The Dark Elements #1
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Paranormal Young Adult
Available February 25th
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
One kiss could be the last.
Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she's anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses.
Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she's crushed on since forever.
Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she's not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn't an issue, considering Roth has no soul.
But when Layla discovers she's the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.
White Hot Kiss is a book we both want to tear through as quickly as possible to discover how things play out and yet at the same time walk away from repeatedly, unready for our time with Layla to be over and also more than a little worried about reaching the last chapter as Ms. Armentrout is known for her gut-wrenching cliffhangers. There is no shortage of emotional pain in this first installment, Layla's status as a Warden/demon hybrid creating in her a palpable loneliness that practically suffocates us with its intensity from the beginning—a feeling only magnified by her heartbreaking love for full-blooded Warden Zayne—and we find ourselves laid low by our visceral need to protect and bolster her despite the barrier of fiction. She so beautifully takes everything in stride however, and though the persistent ache in our chests becomes our constant companion while reading, Layla's shining personality and strength of character serve to seal the cracks her situation causes in our hearts as soon as they're made.
Though the synopsis fully prepares us for a love triangle situation with the mention of both Zayne and Roth, what we find when we delve deeper into this story is the careful and stunning execution of the various feelings and relationships that can exist between three people without any type of geometrical shape defining them. The rawness of Layla's longtime love for Zayne hits us like a sucker punch to the gut from the very first chapter, and our desire to see her every romantic wish fulfilled with regard to him is strong and unwavering in the beginning. While Zayne seems to genuinely care for her however, the feelings between them appear to be weighed more heavily in Layla's direction, a fact that smooths Roth's entry into the picture as we want nothing more than for her to have someone in her life who appreciates every aspect of who she is.
Because the simple knowledge that Layla's love for Zayne has spanned years automatically has us hoping for a magical solution in which the two of them can live happily ever after, it takes us a little while to warm to Roth despite his undeniable charm and tattooed bad-boy glory; much needed time that gives us the opportunity to step back and see the relationship between Zayne and Layla for both what it is and what it isn't. As mentioned previously, there's clearly affection on Zayne's side, and as the story progresses the stirrings of something more, but Roth's arrival highlights for us all the reasons Zayne and Layla's romantic pieces have never fallen into place in the time they've known one another. There's no whining, pining, or waffling on anyone's part, instead we're left only with the painfully gorgeous tumble of emotions that accompanies the formation of new relationships and the progression of old ones.
While the romance is a focal point of this story to be sure, Layla is a highlight all on her own, strong enough to withstand the constant reminders from those she calls family that she is less-than—a taint on the purity of Wardens in general—and to physically battle those who want her dead. She goes toe to toe with Roth in a battle of wills and sexual innuendo, never letting on that his purposefully suggestive (and dammit, amusing) comments and ego strokes are working far better than she'd like, instead calling him out on them and hurling an insult back at him for good measure. She knows when to hold strong and when to back down, when to apologize to someone and when to demand an apology in return, and when to question or when to simply take a leap of faith. She's everything we could want in a young adult heroine, full of strength and vulnerability, merits and faults, and her growth throughout the series will undoubtedly be something special.
We're left a bit battered, a familiar state for those who are longtime fans of Ms. Armentrout, but accompanying our war wounds is the complete faith that we'll end up exactly where we want and need to be when all is said and done.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.