>> Tuesday, August 06, 2013
In this thrilling conclusion to the Guardian series, New York Times bestselling author Meljean Brook delivers another stunning page-turner, in which the fate of humanity depends upon a tortured warrior winning the trust—and heart—of the woman he wounded…Much as I've enjoyed my reading in the last few years, it's been ages since I've been looking forward to a book so much that I actually considered taking a day off for it. We'd have to go back to the final Harry Potter, and now, Guardian Demon.
After a terrifying encounter in Hell destroys her trust in Michael, the Guardian’s powerful leader, former detective Andromeda Taylor is ready to call it quits as one of the angelic warriors and resume her human life again. But when demonic forces threaten her closest friends and she uncovers a terrifying plot devised by Lucifer, Taylor is thrown straight into Michael’s path again…
To defeat Lucifer, Michael needs every Guardian by his side—and he needs Taylor more than any other. The detective is the key to keeping his own demonic side at bay, and Michael will do anything to protect her and keep her close. And when Taylor manifests a deadly power, her Gift might tip the scales in the endless war between Heaven and Hell…or it might destroy them both with a single touch.
The Guardians series became, almost from the start, my favourite ongoing series, possibly my favourite series ever (again, only Harry Potter might rival it for the top spot). It's all been building up to the end, to Michael's book, and if it was going to be a fitting conclusion to it, it needed to be spectacular. Well, I'm very happy to report, it absolutely was.
Now, this is going to be a bit of a balancing act. The last thing I want to do is to spoil this for anyone, so since I'm posting this right on the release date, I'm going to keep this as spoiler-free as I can while explaining why I loved it so much, a bit cryptic at times. In fact, I'm not going to provide a plot summary at all. If you're reading this book, you should have read the previous ones, so all you need to know is that we get both a conclusion to the final confrontation between good and evil that's been brewing for so many books and Michael and Taylor's romance. The latter is definitely not an easy one, after some quite traumatic events at the start of the book which result in Taylor losing any trust in Michael.
Both are wonderfully done. One of the reasons I like this series is that the heroines are so complicated and strong in so many different ways, as beautifully explained by Brie in one of her Heroine Week posts. Andromeda Taylor certainly is that, but while in most of the earlier books in this series, I've felt that the heroines slightly edged out the heroes in sheer interestingness, in this one, Michael slightly edges it for me. He's just so amazingly and thoughtfully developed.
I actually never thought until a long way into the series, in Irena's book, that Michael would have his own story. He felt so inhuman, or more than human. And even after Demon Forged, when I went ohhh, I wondered whether we'd actually get his POV, or whether it would be a bit more old-school and have him be this mysterious, powerful hero. Well, we get to see inside his head, and I loved the way it was done. His humanisation was gradual and believable, I think because super-human or not, this is a man who really is involved in mankind.
In that sense, I couldn't help but compare Michael with Raphael, from Nalini Singh's Guild Hunters books. Raphael is another very well-developed so-old-he's-inhuman character, but he has become separated from humanity, passing judgment on humans and almost despising them. Michael is his opposite. After many years, he has developed a respect for humans and loves them, which is perfectly reflected in how his feelings for the Rules have developed over the centuries.
I thought his humanity was especially apparent in his relationship with Taylor. It's not so much the feelings he has for her, but how even though he's incredibly self-aware and painfully honest about himself, he can still fool himself. There's a scene with Lilith which particularly broke my heart. But his beyond-humanness was apparent in the romance as well, and it meant that his attitude towards sex feels absolutely right. Sex has long ceased to be a drive to Michael. His need for Andromeda is beyond sex. He wants her as well, but it's not about his own gratification, even if he does get gratification out of it. His love for Andromeda is about her essence, not so much about what she looks like. This made their relationship incredibly satisfying.
As the romance develops, and Michael is working hard to regain Taylor's confidence, things are also moving along on the plottier end of the scale, and the final confrontation comes even closer. There's tragedy even in the run-up to it, and it becomes obvious quite soon that this is not going to be an easy win. Brook makes you feel right in the gut that there are huge things at stake. And when the confrontation comes, it is epic and immensely satisfying.
And now I need to tread very carefully and be especially cryptic here. Let's just say that the only criticism I can make of this book is about the order certain things happen in the conclusion. I thought that if one particular area hadn't been resolved before the other, the emotional intensity and feeling of peril would have been even higher. As it was, resolving this issue filled the characters (and us) with a maybe a bit too much hope. I guess I think things would have been a lot angstier even more emotionally gut-wrenching if that hadn't been the case.
Still, I'm saying even more emotionally satisfying, because even with this criticism, I still thought the way things turned out worked amazingly well. I closed the book with a wonderful sense of satisfaction, and of a HEA very well-earned. There was also quite a bit of sadness that it was finally over, but that disappeared straight away when I turned right back to page 1 and started to reread it :)
MY GRADE: A solid A.