Book Reviews

Book Review: A Touch of Darkness

Title: A Touch of Darkness
Author: Scarlett St. Clair
Genre:Fantasy, Romance, Greek Mythology

What It’s About: Persephone attempts to study at her favorite cafe, The Coffee House, but her focus gets sidetracked by the narcissus flowers that are sitting in a vase near her. Narcissus flowers are the symbol of Hades, the God of the Dead, and were most often used to decorate coffins, which means that most likely the owner of The Coffee House is in mourning. When Persephone’s coffee is brought over, she decides to focus on her studies so that she can start the internship at the New Athens News the following day without any further issues. Lexa Sideris, her best friend from university, stops by at the cafe and tells Persephone the news that she was able to get them both into Nevernight, a club owned by Hades, because someone gave their line in the list to her. At first, Persephone tries to avoid going to the club, as her mother, Demeter, the Goddess of Harvest, would be furious with her. Demeter, after all, hates Hades, and has always told Persephone that he’s a horrible being. Not only that, but for the first eighteen years of her life, Persephone was hidden from all the Gods and Goddesses on Olympia, so they don’t even know what she looks like. Lexa convinces Persephone to the club by telling her that Demeter stopped by and checked out Persephone’s room. Once Lexa leaves, the waitress comes by to pick up the mugs, and Persephone grabs her by the wrist, at which point she threatens her with death to not tell Demeter anything about what was just discussed. She has figured out that the waitress is one of Demeter’s loyal minions that her mother has placed to watch her.

That night Persephone attends Nevernight with Lexa, where she meets a few people including Sybil, the up and coming Oracle in whom Apollo is interested, and Adonis, a handsome man that Lexa starts swooning over and who makes it clear that he’s in Nevernight quite often. The group talks about a variety of subjects, and during one of the conversations Persephone glances over her shoulder to see a handsome but broody-looking man staring at her from the balcony. She quickly glances back to her friends when she sees a woman’s hands wrapping themselves around him. It is Adonis who tells Persephone that he’s heard Hades is in the club that night, and goes on to add that Hades is most likely upstairs in a quieter lounge where he does his “deals.” He then explains to Persephone that Hades is able to see the vices of these people who try to bargain with him, and if they are able to abstain from their vices, they get to keep their lives, but if they aren’t, then he takes their souls. Persephone is sickened by this information and wants to find out more about this.

She goes with Lexa to the restroom, but Lexa leaves her behind, and Persephone comes face to face with a woman that is vaguely familiar to her. This woman gives Persephone the password to the upstairs lounges where Hades gambles with the mortals’ lives. She decides to explore and as she comes up the stairs of the entrance of the lounge, she encounters a gorgon, who correctly identifies her as a Goddess. Persephone is angry about this, giving the gorgon the password and going into the lounge in search of Lexa. Instead, she finds herself at an oval table and sits down, but before she’s able to do anything further, a man speaks to her asking if she plays. She gets instantly aroused by his voice, and when she turns around to face him she realizes it is the man from the balcony. He is beautiful in dark way that promises heartbreak, with obsidian eyes, and black hair pulled into what essentially is a man-bun.

She tells him that she’ll play if he’s willing to teach, and he obliges, but also they ask each other questions during which he reveals that he comes to the club often because it is fun, while she tells him that she’s come here with her friend because it seemed rebellious at the time. Persephone asks him about the woman who had her hands on him earlier, and he tells her that it’s Minthe, who puts her hands where they don’t belong. Persephone is about to leave after hearing that, but he gets her to stay by saying that he hasn’t taught her how to play yet. He then goes on to explaining the rules of poker, and they start playing while also flirting with each other. At one point, Persephone asks if it angers Hades if the mortals win, to which the man answers that he wins either way. She realizes then that she has been playing with Hades, and decides to leave, but there is a part of her that wants to return to Hades and get to know the anatomy of his body.

The next day, Persephone is putting on glamour to hide her horns (a sign of her Divinity) and her eyes, when she sees a black mark on her wrist. This mark will not go away no matter how hard she washes it, and she realizes that it was where Hades had touched her the night before. She’s angry that she stayed with him, but knows that she was distracted by his beauty. Persephone decides that she is going to ask Hades to tell her the truth about all of this today, but until then, she will be covering it up with some bangles. Before she’s able to do anything further, Demeter shows up and adds more glamour to Persephone, covering everything that Persephone has liked about herself, and then asks Persephone to explain this whole job that she has. Demeter calls her “Kore,” a nickname that means Maiden, and Persephone hates it because it reminds her that she will be back in the prison that her mother considers as protecting Persephone if she steps too far out of line. Once Demeter is gone, Persephone decides to walk to her internship, and along the way, she realizes that the night at the club has made her want things that she had not wanted until then.

Persephone begins her internship at New Athens News under Demetri Aetos, and they get to know each other, before he tells her that they seek truth and that there’s power in truth. He drops her off at her desk, and Persephone finds out that Adonis is the one that is working there as a journalist as well. Adonis gives her a tour of the location, and they get to know each other a bit more, at which point Persephone tells him that she enjoys research and is leaning towards investigative reporting.

Later that day, she finds herself in front of Nevernight, and creates enough of a ruckus that Hades shows up to see what is going on. One of the ogres had grabbed her by the throat, not realizing that she’s a Goddess until she dropped some of her glamour, to which Hades said that he’ll deal with him later. He lets her enter Nevernight, and takes her into his office, where she begins to raise her glamour, to which Hades responds that it’s a little too late to be modest. When Persephone asks how he knew that she was a Goddess, he tells her that he consulted a few texts after recognizing her magic as Demeter’s, but her not being Demeter. He then asks how come she’s not using her own magic, to which Persephone asks if that is why he put the mark on her skin. He smirks and tells her that it was the result of losing to him. She demands he takes it off and voids the contract, but he tells her that he cannot, and ultimately she agrees to the terms of the contract: to create life in the Underworld. Hades kisses her forehead and she loses her balance enough to hang onto him, at which point Minthe interrupts them and Persephone feels jealous of Minthe’s beauty.

Persephone takes a ride from the cyclops employed by Hades, Antoni, back to her apartment. During that time, the two of them talk, and Antoni tells her that he would rather be serving Hades because he is different than the other Divine, which confuses Persephone as she thinks he’s the worst of the Divine. Antoni tells her not to assume to know what Hades wants, and that he hopes she will visit them often. She enters her apartment and Lexa automatically pounces asking who the Lexus belong to, and Persephone tells her the truth-Hades. Lexa wants to know the details, so Persephone obliges. It is Lexa who suggest that Persephone writes about Hades and his bargains with mortals, which can be seen as scandalous as very few people have done it for fear of retaliation.

The following day, Persephone heads to the university, and along the way encounters Demeter, who demands to know where Persephone has been the night before, and why she went to Nevernight. Persephone passes it off as something she needed to do for work, and she must return, to which Demeter says absolutely not, and reminds her of the conditions–that Persephone stay away from the gods, especially Hades. Persephone stands up for herself, telling Demeter no, and that she’ll be late for class. The stand-off bothers Persephone throughout all of her classes, to the point that she tells Lexa briefly about the situation, and Lexa tells her to never be sorry for having a little bit of fun.

Both Persephone and Lexa head over to the New Athens News, because Persephone is going for work, while Lexa wants to see Adonis again. When Lexa leaves, Adonis and Persephone discuss her writing an article on Hades, and Adonis states that no one wants to end up in Tartarus, so no one has written about him. Adonis agrees to send Persephone everything that he has on Hades, so long as Persephone allows Adonis to read her article. She agrees, and he sends her the items he has on Hades including testimonies of seventy-seven different individuals (either those who made the deals, or their families). After listening to all of them, Persephone decides that she wants to interview Hades the same day to get his side of the story. Reluctantly, Adonis agrees to go with her, and they end up speaking to Minthe on the floor, who attempts to dissuade them from interviewing Hades. Persephone demands to speak with Hades, and Minthe goes to ask him about it, telling her that she will get great satisfaction in hearing him turn her away. Minthe returns looking pissed, and asks them to follow her to Hades’ office, where she introduces both Persephone and Adonis. Hades dismisses Minthe after the introduction and asks them what they are doing here. Persephone tells him that she is investigating complaints to the New Athens News on him, and she wanted to know if he would comment. He recognizes all of the names that she reads off, and when she accuses him of destroying lives, he tells her that he does not destroy lives.

Persephone and Hades begin to argue about the merits of his gambles with these mortals, how he’s deceiving them, and whether it’s fair. She asks him how he knows of their vices, to which Hades tells her that he sees to the soul of the person, so he’s able to challenge their vices. Persephone snaps that he’s the worst sort of god, which makes him flinch, and get angry. Hades and Persephone continue to argue despite Adonis’ warnings, and when Hades makes a move towards Persephone, Adonis steps between them. With a flick of Hades’ wrist, Adonis goes limp and collapses to the floor, thereby removing the obstacle between them. Persephone immediately worries about what happened to Adonis, while Hades captures her wrists and tells her that he doesn’t think Persephone wants Adonis to know what he’s about to say. They keep arguing, and Hades asks her if she will write her experience with him as well, detailing how she recklessly invited him to teach her cards, and how she gets pink in his presence or loses his breath. He reminds her that she can blame him for the choices she made, but at the end of the day, she is still his for six months, which means that if she does write about him, there will be consequences. He then wakes Adonis up, and has Minthe show them out. As they head out, Hades calls out to Persephone and tells her that he will add her name to the list for the club for tonight. As Adonis and Persephone make their way back to his car, he comments on the fact that the two of them have a lot of tension for people who recently met each other and don’t have any history. She confirms to him that they do not have any history.

That night, she returns to Nevernight, and is deposited in Hades’ office to wait for him; instead, she wanders around his office and finds a portal in to Hades’ realm. She decides to go through the portal to see the underworld without waiting for Hades, and ends up falling down the stairs leading down to the river Styx. Despite the pain, she decides to try to swim across to the other side to get to the palace that she sees in the distance. As she begins to swim across, something in the river clamped down on her wrists and feet. She tried to fight back but was too weak to do so, resulting in her being dragged under the water again, when someone grabs her wrists and pulls her onto the shore. When Persephone is able to draw in air again, and takes a look at her savior, she realizes that he’s a god, and he introduces himself as Hermes. They start to talk to each other briefly before Hermes is flung across the realm, and Persephone turns around to find herself face to face with Hades. They begin to argue about her not waiting for him because he was otherwise engaged, when she stands up and immediately sways. Hades grabs her so that she doesn’t faint and hurts herself further, while Hermes tells him that she had a nasty gash, and Persephone adds that her ribs hurt her.

Hades teleports to his bedroom, and takes care of her bruises and the gash in her shoulder. When she’s better, she asks him why there are people in the river, to which Hades replies that those are all of the people who were buried without a coin, and that they are only there for the purpose of drowning anyone who tries to cross the river, but that they are ancient as he doesn’t stick to the practice any longer. She changes into the clothing he provides after he tells her that he doesn’t have anything else and he tells her to sleep.

She wakes up the next morning and finds Hades sitting in a chair watching her while drinking whiskey. When he tells her that it’s late, she says that she has to leave, but he gives her a tour of his realm. Persephone gets mad at him when she sees his garden, which is so beautiful and something that she longs to create, but he shows her that it is only an illusion. He then takes her to a patch of land where she can begin to work on creating life in the Underworld, and tells her that she can come and go as she pleases. He then kisses her, and tells her that when she enters Nevernight, she will only need to snap her fingers and she will be taken to her garden. He then takes her home, and tells her to never bring a mortal to his realm ever again. Particularly, Hades tells her to stay way from Adonis, though Persephone protests, and he warns her that if she chooses Adonis, he will take her to the Underworld for good.

Persephone begins to travel between the two worlds, often going to the garden to plant and water her plants that she carefully placed into the soil. It is clear that despite her efforts, she is unable to make them grow, and she spends more time with Hecate, getting to see the inhabitants of the Underworld, who love her more than ever.

In the actual world, she finds that Adonis was the one who leaked her article on Hades, even though she was not ready to publish it. He gets fired shortly after, when Demetri finds out that Adonis has been pressuring Persephone to publish more, and do things that she’s not comfortable with. When he’s fired, he tries to blackmail her with information. Her mother finds her with Hades one night, and strips Persephone of her favor, at which point Persephone tells Lexa the truth about who she is.

She continues to visit the underworld, and then finds out about Hades’ deal with Aphrodite, who tells it herself to Persephone. So Persephone confronts Hades, and they have an argument in which she lashes out at him–with vines that stop Hades’ movement. At this point, her deal with Hades becomes fulfilled. He tells her that he had given her the worshippers that Demeter never gave her in order for her powers to come to fruition. Persephone leaves, and doesn’t come back.

Instead, she has Lexa’s boyfriend hack into Adonis’ computer and information to find the images and information that he has on her and is using to blackmail her. She agrees to meet with him, and finds him with Minthe. In her anger, Persephone turns Minthe into a mint plant, while she scares Adonis by transforming his limbs into plants and threatens to turn him into a plant completely if he so much as talks to her. She returns him to his human state, and then takes the Mint plant home with her. This Mint plant is taken care of by Lexa for safety, and as such Minthe doesn’t actually die.

A few months later, Persephone and Hecate meet up at The Coffee House, and Persephone confides in Hecate about her feelings around Hades. As she tells Hecate that if Hades cared at all, he would’ve come, Hecate tells her that maybe her wish will come true. Persephone turns around, sees Hades, and runs to him, where they kiss in public.

My Thoughts: This was okay. I found the writing to be very dry with this book from Persephone’s perspective, and there’s not spark between her and Hades the way that you would see in other romance stories. There’s no tension; no moments of tenderness. It’s almost like reading a diary of an average, normal girl, not one who is a goddess and who is falling in love with the god of the underworld. It didn’t entice, it bored, and I struggled to finish the book.

At the time of writing this, I had also begun reading A Game of Retribution, but after two weeks, I just couldn’t keep going. I struggled through the storyline for Hades. The problem for me is that Hades is doing all of these things, but they all just fall…flat for me. And same thing with Persephone. There are no real romantic scenes, no lead up to these scenes, and the whole story building, world building doesn’t make much sense. So I decided to cut my losses, two weeks into that book and move on from the series. This is definitely a series that I will not be continuing in the near future.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: A Touch of Darkness”

  1. I love a good Hades and Persephone love story. It sucks this one wasn’t enjoyable for you. But your review was well written and enjoyable. Kudos!

    Like

    1. I absolutely LOVE good modern takes on mythological stories like Hades and Persephone but this one was a strugglebus to read. A good book I will want to finish in a day, but this one I was two weeks in and not making any progress on reading because the story and the writing just felt flat to me. If you’re reading it, I hope you like it!

      Like

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