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Swallowing Darkness (Meredith Gentry Series #7)

Swallowing Darkness (Meredith Gentry Series #7)

4.5 593
by Laurell K. Hamilton

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I am Meredith, princess of faerie, wielder of the hands of Flesh and Blood, and at long last, I am with child–twins, fathered by my royal guard. Though my uncle, Taranis, King of Light and Illusion, claims that he is the true father since he abducted me from my home, betrayed, and defiled me. And now he has branded my guards as a threat to my unborn children.


I am Meredith, princess of faerie, wielder of the hands of Flesh and Blood, and at long last, I am with child–twins, fathered by my royal guard. Though my uncle, Taranis, King of Light and Illusion, claims that he is the true father since he abducted me from my home, betrayed, and defiled me. And now he has branded my guards as a threat to my unborn children.

Bearing an heir has placed me halfway to my aunt’s throne, that much closer to my reign over the Unseelie Court–and well ahead of her son, my cousin Cel, in this race. Now I must stay alive to see my children born and claim my place as queen.

But not all in faerie are pleased with the news, and conspirators from every court in the realm plot against me and mine. They seek to strip my guards, my lovers, from me by poisoned word or cold steel. But I still have supporters, and even friends, among the goblins and the sluagh, who will stand by me.

I am Meredith Nic Essus, and those who would defy and destroy me are destined to pay a terrible price–for I am truly my father’s daughter. To protect what is mine, I will sacrifice anything–even if it means waging a great battle against my darkest enemies and making the most momentous decision ever made as princess of faerie.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An emotionally charged and suspense-filled tale . . . with enough surprises, twists and turns to keep you guessing.”—Romance Reviews Today

“Wild magic and wilder sex.”—Publishers Weekly

“Nearly nonstop action.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Meredith Gentry Series , #7
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Random House
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672 KB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Hospitals are where people go to be saved, but the doctors can only patch you up, put you back together. They can’t undo the damage. They can’t make it so you didn’t wake up in the bad place, or change the truth to lies. The nice doctor and the nice woman from the SART, Sexual Assault Response Team, couldn’t change that I had indeed been raped. The fact that I couldn’t remember it, because my uncle had used a spell for his date-rape drug, didn’t change the evidence—the evidence that they’d found in my body when they did the exam and took samples.

You would think being a real live faerie princess would make your life fairy-tale-like, but fairy tales only end well. While the story is going on, horrible things happen. Remember Rapunzel? Her prince got his eyes scratched out by the witch, which blinded him. At the end of the story, Rapunzel’s tears magically restored his sight, but that was at the end of the story. Cinderella was little better than a slave. Snow White was actually nearly killed four different times by the evil queen. All anyone remembers is the poisoned apple, but don’t forget the huntsman, or the enchanted girdle and the poisoned comb. Pick any fairy tale that’s based on older stories, and the heroine of the piece has a miserable, dangerous, nightmarish time of it.

I am Princess Meredith NicEssus, next in line to a high throne of faerie, and I’m in the middle of my story. The happy-ever-after ending, if it’s coming at all, seems a very long way away tonight.

I was in a hospital bed, in a nice private room, in a very nice hospital. I was in the maternity ward, because I was pregnant, but not with my crazy uncle’s baby. I had been pregnant before he stole me away. Pregnant with the children of men I loved. They’d risked everything to rescue me from Taranis. Now, I was safe. I had one of the greatest warriors that faerie had ever seen at my side: Doyle, once the Queen’s Darkness, and now mine. He stood at the window, staring off into the night that was so ruined by the lights from the hospital parking lot that the blackness of his skin and hair was much darker than the night outside. He’d removed the wraparound sunglasses that he almost always wore outside. But his eyes were as black as the glasses that hid them. The only color in the dim light of the room was the glints from the silver rings that climbed the graceful line of one ear to the point that marked him as not pure blood, not truly high court, but mixed blood, like me. The diamonds in his earlobe sparkled in the light as he turned his head, as if he’d felt me staring at him. He probably had. He had been the queen’s assassin a thousand years before I was born.

His ankle-length hair moved like a black cloak as he came toward me. He was wearing green hospital scrubs that he’d been loaned. They had replaced the blanket from the ambulance that had brought us here. He’d entered the golden court, to rescue me, in the form of a large black dog. When he shape-shifted he lost everything, clothes, weapons, but strangely never the piercings. The many earrings and the nipple piercing survived his return to human form, maybe because they were part of him.

He came to stand beside the bed, and take my hand—the one that didn’t have the intravenous drip in it, which was helping hydrate me, and get me over the shock I’d been in when I had arrived. If I hadn’t been with child, they’d have probably given me more medicine. For once I wouldn’t have minded stronger drugs, something to make me forget. Not just what my uncle, Taranis, had done, but also the loss of Frost.

I gripped Doyle’s hand, my hand so small and pale in his large, dark one. But there should have been another beside him, beside me. Frost, our Killing Frost, was gone. Not dead, not exactly, but lost to us. Doyle could shape-shift to several forms at will and come back to his true form. Frost had had no ability to shape-shift, but when wild magic had filled the estate where we’d been living in Los Angeles, it had changed him. He had become a white stag, and run out the doors that had appeared into a piece of faerie that had never existed before the magic came.

The lands of faerie were growing, instead of shrinking, for the first time in centuries. I, a noble of the high courts, was with child, twins. I was the last child of faerie nobility to be born. We were dying as a people, but maybe not. Maybe we were going to regain our power, but what use to me was power? What use to me was the return of faerie, and wild magic? What use was any of it, if Frost was an animal with an animal’s mind?

The thought that I would bear his child and he would neither know nor understand made my chest tight. I gripped Doyle’s hand, but couldn’t meet his eyes. I wasn’t sure what he would see there. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling anymore. I loved Doyle, I did, but I loved Frost, too. The thought that they would both be fathers had been a joyous one.

He spoke in his deep, deep voice, as if molasses, and other, thick, sweet things, could be words, but what he said wasn’t sweet. “I will kill Taranis for you.”

I shook my head. “No, you will not.” I had thought about it, because I had known that Doyle would do just what he’d said. If I asked, he would try to kill Taranis, and he might succeed. But I could not allow my lover and future king to assassinate the King of Light and Illusion, the king of our enemy court. We were not at war, and even those among the Seelie Court who thought Taranis was mad or even evil would not be able to overlook an assassination. A duel, maybe, but not an assassination. Doyle was within his rights to challenge the king to a duel. I’d thought about that, too. I’d half liked that idea, but I’d seen what Taranis could do with his hand of power. His hand of light could char flesh, and had nearly killed Doyle once before.

I had let go of any thought of vengeance at Doyle’s hand when I weighed it against the thought of losing him too.

“I am the captain of your guard, and I could avenge my honor and yours for that reason alone.”

“You mean a duel,” I said.

“Yes. He does not deserve a chance to defend himself, but if I assassinate him, it will be war between the courts, and we cannot afford that.”

“No,” I said, “we can’t.” I looked up at him then.

He touched my face with his free hand. “Your eyes glow in the dark with a light of their own, Meredith. Green and gold circles of light in your face. Your emotions betray you.”

“I want him dead, yes, but I won’t destroy all of faerie for it. I won’t get us all kicked out of the United States for my honor. The treaty that let our people come here three hundred years ago stated only two things that would get us kicked out. The courts can’t make war on American soil, and we can’t allow humans to worship us as deities.”

“I was at the signing of the treaty, Meredith. I know what it said.”

I smiled at him, and it seemed strange that I could still smile. The thought made the smile wilt a little around the edges, but I guess it was a good sign. “You remember the Magna Carta.”

“That was a human thing, and had little to do with us.”

I squeezed his hand. “I was making a point, Doyle.”

He smiled, and nodded. “My emotions make me slow.”

“Me, too,” I said.

The door behind him opened. There were two men in the doorway, one tall and one short. Sholto, King of the sluagh, Lord of that Which Passes Between, was as tall as Doyle, and had long, straight hair that fell toward his ankles, but the color was white-blond, and his skin was like mine, moonlight pale. Sholto’s eyes were three colors of yellow and gold, as if autumn leaves from three different trees had been melted down to color his eyes, then everything had been edged in gold. The sidhe always have the prettiest eyes. He was as fair of face as any at the courts, except for my lost Frost. The body that showed under the t-shirt and jeans he’d worn as part of his disguise when he came to save me seemed to cling to a body as lovely as the face, but I knew that at least part of it was illusion. Starting at his upper ribs, Sholto had extra bits, tentacles, because, though his mother had been high-court nobility, his father had been one of the nightflyers, part of the sluagh, and the last wild hunt of faerie. Well, the last wild hunt until the wild magic had returned. Now, things of legend were returning, and Goddess alone knew what was real again, and what was still to return.

Until he had a coat or jacket thick enough to hide the extra bits, he would use magic, glamour, to hide the extras. No reason to scare the nurses. It was his lifetime of having to hide his differences that had made him good enough at illusion to risk coming to my rescue. You do not go lightly against the King of Light and Illusion with illusion as your only shield.

He smiled at me, and it was a smile I had never seen on Sholto’s face until the moment at the ambulance when he had held my hand, and told me he knew he would be a father. The news seemed to have softened some harshness that had always been there in his handsome body. He seemed the proverbial new man, as he walked toward us.

Rhys was not smiling. At 5'6", he was the shortest full-blooded sidhe I’d ever met. His skin was moonlight pale, like Sholto’s, like mine, like Frost’s. Rhys had removed the fake beard and mustache he’d worn inside the faerie mound. He’d worked at the detective agency in L.A. with me, and he’d loved disguises. He was good at them, too, better than at illusion. But he’d had enough illusion to hide the fact that he only had one eye. The remaining eye was three circles of blue, as beautiful as any in the court, but where his left eye had once lain was white scar tissue. He usually wore a patch in public, but tonight his face was bare, and I liked that. I wanted to see the faces of my men with nothing hidden tonight.

Doyle moved enough so Sholto could put a chaste kiss against my cheek. Sholto wasn’t one of my regular lovers. In fact, we’d only been together once, but as the old saying goes, once is enough. One of the children I carried was part his, but we were new around each other, because in effect we’d only had one date. It had been a hell of a first date, but still, we didn’t really know each other yet.

Rhys came to stand at the foot of the bed. His curly white hair, which fell to his waist, was still back in the ponytail he’d worn to match his own jeans and t-shirt. His face was very solemn. It wasn’t like him. Once he’d been Cromm Cruach, and before that he’d been a god of death. He wouldn’t tell me who, but I had enough hints to make guesses. He’d told me that Cromm Cruach was god enough; he didn’t need more titles.

“Who gets to challenge him to the duel?” Rhys asked.

“Meredith has told me no,” Doyle said.

“Oh, good,” Rhys said. “I get to do it.”

“No,” I said, “and I thought you were afraid of Taranis.”

“I was, maybe I still am, but we can’t let this go, Merry, we can’t.”

“Why? Because your pride is hurt?”

He gave me a look. “Give me more credit than that.”

“I will challenge him, then,” Sholto said.

“No,” I said. “No one is to challenge him to a duel, or to kill him in any other way.”

The three men looked at me. Doyle and Rhys knew me well enough to be speculative. They knew I had a plan. Sholto didn’t know me that well yet. He was just angry.

“We can’t let this insult stand, princess. He has to pay.”

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Laurell K. Hamilton is the New York Times bestselling author of the Meredith Gentry novels: A Kiss of Shadows, A Caress of Twilight, Seduced by Moonlight, A Stroke of Midnight, Mistral’s Kiss, A Lick of Frost, and Divine Misdemeanors, as well as seventeen acclaimed Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, novels. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

From the Paperback edition.

Brief Biography

St. Louis, Missouri
Date of Birth:
February 19, 1963
Place of Birth:
Heber Springs, Arkansas
B.A., Marion College

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Swallowing Darkness (Meredith Gentry Series #7) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 592 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have truly enjoyed this series even though I never cared for the A. Baker series. I found Merry likable and all the different characters compelling. The men were strong, hot and in emotional turmoil over their pasts. The "bad guys" were multi-dimensional and sometimes even likable. In other words, the series has been interesting. This book, which seems to be the last book, was basically the opposite.
I'll try to sum it up and not give everything away.
Merry is raped by her uncle in the last book. Don't worry though. She doesn't seem that bothered by it. I know she has a lot going on, but it just seems strange how little this situation played into the plot.
Most of the men in the book have little to no development. They are mostly just lovesick puppies. Others seemed like totally different people, like Mistral. I don't know what happened to the old Mistral, but this new one was pitiful.
Actually the thing that bothered me the most. She has sex with Ash and Holly. I figured once she was pregnant and had her SIX fathers-to-be, she'd stick to them, but I guess the goblins getting magic at the end of the book is more important. Call me a prude, but I thought the rules of the sidhe were you had sex with whomever, whenever until you were pregnant. Then you stuck with just the father. *shrug*
Last, but not least: The ending seems to negate the whole point of this whole series.
I would only recommend this book for die-hard fans. It really seems like a different person wrote this. It's all over the place and just doesn't have the same feel as the other books. I'm just glad I purchased mine on the Kindle so I didn't have to pay the hardcover price.
gayla72 More than 1 year ago
Merdeith will pull you for the ride of your life. The only thing was the ending left the reading hanging to see what will happen next.
3monstersmom More than 1 year ago
I enjoy reading Laurel K. Hamilton, her stories are highly addictive and truly entertaining. You just have to get use to her overtly sexual writing style. Not that I am complaining, I enjoy a good sex scene, but LKH has a wonderful ability to make even the most experienced reader blush. In regards to the Meredith Gentry series, I have found myself completely enthralled by the books and speed reading through the series. I was a little disappointed by the ending of Swallowing Darkness (which due to spoilers I wont get into, but I found it ended on a frustrating note), and am looking forward to the release of the next book to see what happens to my favorite characters. The best part of this series is watching Meredith grow in her powers, and I hope there is more surprises in regards to her abilities coming up. I would highly recommend this series, just be prepared for some sexual context along the lines of BDSM and multiple partners
izzyKC More than 1 year ago
OMG i just finished the last book and it was an emotional rollercoaster. Best one!! I was happy, sad, laughing, crying......everything. I loved the story line. My favorite has always been Doyle, so when so much was happening around him I got so caught up in the story I couldn't stop reading. I can't wait for the next one to come out!!
jjmachshev More than 1 year ago
Looking for a kick@ss heroine? "Swallowing Darkness" by Laurell K. Hamilton gives us a pregnant heroine with awesome powers and raging hormones! How can I not love it?

Seriously, in this 7th book of the 'Meredith Gentry' series Meredith is finally pregnant...with twins no less. But instead of becoming softer Merry has had it with her enemies. No more bargaining or backing down. She will do whatever she needs to protect her mates and her unborn children. All I can say is...about time.

In previous books in this series Merry has been reactive, now she's going proactive and I loved the whole book. If you haven't read any of this series, don't start with this book as you'll just end up confused.

Merry is half fae and if she can survive to give birth, she's the new ruler of the seelie court. Her aunt, the current insane ruler, set a challenge between her own son and Merry. The first to get pregnant and begat an heir will win the crown. Of course, her aunt is a totally insane, bloodthirsty, sexually sadistic monarch whose whim is law. And her son is an apple who didn't fall far from the tree. So Merry is caught between these two with pretty much no choice but win or die.

That's the basic premise of these books, but there is so much more. I should certainly warn you that I consider these books erotica as there's a LOT of sex and most of it isn't exactly tame or vanilla! But this series is also a really engrossing fantasy tale...for adults. My only gripe is now I have to wait another year for the next chapter in Merry's life.
KitaliaZen More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! It could be a pretty good ending to a series or a " to be continued". It was just what I wanted after the last book form this series. I've already re-read it twice!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've followed L. K. Hamilton ever since a friend handed me a copy of The Circus of the Damned. Since the Anita Blake series never disappointed, I tried her Meredith Gentry series. I kept up since the 3rd book in the series, and Swallowing Darkness keeps the series good and continuous. While not as action-packed as the Anita Blake series, the entire Merredith Gentry series is much more dramatic. Swallowing Darkness does a great job of picking up on the ending of A Lick of Frost. Followers of the series will be surprised at a small twist that picks up right in chapters 2 and 3. And the ending was more of a left turn than I was expecting, but much more original than the usual "happily ever after," and rather fun at that. And a mystery is solved that has been running since the first book. Sorry! I'm giving away no details. You have to read the book to enjoy it! My only fear is that the series is over, given the way it ended. I sure hope not. I wanna see a clash of the Courts! All FIVE of them. The Goblins, the Seelie, the Unseelie, the Slaugh, and....ah! But that would be telling!
8149 More than 1 year ago
I was worried when reading other reviews of this book that the ending of this one would disappoint because I really loved how the story was building up.
I have to say though that it was brilliant! The story was action packed non stop. I really loved how Meredith finally came into her own and did what she needed to do in order to protect the ones she loved.

The ending made me think this was the last book in the series, but I am praying that it is not!

Laura K Hamilton's books are jam packed with action, romance and tons of imagination!
Branwyn More than 1 year ago
The Merry Gentry series was never going to overtake my love of the Anita Blake series, but she could have at least tried with what seems like her last chance to impress/ win over her fans from one series to both.

In her last outing, Merry Gentry seemingly "lost" Killing Frost, whom Hamilton (happily) brought back this time around -- but it was cliched. Merry finds that love and her friends/ harem are more important than the crown -- and didn't we see that coming?

The most disappointing thing in this book is probably the lack of finality. Yes, there is a climax, denouement, and conclusion, but no resolution.

Merry marries Sholto and becomes Queen of the Sluagh. But she doesn't have any hard choices to make. She doesn't have to sacrifice her polygamy for one mate.

This is not an issue of a disregard for an alternative lifestyles. My issue with the book is the one thing Merry seems to be sacrificing is something she wasn't thrilled about in the first place -- the Crown of her Aunt, Andais.

I've spoiled enough of the book for fellow fans of Hamilton's, so I'm not going to spill everything. It is worth a read simply because we're addicted. But this is not going to win anyone over from one franchise to the other, and it certainly isn't going to win her any "brownie" points with her current base, if you'll pardon the pun.
Milawe More than 1 year ago
This continuation of the Meredith Gentry story contains action-packed scenes and manages to move the plotline forward quite a bit as opposed to some of the earlier books. The sex scenes do not dominate the book as much though the inherent sensuality found in most Laurell K. Hamilton books are still present. Meredith's adventures take her from human hospitals into the Slaugh sithen as well as the Seelie sithen in this hook and ends in the human world. An epic battle amongst the Sidhe is the main focus of this book as well as Goddess' annoyance with the reception of her gifts. There have been some criticisms of this book with Meredith acting somewhat out of character since she resorts to outright violence in many of the scenes. Hamilton, however, constructs a convincing tale that Meredith has simply reached the end of her rope and realized that sometimes violence is the only method to the madness she faces. The book delves further into the politics and madness one could expect from people who live thousands of years, and amongst all the darkness, Hamilton manages to instill moments of lightness, humor, and endearing moments. I found the book to be fun, entertaining, and full of excellent story-telling even if the writing leaves something to be desired. This is a must-read for all Meredith Gentry fans and has strong potential for being a re-read.
Sharky1288 More than 1 year ago
Although I have read most of Hamilton's Anita Blake books and all of the Meredith Gentry series so far, this is by far the most frustrating book ever. It started with great plot and movement through the epic that has been created in the first novels and then ends terribly. Out of every goal set up for Merry during her journey, she only achieves one and it seems like Hamilton writes off the rest as if they don't matter, everyone is happy, the end.
Dark_J More than 1 year ago
I have every book written by Laurel K Hamilton, so I obviously think she is a great writer, she has a way of pulling you in and making you feel like you are a part of the story to the point you miss the characters in-between books!!! Swallowing Darkness was a good book, but I did not feel that she put as much into it as the others; all of the intense action came more at the end, and then it was like it was all pushed and rushed through just to get it done. Frost came back and it was over. There should have been more with him, she did not even include a part about him finding out she was pregnant with his child too. I am very glad it is not the last (according to what I have seen and read). The Anita Blake series was my favorite until I read the Merideth Gentry series and that is my favorite, I have read both twice!!
brightmyer More than 1 year ago
I have totally quit reading reading reviews of Hamilton's work because I don't think some people are actually reading the same books I am. I have enjoyed Hamilton's work since Kiss of Shadows - the first Merry Gentry book. Up until this time, I hadn't read anything by her, but his quickly changed. Although Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter is my favorite series, Merry runs a close second!

Swallowing Darkness picks up right where A Lick of Frost ended. Merry has been raped by her uncle, King Taranis, and her beloved Frost has been turned into a stag. I was shocked with the opening scene because my joy at having "Gran" reenter the picture was quickly changed to horror because of a vengeance spell.

I was not expecting the Wild Hunt so soon after the last, but with Merry's kin plotting her murder and her uncles sadistic actions, I guess it was an obvious conclusion.

I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around Merry's pregnancy with twins and the huge number of men who share paternity. This is my problem, not Hamilton's problem - her writing is up to snuff, I'm just having trouble with several issues. I am happy to see the "mother bear" instincts rise up in Merry - after spending 6 books trying to get pregnant, I was wondering how she would react to the pregnancy.

For me, Swallowing Darkness answered some major plot points, but there are so many more questions to be answered. This is NOT the last Merry Gentry book, as so many other reviewers have claimed. According to Hamilton's website and blog (which I read faithfully every day), Merry's story is not finished, so the series goes on. Yeah for us die-hard Hamilton fans!
Tigress More than 1 year ago
I am so proud of Laurell. All of those who read her books know that her books have been lacking the action that they once had, but this book made up for it. I am proud to say that this book only had 1 almost and 1 actual sex scene. That's probably a record for the Merry Gentry series. Their wasn't even a lot of sexual innuendo. The drama in this book was good without being over the top. Merry becomes tougher and realizes that being kind will not help her survive in the either sidhe court. She shows an awesome display of power and gives the others back their power and some, power they never heard had. She returns old weapons and you get to read about how they are used and the damage they can imflict. Merry is kicking butt and taking names. Defeating her enemies and showing that she is not one to be messed with. So many OMG moments happened in this 365 page head turner that it will restore faith in any reader who has given up on Laurell's book becoming nothing more than pwp's. I cannot freaking WAIT until the next book comes out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, it is time for a book # 10. I just keep rereading this series but I want more.
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Wonderfully written. Characters come alive. Interesting story.
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Any books in this series always capture my attention and hold it until the very last page.
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