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TITLE: Acheron (Dark-Hunter, #8)

AUTHOR: Sherrilyn Kenyon

PUBLISHER: St. Martin’s Press

YEAR: August 2008

PAGE/WORD COUNT: 728 pages

GENRE: Urban Fantasy Romance

HEAT LEVEL: Sensual, Depictions of rape, violence, and extreme child abuse make it unsuitable for readers  under 18

RATING: 5 out of 5

REVIEW: I loved this one so much that I now own several editions of it, including one signed by the author, which is hidden away in a box for safe keeping from the kiddies.

This is easily Sherrilyn Kenyon’s masterpiece. The Dark-Hunter books have always been a great escape for me, but this one goes beyond mere thrills and fun times on the streets of NOLA. All the way back to the ancient world when multiple pantheons clashed for control of the human world, and one royal house in ancient Greece gets caught up in the war.

Acheron has always been the most enigmatic character of the series, present in all of the books, yet standing distant from the men and women he commands in the fight against evil. Here we see his life stripped bare – quite literally. It begins before his birth, with the seeds of conflict that will doom him and his twin brother to unimaginable torment.

Acheron is not for the faint of heart. It is a raw, gut-wrenching look at how a child who has been deprived of the most basic needs and subjected to the cruelest torments grows into a man whose every thought is bent on the preservation of the human world that has always rejected him. In her author’s note, Ms. Kenyon writes that her own childhood was blighted by abuse, and that writing Acheron’s story was cathartic for her. Any reader who has endured a similar childhood can’t help but recognize a fellow survivor. This tale couldn’t have been penned without such an intimate knowledge of the journey of the benighted soul of a profoundly abused child. For a reader who has not survived abuse – especially sexual abuse – I can see that this sort of journey would be difficult to credit, even seemingly melodramatic. I can only say that I found it to be an accurate account of what it takes to heal such scars. For myself, Acheron’s story lead to a draining of old wounds I’d thought long since scarred over. Ultimately, this book felt like a gift, speaking directly to my heart with a message so profound that I find myself turning to it over and over, seeking out all of the gems of wisdom scattered through it so generously.

Without having read the previous fourteen books set in the world of the Dark-Hunters (I include Fantasy Lover, even though it’s not an official Dark-Hunter book, because Julian and Grace Alexander make several appearances in later books), much of Acheron’s impact would be blunted. You have to have fought and laughed at Acheron’s side, witnessed how he watches over his fighters, how he mourns for his lost friends and loved ones, how he keeps himself apart even while he is inextricably entwined in the lives of those he has vowed to protect.

I’m not going to recount the story here. Synopses abound on the internet. This review is meant to help those trying to decide what to read next. I know there are more paranormal series out there than the average reader has time for. I’ve read quite a few of them, and the ones that rise to the top for me are the Dark-Hunters and Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark. The Black Dagger Brotherhood has been running out of steam, and I’m just not up to paying hardcover prices, so I’ll wait for the paperback release of The King. I used to be an avid fan of Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld and Alien Huntress books, but her focus has changed over the last couple of years, and her books just aren’t as much fun as they used to be. Laurell K. Hamilton has been on my auto-buy list for years, but as much as I’d like to argue the point, it’s undeniable that she has been steadily losing readers for a few years now.

At what point does an author decide to serve her audience rather than her muse? It’s a question that every author of a long-running series must confront sooner or later, it seems. But Kenyon and Cole are still going strong, in my opinion. Time and money force me to pare down my reading lists, but these two authors remain at the top of my paranormal list.