the sun warmed them both.
“Tell me the happy memory, Zarek. One thing in your life that was good.”
He hesitated for so long that she didn’t think he would answer. When he spoke, his voice was so soft that it made her ache. “You.”
Tears gathered in her eyes. She hugged him with her body, cradling him, hoping that in some way she soothed his troubled, restless spirit.
Astrid knew then that she would fight for this man, and in the back of her mind became a frightening realization.
She was falling in love with him.
We learn of Zarek’s horrific past as an abused child and slave, and why his angry exterior has kept everyone at a distance.
As the story continues, the reader is lead into his pure and beautiful heart. Here is a touching “Zarek” moment that is typical of his hidden sweet side.
He went to the corner across from the stove and grabbed a handful of the carved wooden figurines he piled there and move to place them inside the stove.
As soon as he swung open the small iron door, he paused.
There was a tiny mink inside with three newborn kits. The mother, angry at being disturbed, hissed a warning to him as they stared at each other.
Zarek hissed back at her
“Man, I don’t believe this,” Zarek mumbled angrily.
The mink must have come down the stovepipe and moved in while he’d been gone. It had probably still been warm when she found it and the stove was an extremely safe place for den.
“The least you could have done was bring about fifty of your friends with you. I could use a new coat.”
She bared her teeth.
Aggravated, Zarek closed the door and returned the kindling to the pile in the corner. He was a dick, but not even he would toss them out. Being immortal, he would survive the cold. The mother and young wouldn’t.
While the bounty on his head continues to endanger him, and now the one woman he has opened up to, the Dark-Hunter world expands even more. We get a deeper look into the lives of Acheron and Artemis, and even more of the Dark-Hunters that are sure to appear in the future, and of course, the truth about Zarek’s life and who he really is. Just wonderful! Not my favorite in the series, but I loved it nonetheless, and I dare you not to shed a tear during chapter 14!! WOW! That was heartrending!
Check out the entire series reading order guide right here ——>Sherrilyn Kenyon – Dark-Hunter & Dream-Hunter Reading Order