The Darkest Whisper is the fourth book in Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series. The lords are immortal warriors who were once favored by the gods. The lords lost that favor after they killed Pandora and released the demons that were once imprisoned inside her box. As a punishment each lord was cursed to carry a demon inside him (or her). Centuries have passed and man and demon have become one. Separating the demon from the man would kill the man. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the hunters want to do. The hunters are a group of humans who blame all the world's ills on the lords and believe that if they could capture the lords and remove their demons, then life would be heaven on earth. As one character points out, the hunters seem to have forgotten that humans have free will and are at least partially to blame for the ills of the world.
Sabin is the keeper of doubt. Get near him and you start doubting everything good in your life. Sabin has had lovers before but it never worked out. In the end the women also began doubting everything about themselves no matter how much Sabin tried to boost their confidence. After one lover was overcome doubt and committed suicide, Sabin swore off women and relationships for good. Then he met Gwen.
Gwen is a half harpy, half angel who was captured by the hunters and imprisoned for a year. When the lords break into the hunter's fortress and rescue her and the other captives, Gwen isn't quite sure what to think. She has heard stories about the lords, and in all of them the lords are ruthless killers. Being anywhere near the lords should and does terrify her, not only because of what they might do but also because of what she might do. As a harpy Gwen knows violence and she hates it. She despises the part of
herself that is harpy, not entirely without reason. When she goes into
harpy mode she loses control and people die. Yet she can't deny her attraction to Sabin. Being around him seems to bring out the best and worst in her.
This one was a mixed bag for me. The harpy mythology was new to me and a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed Gwen's trajectory in the story. In the beginning she can't accept the violent harpy half of her. She's afraid of her own power and believes herself to be weak. She even blames herself for being kidnapped. Over the course of the novel she gains confidence in herself and her powers. She learns how to fight and to stand up for herself. A woman growing into her own is always a good thing to see.
What I liked less was Sabin's "protection" of Gwen. Gwen opens up to Sabin, revealing her greatest weakness to him. He uses that knowledge against her, imprisoning Gwen and her sisters against their will. He reasons that locking the four women up is for their own protection. Multiple times in the book he physically prevents her sisters from going near Gwen because he feels he has to "protect" her from them even though they have never done anything to harm her. I so wanted Gwen to stand up to him and tell him to back off. Even if he means well Sabin's actions went too far too many times.
Each book in the series focuses on a particular warrior as well as the lords' overall fight to defeat the hunters. In this one there was an interesting development involving children with powers - can't wait to see how that plays out in future books. I also liked the side stories involving Aeron and Paris and Torin and Cameo.
One of the fun things about the series is the friendship between the men. It's not difficult to find books that depict deep female friendships but I have across far fewer that involve serious male friendships. Don't get me wrong, romance is great but so are lifelong friends. Aeron and Paris have a deep friendship. Having lost the one woman he might have loved, Paris the keeper of promiscuity, is burying his sorrow in ambrosia and alcohol. Aeron desperately tries to help his friend. Paris will not self-destruct if Aeron has anything to do about it.
Another interesting relationship is that between Cameo and Torin. Cameo, the only female warrior, is the keeper of misery. The sound of her voice literally makes people depressed and miserable. Torin has the worst demon in my opinion - the demon of disease. He can't touch another person with his bare skin without causing a plague. Cameo and Torin have been flirting with each other for awhile. Here they both come to understand the limits of their relationships, and not just the limits resulting from their demons. The individual stories of these warriors, I'm betting, will be interesting and steamy.