Reviewed by Tori
Just when you thought doomsday was over…
Centuries ago Acheron saved the human race by imprisoning an ancient evil bent on absolute destruction. Now that evil has been unleashed and it is out for revenge.
As the twin to Acheron, Styxx hasn’t always been on his brother’s side. They’ve spent more centuries going at each other’s throats than protecting their backs. Now Styxx has a chance to prove his loyalty to his brother, but only if he’s willing to trade his life and future for Acheron’s.
The Atlantean goddess of Wrath and Misery, Bethany was born to right wrongs. But it was never a task she relished. Until now. She owes Acheron a debt that she vows to repay, no matter what it takes. He will join their fellow gods in hell and nothing is going to stop her.
But things are never what they seem, and Acheron is no longer the last of his line. Styxx and Acheron must put aside their past and learn to trust each other or more will suffer.
Yet it’s hard to risk your own life for someone who once tried to take yours, even when it’s your own twin, and when loyalties are skewed and no one can be trusted, not even yourself, how do you find a way back from the darkness that wants to consume the entire world? One that wants to start by devouring your very soul? (Goodreads)
THERE ARE SOME LIGHT SPOILERS IN HERE SO CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK
Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series remains one of the best selling paranormal romance series to date and for good reason. Speaking to readers of all ages and genres, Ms. Kenyon’s unique twist on vampires, mythology, and religion combines fantasy with paranormal romance to create a genre all its own.
Ms. Kenyon has enthralled me since her first book, Fantasy Lover. Intriguing suspense, non stop action, sizzling romance, and wicked humor has kept this intensely character driven series an auto buy for me well into it’s twenty third release, Styxx. Now I know many fans were shocked when Kenyon announced Styxx was the next hero in this series. Though we had seen him through the series, he has never been portrayed in a favorable light. Considered the ultimate villain, most fans identified him as a threat to our beloved Ash.
We first met Styxx in Night Pleasures. Then again in Night Embrace when he teams up with Dionysus to bring about the end of the world. He fails, of course, and is sent to Tartarus by Artie-the red headed heifer goddess (Artemis). Artie further punishes Styxx by giving him all of Ash’s childhood memories. Minor walk on scenes with Styxx are also seen in Dark Side Of The Moon, Sins Of The Night, and The Devil May Cry. It isn’t until Acheron that Styxx is fully introduced and his character explored. In here we learn exactly who Styxx is and the importance he has in Ash’s life. Styxx is the twin brother of Acheron Parthenopaeus (Ash). His true name is Styx of Didymos. Born a prince in 9548 BC, he was the privileged son of the king and queen of Didymos. In Acheron we are told that during his mortal life, Styxx hated Ash with every single cell of his being and caused him nothing but unimaginable pain and humiliation every chance he got. We never really understood why. It’s only when Ash is killed by Apollo does Styxx learn of the unbreakable ties that bind him to Ash. And what Ash really is. The first half of Acheron focuses on Ash’s childhood and it’s brutal to say the least. By the end of Acheron, Styxx and Ash have made a tentative peace and Ash sends Styxx to New York to start his life anew and try to forget his past.
“I don’t ask for your forgiveness. I don’t deserve it. I only ask for a chance to show you now that I’m not the fool I was once. (Styxx)” -Acheron
So, why do we need more? What could Styxx possibly have to tell us to make us forgive him for his treatment of Ash?
It is often said that there are three sides to every story. Yours, theirs, and the truth. Memories are tailored to fit our emotional state at the time and what we remember isn’t always exactly how it happened. We learn here that what we read in Acheron was not the complete truth. Styxx sets the story of his and Ash’s childhood to rights. What we thought we knew becomes only a single part of the whole story, told from the viewpoints of a horrifically abused, often drugged addled man and his jealous sister. In Styxx we will learn who the real Styx of Didymos is and the events that Ash never saw or buried in pain and guilt. We learn of Styxx’s strength and perseverance. His sorrow and pain. His love and loss. We learn of events that weren’t in Ash’s book. Misjudged, condemned, betrayed and abandoned…there’s a whole side of Styxx that no one knows of.
None of them had ever taken pity on him. He was thrown aside and forgotten like garbage.
Until They needed him.
All he ever wanted was a family. One person who treated him like he mattered to them.
All he had gotten was disappointment.
Slapped in the face and stabbed in the heart.
In here you will learn the truth as it really happened.
Kenyon takes a sword and hacks away at the misconceptions from the past to get to the heart of truth with the skill of a surgeon and the strength of a warrior. Her judgment is swift and her punishments exact as she reveals the hypocrisy and betrayal. Kenyon starts Styxx like Acheron, in the past at the very beginning. I loved that Styxx takes us back into the familiar and we are given a tortured hero whose story of love, sacrifice, redemption, and forgiveness astounds, wounds, and humbles. Styxx’s life is harsh study in cruelty and horror. While Ash’s book was heartbreaking, Styxx’s book rips your heart out of your chest and leaves you gasping for breath while being kicked repeatedly in the head. Not only what he experiences physically, but also mentally and emotionally. He has lost so much that death is a release he craves everyday. His only happiness is his memories of a woman and a life ripped from him thousands of years ago.
“…the book was filled with pictures of the same women and the baby boy at various ages that ranged from newborn to adult hood. [...] Memories that had be stolen from him “
Truths are spoken and lies are revealed. Acheron sees the incredible disservice he has done to Styxx and himself by clinging to his hatred and bitterness. His eyes are opened wide and he acknowledges the blindness that he choose to live with. By looking into the past and seeing it through someone else’s eyes, Acheron learns some ugly truths about himself and the part he played in the pain and suffering he and Styxx endured.
“You even held him down while he was branded a whore.”
Though some readers may find the telling Styxx’s story from the beginning to be redundant as it incorporates a significant portion of Acheron, it is necessary in order to pull the truth out of the many lies and deceptions fostered upon Styxx and Ash. The main plot and various subplots weave and wind throughout, yet never present in a way that confuses the reader. I’m in shock and awe with how Kenyon was able to not only keep everything straight but was able to build upon this fantastic ever evolving world she’s built. The layers of deception are astounding and she draws them out with the skill of a master magician.
The interaction we have with so many familiar and beloved characters draws us more intimately into the book and helps to alleviate feelings of redundancy. Just about everyone we have grown to love and/or hate in this series makes an appearance to add their own versions of past and provide advice. Kenyon not only provides Styxx with help from some unexpected allies, but she also uses these connections to bridge ongoing storylines and open new pathways for future storylines. Clues are dropped that left me giddy at the possibilities. One particular character, who’s always been a favorite of mine, further endeared themselves to me with their astonishing compassion and loyalty.
“For once in your lives, can you not think of him and just leave him alone? It’s all he wants. You’ve already forgotten him for three years. What’s another three hundred?”
As we come in to the present stage of the story, the time of reckoning is upon us and at it’s heart is a revenge driven woman who seeks vengeance for the wrong done to her and her family. She vows to make everyone involved pay for what they took from her.
“…she remembered everything the Gods had done to them both to tear them apart and keep them from each other. Anger rose up in her but she forced it down. There would be a full accounting later. No matter what, she couldn’t allow him to suffer anymore or die for these bastards.”
“Or for her.”
Bethany, the Atlantean goddess of Wrath, Misery and the Hunt, often escaped the hectic chaos of her duties by going to the mortal realm and living as a simple peasant girl. It’s here she meets Styxx and they fall in love. The romance and sensuality is at a premium as Bethany and Styxx celebrate their growing passion during a time when if either were discovered with the other, the result would be death or worse. When Bethany makes the choice to give up her godhood to live with Styxx as a mortal, all hell breaks lose and Bethany finds her choice violently taken away from her. When Bethany is awakened, the gods and goddesses who choose their own happiness over hers and set in motion the events that destroyed her love, find themselves called to task for their selfish desires. Worlds collide and fate seeks to realign as we are shown in violent detail the Wraith and Misery that awaits them for meddling with the life of one man and the woman who loved him.
The ending is an intense, emotional roller coaster ride of deception, betrayal, and redemption. Styxx is finally given what the two things he has wanted from the beginning-love and forgiveness. Though I originally disliked Styxx and was dismayed Kenyon would actually even think to devote an entire book to him, I see now that my perceptions were as clouded as Ash’s. Kenyon out does herself as she takes a supposed villain and shows us a remarkable hero whose strength, compassion, and fortitude will stay with you long after you’re finished.