Release date: March 11, 2014
I was very delighted to learn of Bree Despain’s next paranormal series, and the fact that it is based on Greek mythology just amped my excitement even more. Based on the Hades-Persephone myth, the story is of Haden, an Underrealm Prince and Daphne, a talented girl with the voice of an angel. If you think it is going to be another girl-meets-boy story, you would be wrong – because it is much more than that. The Underrealm has been locked away since millenia, and the only gate open is through Persephone’s Gate, which opens every six months for a limited period of time. No girl is ever born in the Underrealm, which means if they want to keep it populated (they are NOT immortal), they need girls. Each year, a Champion is sent through the Gate, and has to persuade a girl(s) (called Boons) to come to the Underrealm of their own free will, within six months. Yep, no kidnapping business here but the Boons don’t really have a long lifespan in the world of Death. Haden, the disgraced Prince, is eager to regain his honor in Court, and when the Oracle chooses him to be the champion, he sets forth to find his specified Boon, Daphne and bring her back to Court. Now, Daphne is a small-town girl who wants to escape said small town and make a music star of herself. She has always been attuned to sounds and music since a kid. Enter her estranged father (a famous rockstar), who gains her custody overnight and takes her to Olympic Hills, an elite gated community in LA. She gets everything she wants – top-class education in a school, entry into the highly acclaimed musical programme. Boy-meets-girl but that one is a disaster. Her classmate and friend, Tobin, warns her off the Lord family, whose cousins keep popping into town every few years (yeah, those same Champions) and are quite suspicious for the fact that he saw one with his sister before she disappeared. What ensues next is a sweet romance, some fighting against destiny and awesome story development.
The construct of the world is very interesting – we have the Underrealm, which is basically Hades, filled with all these vicious nobles and lords who consider emotion very degrading. Humanity is basically frowned upon there and Haden grows up with the disapproval of the entire Court. They are eager for war with the Skylords, their enemies – and consider Orpheus the Traitor because of his role in sealing off the Underrealm. In the Overrealm, Olympic Hills seems like a paradise but a lot of secrets lurk in the town. A string of accidental deaths right after Haden’s entry makes matters very complicated, with Daphne outright suspicious of him in the start. As the story progresses, she starts to warm up to him and they become friends. He is essentially wooing her but then starts to fall for her. The romance is very subtle, and hardly overwhelms the main plot, that is, Daphne’s role as the Cypher and how Haden is tied into her destiny. In fact, I loved the fact for how simple their relationship is – and even if Haden comes off as boorish (a la Thor) and pirate-like to her, he starts to mellow himself to let their friendship grow. It’s not all soulful gazing and all – it is how they understand each other’s pain and lend support to the other. Despain’s writing of Haden was also quite good – the book is a dual POV, so it is quite entertaining to get into Haden’s head too. He is cute, with all the Googling and Youtubing about how to do different things in the Overrealm. Daphne is a smart, strong, independent and goal-oriented girl – she doesn’t believe in destiny and tries to find a way to shrug off the responsibility that Haden says she will have to assume. As for the writing, it was splendid – I was engrossed throughout and loved how the Greek myths were incorporated into it. The Hades-Persephone and Orpheus-Eurydice tales were more like extended into this story, and it echoes even in the title of the series. That one was a goosebumps moment, by the way, and you will have to read it to feel it. Overall, I enjoyed the story immensely and with that amazing ending (without a cliffhanger), I am already in love and eager to see how the series progresses, for their is so much potential in the story. Another great work from Bree Despain!
Received a copy from Egmont USA from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review