THE DARKEST WHISPER (Lords of the Underworld #4)
If you are unfamiliar with the Lords of the Underworld series, see my review of The Darkest Pleasure for a brief summary.
The Darkest Whisper brings us Sabin's story, keeper of the demon of Doubt. The war with the hunters, a group of humans sworn to destroy the Lords in order to return the world to a state of utopia, has been raging for thousands of years. Recently, however, the stakes have increased exponentially as it is discovered that the hunters are not only seeking to capture the Lords, but are also seeking Pandora's box. They plan to use it to relieve the Lords of their demons, thereby killing them once and for all. In order to locate the box, four specific artifacts are required.
The Lords are currently in possession of two, but are in a race with the hunters to locate the remaining artifacts and destroy the box so it's no longer a threat to them. Sabin is the most focused on this particular quest, and on one of his searches, he stumbles across a hunter lair where they are torturing and raping supernatural females to create a hybrid race that will be better able to hunt their enemies. Here he meets Gwen, a harpy with an unconventionally timid nature.
Drawn to her instantly, Sabin frees her from the hunters and takes her back to the Lords' fortress in Budapest where he seeks to enlist her help in the war against the hunters. Harpies have unmatched strength and swiftness, and Sabin wants nothing more than to tip the scales in his favor by enlisting someone with such attributes. He doesn't anticipate his feelings for Gwen however, and has to decide whether his precious war or his newfound love are more important, and Doubt nags at him every step of the way.
This is my least favorite of the series thus far. Part of why this story falls a little flat for me is due to the focus on the demon of Doubt. Sabin's possession of this particular demon causes everyone around him to question themselves. Are they strong enough? Pretty enough? Are they better than the hunters? Will they fail? Even Sabin himself cannot escape the constant questioning, and routinely doubts his actions. The uncertainty of all the characters gets to be a little overwhelming.
That being said, I did expect Doubt to play a bigger role in Gwen and Sabin's relationship. In the past, Sabin's demon has driven his lovers to commit suicide, but Gwen is able to tame Doubt rather quickly and easily for all the trouble he has caused previously. Instead of being plagued by Sabin's Doubt, she is instead weighed down by her own insecurities as a rather demure harpy when harpies are supposed to be strong, lethal and fearless.
Both Gwen and Sabin are likable characters, they just don't jump off the page the way some of the characters in the previous stories have. The connection with Sabin isn't there for me as much as it is with the other Lords (especially Paris and Torin, though we have only gotten little snippets of their lives) and therefore my investment in the outcome of his story isn't as intense.
The Darkest Whisper is still a fun read, just not as powerful as some of the other installments. I hear wonderful things regarding Aeron's book and Gideon's book, so I look forward to the next two!