Buckle up, buttercup, because you’re in for one hell of a ride!
I loved Janine Ashbless‘s romantic, erotic, dark, thoughtful, and often beautiful novel Cover Him with Darkness (you can check out my review here), which tells the story of Milja, daughter of a village priest in Serbia, as she frees and falls in love with the fallen angel Azazel.
In Bonds of the Earth picks up exactly where Cover Him with Darkness left off: Milja is trying to navigate life with an inhuman lover, and Azazel is attempting to fulfill his vow to release the rest of the imprisoned fallen angels.
The second installment in a trilogy always has a tough role to fill. It has to deepen our relationships with the characters while furthering the story, and it has to tie up enough loose ends to leave the reader satisfied while leaving enough unsolved problems to fill the third installment.
Was Ashbless able to pull this off?
Just like the first book, this novel is a globe-trotting masterpiece. Ashbless’s landscapes are so evocative they may as well be characters. History and geography are beautifully woven into this passionate, sexy, and occasionally disturbing story, and the hours of research Ashbless must have done really pay off.
Speaking of the research…I’ve got a Master’s degree in Religious Studies, and I have to admit I learned a few things from this novel.
Okay…I learned a LOT of things from this novel.
I won’t give too much away, but let me tell you you’re going to be booking plane tickets (or at least wishing you could book plane tickets) once you finish this story.
As in Ashbless’s previous books, beautiful erotica runs through In Bonds of the Earth live a live wire. These scenes never feel gratuitous; instead, they help to push the characters, illuminating their deepest motivations, and sometimes revealing surprising new gifts.
And those characters!
Milja makes a great narrator; she’s tough in all the right places, quick on her feet, and human enough to make your heart ache. And Egan, the Catholic special forces operative with an “it’s complicated” relationship to Milja, is both a perfect counterpoint to Azazel and fascinating in his own right.
But Azazel is the character who truly blew me away. It’s difficult to create a sympathetic but also believably non-human character, especially as a love interest (trust me). Azazel is that character, and you can’t help but root for him as he attempts to free his imprisoned friends and navigate human relationships, both tasks that seem quite daunting.
Speaking of characters…the adversary in this novel is especially creative. And creepy. Really, really, really freaking creepy.
In Bonds of the Earth also continues the fascinating Dostoevsky-an examinations of morality, love, and duty Ashbless began in Cover Him with Darkness. This novel even pulls a few more sacred cows (like monogamy) into question.
And, for the record, this book contains the single most romantic demonic possession scene ever written.
So where is this series going to go next?
I’ll be honest with you – I have no freaking clue.
But I can’t wait to find out!
Rating: ALL THE STARS!
In Bonds of the Earth is available for preorder now right here, and will be released on March 1st.
And you can find the first book in the trilogy, Cover Him with Darkness, here.
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