When the opportunity to review Janine Ashbless’s sequel to Cover Him With Darkness came up, I was delighted. I enjoyed Cover so much and have been eagerly waiting to find out what happens next to Azazel and Milja since I finished reading it – Janine left us with a gasp at the end of it, and does the same thing here again! Which really just goes to show how good she is at her craft.
In Bonds of the Earth begins with Milja trying to establish a normal life in America, her actions of the last book having severed ties with her own people. Of course, with Azazel as her lover, she has precious little chances of that – he’s impulsive and his little regard for human standards of decorum and morality.
Azazel has plans to release the rest of the Watchers with Milja, as she is able to help him with her own growing supernatural powers. But other forces have other plans, and Milja and Azazel’s quest leads them on a dark adventure across the globe, where Milja has little but her wits and occasional help from unexpected quarters to survive.
The sequel to Cover takes us further into the world of the Watchers, archangels, and the darker sides of Christian mythology. One of the great things about Janine’s writing is that it is so well researched and conceived that you easily suspend your disbelief and get carried along with journey. Furthermore, it’s a fascinating erotic romance. Bonds is not what you might expect – Janine doesn’t let you forget that Azazel is one dangerous creature and that Milja follows him at considerable costs.
Milja is a great heroine – she is smart, smart-mouthed and fully aware of her desires. She’s also fully conscious of her precarious position in staying with Azazel. Azazel himself is impulsive and driven, a being of considerable power and allure, though without the cunning and guiles that’s displayed by the rest of the heavenly host who show up – Uriel appears again (he and Milja have some great banter), we get to meet Michael, as well as another of the imprisoned Watchers (of whom I can’t say much more without spoiling too much).
Egan, the agent of a shadowy arm of the Church, also plays a significant role, and we learn more of his past which further enhances his character. In fact, everyone’s good side and flaws are shown – no one, not even Milja, is wholly sympathetic, and that’s as it should be for a tale that’s about the battle for good and evil, and (I think more importantly) who gets to decide what’s good and evil. While our sympathies by and large lie with Milja and Azazel, you understand the perspective of the other characters. Also, all the characters caught up in the story suffer for their part in it, and Janine never holds back from the pain of their injury. This is a story that acknowledges the stakes and isn’t afraid of them.
Janine’s writing too carries the story beautifully – lyrical at turns, stark and brutal when it has to be, and so aware of the sexuality pulsing underneath all the time. Her style is wonderful and bloody enviable too. 😉 It’s also a great page turner, the tension barely letting up – Milja has precious few moments to breathe before being plunged into the next phase of the action.
The first two books of this series are smart, sexy, literate, gripping, and moving. I can’t wait for the third.
Read my interview with Janine Ashbless about In Bonds of the Earth.