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Ward Against Darkness

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted August 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This book! I have been waiting for this book for forever!!!!!!!!

    This book! I have been waiting for this book for forever!!!!!!!!!! (← ridiculous amounts of exclamation points for necessary emphasis!)

    Ok, well technically not forever, because that would be a slight exaggeration and impossible, but since the moment I finished Ward Against Death two summers ago, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book. Two years is an extremely long time to build up unrealistic expectations, to over-romanticize my love for the first book, for tastes to change and preferences to alter. So did it meet my expectations?

    Yes, yes, and most certainly in so many ways. In fact, let’s just list them:

    Romance.  Ok. Can we just talk about Ward & Celia and the fact that they… don’t? Talk, I mean. After all they’ve been through, they’ve finally come to a place of mutual respect and tentative friendship. Their previous adventure together has instilled a sense of loyalty and trust, they value each others’ skills and advice. They’ve begun to understand each other better… and to feel something for each other that might transcend the boundaries of “just friends.” But in the first book, that “maybe more” part of their relationship is never really addressed.

    And in this book it’s much the same deliciously frustrating slow-building romance. The pacing here is just very believable; avoidance of their feelings being very natural to both Ward & Celia, their fears and doubts very understandable. They’ve not known each other all that long, are still in the process of learning who the other is, coming to know their own feelings, coming to realize who they are, what they are, and what they stand for. Melanie does lot of fantastic character and relationship development in Ward Against Darkness and is laying some great, substantial romantic groundwork, but still…

    JUST KISS! Or talk first, then kiss!

    Sorry.  .  Moving on.

    Ward. In the two weeks, since Ward brought Celia back from the dead, his life, his character, and his perspective of reality have been strenuously questioned and tested. Ward, is more of a gentle soul, more apt to have his nose in a book than getting himself into trouble of the serious sort. Though sometimes in Ward’s case, those two things coincide. Though he’s had previous run-ins with the law before meeting Celia, his intentions were always good. He has a compassionate heart, a noble sense of honor, and a surprising amount of courage, confidence, and strength of character he doesn’t give himself enough credit for.

    Speaking of things he doesn’t give himself enough credit for… Ward is the most recent generation of necromancer in the De’Ath’s long family tradition of powerful necromancers. Thought a bit odd and sadly under-talented by his family, Ward’s never thought much of his mediocre power. But after bringing Celia back to life with the Jam de’U and the battle with the Innecroestri Karysa, it’s apparent there’s a little more to his power than he originally thought. And Ward Against Darkness gives Ward the opportunity to discover just how deep his power runs.

    In the first book, Ward is a bit of the endearing bumbling hero. In this book, there’s a bit of that, but he’s also proving to be very adaptable. He’s forced to think a little more like Celia. He’s presented with some situations that send him further into the morally gray; situations that test his mettle and show him just what he’s capable of; situations that are dark, difficult, and dangerous. It’s some really fantastic character building on Melanie’s part, because she made me  mourn the “loss” of Ward’s innocence and naivete while also falling in love with the man that he’s becoming. Trial by fire.  And I just hope that the fire doesn’t burn away something important, something essentially Ward.  I fear that it may only get worse for Ward from here.

    Celia. Celia’s journey as a character is just as compelling. When she was alive she was a ruthless killer, dangerous, terrifying and amoral – she wasn’t what you’d call a “nice person.” She used people to her own benefit, manipulated them, she was emotionally unattached, and driven to be the best. And she was. And then she was murdered. And then she met Ward. Being around Ward – seeing his gentleness, his sincerity, his decency – Celia’s begun to question the way she’s lived thus far, to question the way she looks at the world. She’s been given a second chance at life, and she’s not sure she wants to be the person she was before.

    In addition to Celia’s soul searching, we are also given some insight into just what may have happened when Ward cast the Jam de’U bringing her back to life the second time. For all intents and purposes Celia seems alive, nothing about her suggests that she’s artificially alive. But since Ward isn’t sure quite what happened with his improvised spell, Celia’s fully aware that she’s living on borrowed time, and she’s wondering just what kind of creature he’s turned her into.

    Story. And a large part of the story revolves around this – Celia’s state of being and the who, what and why of bringing a soul back from the dead, and all that entails. In Ward Against Darkness, a case of remarkably bad timing and mistaken identity lead Ward to play the part of apprentice-hopeful to a very dangerous Innecroestri (a necromancer that’s fallen to the darkity dark, dark side)… and this guy is nasty. Really nasty – cruel, and sadistic, and perverse. But under the Innecroestri’s roof, Ward learns more about his power, what he could be capable of and how much he’s willing to compromise. He glimpses firsthand the dark path necromancy could lead him down, while Celia learns more about what she is… or isn’t.

    It’s a pretty dark book. The title is accurate. This adventure of Ward and Celia’s is definitely grittier and darker than the last, with lots of action, a megaton of tension, political intrigue, danger, close-calls, betrayals, with the promise of more darkness to come.

    It’s interesting to note that in Ward Against Death, Ward was adrift in the unfamiliar waters of Celia’s underworld, at her mercy to navigate through it. In Ward Against Darkness, this is flipped a bit. Though Celia is incredibly skilled at stealth, murder, defense, theft, etc. — and those skills do come in handy — all her talents are nothing if she has to go up against an Innecroestri who can immobilize her with the flick of a finger. She’s on Ward’s turf, such as it is, and must rely on him – his ability at subterfuge, his unreliable magic, his sometimes-flagging confidence – to see them through this most recent danger. Celia does play an important and active role in the plot, it’s just she doesn’t possess magic and in this instance, magic kinda trumps all.

    Melanie’s pacing is downright perfect and so action-packed. The story never lags or plateaus, the tension just keeps building and building, moving at breakneck speed right from beginning to end. I was completely captivated. And the story arcs she set up for the next book(s) are extremely well done. I cannot wait to see what happens next with all these different threads that’ve been left for the next book to pick up.

    Overall. Dark and gripping with just the right amount of danger and romance, Ward Against Darkness ticked all my favorite boxes and left me in that wonderful state of being satisfyingly dissatisfied in which I’m now eagerly (i.e. – impatiently) awaiting Ward & Celia’s next adventure.  May it be frau

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  • Posted August 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    If I said this book was perfection, it would be an understatemen

    If I said this book was perfection, it would be an understatement. Ward Against Darkness was an absolutely brilliant sequel! I LOVED it. The stakes are higher, the magic is darker, the romance is deeper, and it was awesome.

    In this book, all the stakes are upped. Things are darker, more intense, and it all had me on the edge of my seat. We're drawn deeper into the world of necromancers and the twisted magic that they practice. This book definitely didn't lack for thrills.

    Celia was out of her element. In book 1, she knew what to do as she was in her area of expertise: stealth, fighting, all that kind of good stuff. But, now, she's thrust into a world of magic where she doesn't have nearly as much power. And it had a humbling effect on her. In the previous book, she was utterly self-confident and somewhat arrogant. In this book, she still is but her eyes are opened to a world where she's not in power. It made her grow as a character. And, despite being out of her element, she was still clever and strong. I liked her even more in this book.

    Ward was brilliant. In book 1, he was unsure and totally lacking in confidence about his abilities, even though everyone around him saw that he had power. In this book, he starts to realize what everyone already knows and gains confidence, becoming a stronger character. Of course, after what happened at the end, that progress might be stalled or even reversed. But, we'll see. With Ward, I couldn't imagine a person more kind and moral and pure of heart. This guy doesn't have a mean bone in his body and his oaths that other people might not take seriously are truly important to him. He was so sweet and determined to do what was right, even at a risk to himself. If I liked him in book 1, I absolutely adored him in this book. Ward is brilliant and amazing, and so utterly lovable. He might not be the traditional alpha male, but that's one of his charms and he's swoon-worthy in his own way.

    The romance was so frustrating in the best way possible. Celia and Ward both come to terms with their feelings. But, while neither of them doubt their own feelings, they doubt the feelings of the other. Celia is sure that Ward would never let himself love her because of the laws banning their relationship and, more importantly, because she's technically dead. Ward is sure that Celia could never love him because he isn't powerful and high born and competent in the same way she is. The romantic tension was all over. Even though these two don't actually do or say anything in regards to a relationship, the romance was still very present as they constantly thought about each other. And while I loved all that, I still kind of wanted to lock them in a room together until they finally admitted their feelings for each other and maybe kissed a few times. I can't wait to read the next book and see how things go for this couple.

    The plot was fast paced and full of thrills, surprises, and twists. I was completely hooked the entire way through and, after that ending, I'm dying to get my hands on the next book. It was one hell of an epic cliffhanger ending. 

    Ward Against Darkness was a perfect sequel. I loved it, loved it, loved it! Fans of book 1, you will not be disappointed. If you liked that book, you will love this one. And to anyone who hasn't started this series, you definitely need to because these books are brilliant!

    *I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

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