Acheron (Dark-Hunter, Book 12)
Careful if you haven’t read the series, as Ash’s love interest is revealed towards the end of my review. I will admit I was slightly disappointed that I knew who it was before I got to that part in the book (it was my bad though, I accidentally stumbled on it while searching the web for something else)…
Acheron. To me, he is the dreamiest of all the dreamy heroes (regardless of series). The slow tantalizing build up of his character, from each book in the Dark-Hunter series, comes to a head in a long and detailed narration. We are guided through each step of his existence, from Acheron’s heritage, doomed birth, horrific life as a human, and how he becomes who he is today.
Throughout the series, we were allotted tiny pieces into Acheron’s past, and what his existence might mean to the fate of the world. While in earlier installations, he was introduced as leader of the Dark-Hunters, and the most powerful of the group, we slowly begin to realize that his all-knowing and boundless power is tied to a more intricate and omnipotent destiny.
While I absolutely enjoyed this book and specifically adored the second half (so funny, and extremely romantic), the appalling scenes of his existence, in the first part of the book, unfold relentlessly, and at times, it can get to be too much for the reader. I had to take numerous breaks to get back to the reality of life. There is no way any human could survive this kind of abuse and emotional torture, and yet Acheron does (which, conveniently, can be explained by his godly derivation).
As my friend Toni accurately described the book to me:
…they took his dreams, smashed them, lit them on fire, ground them to dust, force fed the ashes to him and beat him for processing them.
Ohhhh she was so right!
Born of Atlantean gods (his mother, Apollymi, is the goddess of death, destruction and war) and his father Archon (the king of the Atlantean gods), it was prophesied by the three Fates that he would be the end of of the Atlantean gods. His father, determined to change the outcome of the future, demands that his unborn child be destroyed.
How could he do this? For centuries she’d been trying to conceive Archon’s son – it was all she ever wanted.
A babe of her own.
Now due to the prophecy of three small girls – Archon’s jealous bastards, her child was to be sacrificed and killed.
Apollymi, desperate to save her unborn child (whom she has named Apostolos), prematurely births him, binds his godly powers, and sends him to earth to be born as a human to a queen, and raised as royalty (so that he may be treated as a prince).
“Take him. put him in the belly of a pregnant queen. Do you understand?”
She let go and righted herself. “Um, I can do that. What about the queen’s brat?”
“Merge Apostolos’s life force with that of the queen’s child. Let her know by oracle that if my child dies, so does hers.” That would protect him more than anything else.
But there was one more thing to be done. Apollymi jerked the white sfora from her neck and held it to Apostolos’s chest. If anyone suspected her was her son or any god detected his presence in the human realm, they would kill him instantly.
His powers would have to be bound and locked away until he was old enough and strong enough to fight back. She placed the orb to his chest and watched as his godhood slid from him to the sfora. His tiny body turned from blue ot the pale skin of humanity.
Now he would be safe. Not even the gods would know what he’d done.
The first part of the book is narrated from Ash’s sister, Ryssa’s perspective. As the queen of Greece births her twin sons, (one of them being Apostolos), the royal family quickly disown him when they notice his strange swirling silver eyes. The King has determined that his Queen has been unfaithful to him by bedding a god resulting in his birth, and refuses to acknowledge the child. The Queen, upset that her fidelity has been questioned, refuses to love and nurse the baby.
“I will not raise a monster,” my father snarled.
“You have no choice.” The wisewoman took the baby from the midwife and offered it to my mother.
Frowning, I saw a note of satisfaction in the midwife’s eyes before the beautiful blond woman made her way through the crowd to vanish from the room.
“He was born of your body, Majesty,” the wisewoman said, drawing my attention back toward her and my mother. “He is your son.”
The baby squalled even louder, reaching again for my mother. His mother. She cringed away from him, clutching her second-born even tighter than before. “I will not suckle it. I will not touch it. get it away from my sight.”
The wisewoman took the child to my father. “And what of you, Majesty? Will you not acknowledge him?”
“Never. That child is no son of mine.”
The wisewoman took a deep breath and presented the infant to the room. Her grip was loose with no lober or compassion evident in her touch.
“Then he will be called Acheron for the River of Woe. Like the river of the Underworld, his journey shall be dark, long and enduring. he will be able to give life and take it. He will walk through his life alone and abandoned – ever seeking kindness and ever finding cruelty.”
The wisewoman looked down at the infant in her hands and uttered the simple truth that would haunt the boy for the rest of his existence. “May the gods have mercy on you, little one,. No one else ever will.”
And such sets the stage and tone of Ash’s life.
Apostolos (aka “Acheron”) is abused and horribly neglected throughout his childhood, while his human twin (Styxx) is treated as the prince he is. While shunned by all who should love him, his only solace is the hidden affection bestowed upon him by his older sister.
As a young boy, he is eventually torn from his sister’s arms, and sent to live in Atantis with his uncle. While his sister is told that her brother is happy and doing well in his new home, she receives an anonymous letter indicating that her brother is in dire need of help. Arriving at her uncle’s home, she realizes that her now teenage brother has been held captive, and is routinely used as a sex slave, and severely beaten regularly. Despondent with life, and unable to understand affection or love, the subservient and fearful Acheron resists her efforts to help him escape, but is eventually “kidnapped” by her and her guard, and secretly taken to a rarely used family summer home.
I clenched my hands into fists to keep from reaching out to touch him. I just wanted to gather him into my arms and hold him until the nightmare that had been his life was completely erased from his memory.
But how? How could I make him understand that he was safe now? That no one would ever touch him without his explicit invitation? That he was free to make his own decisions and that no one would beat him for voicing his opinion?
Helping her brother heal from his physical and even deeper emotional scars, she plots to re-integrate him into their family, theorizing that her father did not know how terribly Acheron was treated, and might accept him back.
sidenote: And over and over again, this pattern is repeated. It got to the point where every time she entered the scene I couldn’t help but cringe and wanted to cry “Run away Ash! You’re going to get in trouble again!”. I truly wanted to throttle her! Always well-intentioned, and looking for a way to make Acheron happy, she insistently revolted at the unfairness of his treatment. Unfortunately, it seemed that at every possible reprieve that Acheron was afforded, his sweet but incredibly naive sister managed to get him into trouble (causing him to be cruelly and abhorrently beaten). It got to the point where I almost couldn’t feel sympathy for Acheron anymore. Despite knowing the consequences of his actions (albeit HIGHLY unfair and ridiculous for him to be treated thusly), he still always managed to follow her into his own doom.
Now hold on!! I’m not saying that he deserved it. I’m not even saying that he brought it upon himself (well, maybe just a little bit – hee hee!). I’m merely affirming that, when you are surrounded by illogical and severely flawed people who hold power over you and others, going against their rules (and being caught), WILL result in punishment…I’m just sayin’…
Well anyway, here is a very sweet and insightful sister/brother bonding moment that touched me (it was moments like these that made it so that I couldn’t hate her):
I closed my hand around his. “I don’t know the will of the gods, Acheron, no one does. But I refuse to believe that it’s their will to hurt you so. You were a precious gift that was scorned by the very ones who should have cherished you. That is a human tragedy that shouldn’t be laid at the feet of divinity. The priests often say that the gifts of the gods are sometimes hard to accept or identify, but I know in my heart that you are special. That you are a gift to humanity. Never doubt that you were placed here with some higher purpose and that purpose was not with malice or to be abused.”
Eventually, Acheron meets the god Artemis, who brings him both a sense of emotional and romantic connection. Falling in love, they spend precious moments together, while she helps heal Acheron’s physical wounds and his scarred soul.
“Have you any friends?” she asked.
He shook his head.
“I suppose I’m not worthy of any.”
Artemis frowned at his reasoning. “It can’t be that. I haven’t any either and I am more than worthy. Perhaps there is a flaw to us.” She paused as she thought about that. “No, that can’t be right either. I have no flaws and yet I’m as alone as you are.”
While she seems to be genuinely sweet (albeit severely self-centered), things with Artemis never run smoothly. Abusive much? Whoa! She goes from hot to cold within seconds, and can take a healing hand and rip Ash’s heart and body to shreds with a single angry thought.
Acheron staggered back in shock as his cheek burned. Before he could recover himself, Artemis attacked him, slapping and punching. When that didn’t seem to satisfy her, she flung him against the far wall and held him there with her god’s powers.
I will protect you…
Her words rang in his as he stared down at her, waiting for her to finally kill him. Truthfully he’d rather be dead then feel the splintering in his heart over what she was doing.
Poor Ash, again, he suffers abuse because he is so in love with her and doesn’t know anything else. In fact, it is because he values her love so much, that her dark side manages to inflict even deeper scars onto his psyche then from anyone in his past (as a human, and even when he gets his powers back).
As we continue to get insight into the complicated and twisted and eventually forced bond between them (that whole elaborate part could have been it’s own book in itself, but it was wonderfully laid out here for us), Ash’s book leads us into the present day Dark-Hunters, and his obligation to keep yet another Atlantis seeker off course.
Tory, Geary’s cousin (remember her from “The Dream-Hunter” book?) is determined to continue Geary’s mission where she left off, and Acheron must discourage her so that Apollymi is not released from her imprisonment spell (which would then allow her to unleash her wrath onto the world).
As Ash publicly humiliates Tory during her lectures on her findings, he is eventually forced to protect her, when they realize her crew has stumbled upon something that could lead to her death. Remember how Ash has that certain “je ne sais quoi” that unwittingly incites all to desire him and want to touch him? Well, not only do we find out what that’s all about, but Tory doesn’t seem to react that way to him at all. While she secretly is attracted to him, she finds him more annoying then anything. The funny moments between the two, and within their circle of friends, abound.
Oh hey! Here is one that had me laughing out loud! While Ash is with Tory and her friends (under the guise of protecting her from potential burglars), he is trying to get answers from his mother via his mind. At one frustrating moment, he forgets himself and publically lets loose (in his Atlantean language)
“Dammit to hell, Matera, answer me!” Ash shot off the couch in anger only to realize all three women were staring at him curiously.
Pam cleared her throat. “Any idea what he just said?”
Tory frowned. “Um…not really.”
“Wow,” Kim said with a light laugh, “some Greek the Greek princess can’t understand. I’m impressed.”
Pam arched one brow. “Must be the voices in his head that he was responding to. I just hope they’re not telling him to kill us.”
tee hee! I chuckled out loud as I typed this (it’s still funny, even now).
As their close proximity permits them to get to know one another, Tory’s apparent disinterest to Ash allows him to let his guard down and truly befriend her.
Smiling, she reached up for his glasses. “Can I take these off?”
Ash swallowed as fear tore through him. “I wish you wouldn’t.”
“Because they’ll make you uncomfortable. No one likes to look at my eyes.”
She scowled at him. “What are you? Rosemary’s baby?”
Ha!! How clever and apropos was that line? LOVED it!
Oh! Ohhhhh!! Another one that just had me giggling while I was flipping through my earmarked pages. Tory, still unaware of Ash’s true self, listens as he and another “Other” discuss some new attackers, and Ash asks:
“These Atlantikoinonia. They’re human?”
Tory was confused by his strange question. “What else would they be? Turnips?”
LOL!!! No but really, the whole second half of the book is equally amusing!
From their initial exchange of hurling insults at one another, to their working together and becoming friends, this book will answer all of your questions, and secure Ash’s place in your heart! There is a sweet spark of romance that let’s us (as well as Tory) into Ash’s heart, and how many of you have been waiting to experience that?!
Ok so one last quote to end off with (one of my favorite romantic parts, and this was hard to choose as there were many moments that had me swooning):
One small tear slid from the corner of his right eye. Slamming them shut, he surrendered himself to her. Right now, this moment, she owned him in a way no one ever had before.
No, she didn’t own him.
He gave himself to her and for the first time, he understood the difference. He understood what it meant to make love. To share his body with someone not out of obligation or fear, but because it made them closer.
In this one heartbeat, he was hers and she was his.
This very book will lead you through a smorgasbord of emotions. From the integral romantic plot, to the sagas of the other characters, you will bond to them all. I’ll even admit, I loved Hades and Apollymi (and since Ash is taken, I think I now have a crush on Urian)… It may begin by emotionally distressing you for hours, but I promise that it will have you laughing and your heart beaming to the very end.
Wow, just realized how long this review is. I guess I got carried away ;), but that’s easy to do with Acheron.