Grand Central Publishing, March 29, 2011, $7.99
THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE.
Born of a match between good and evil, four siblings stand between hell’s minions and everything they want to destroy. They are the Lords of Deliverance, and thy have the power to ward off Doomsday…or let it ride…
His name is Ares, and the fate of mankind rests on his powerful shoulders. If he falls to the forces of evil, the world falls too. As one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, he is far stronger than any mortal, but even he cannot fight his destiny forever. Not when his own brother plots against him.
Yet there is one last hope. Gifted in a way other humans can't-or won't-understand, Cara Thornhart is the key to both this Horseman's safety and his doom. But involving Cara will prove treacherous, even beyond the maddening, dangerous desire that seizes them the moment they meet. For staving off eternal darkness could have a staggering cost: Cara's life.
And here I thought I was completely over tales of impending Apocalypse. Oh, not the kind as offered up by Buffy back in the day, or more recently by The Walking Dead. One caused by too-intelligent-machines, alien invasion or a lethal pandemic? Sure, bring it on. But the Biblical, Satan-walks-among-us type of capital-A Apocalypse? That, for me, was just getting a little tired. Especially as everyone’s always on about seeing signs of our apparently imminent doom. Climate change. Earthquakes. Reality television. Surely, oft comes the cry, God must be ready to make with the Rapture if we have merely used our free will to create reality television!
No. According to Larissa Ione’s fun new take on the tradition, the End of Days will come to us when and if the arcane seals borne by the destined Four Horsemen—Ares, Reseph, Thanatos, and Limos (this last, actually, a Horsewoman)—are broken, in seemingly quite arbitrary ways. These harbingers of Armageddon were sired by an angel and born of a succubus named Lilith: a mythological mystery woman variously known as Adam’s first wife, a demon queen, a Wiccan goddess and music fair honoree. (Lilith, by the by, is also mother to long-running and scantily-clad comic book heroine, Vampirella; am I sensing crossover potential here?)
Ares, whom we first met in the last of Ione’s Demonica series, Sin Undone, is our hero this time out: he’s a blindingly charismatic six-and-a-half foot tall millennia-old deposed god with a haunted heart, a complex morality, and a propensity for lashing out unfairly when worried or in pain. Should his “seal” break, he will become War, Second Horseman of the Apocalypse. But for now, he is merely seeking is lost brother, attempting to avert the coming cataclysm, and—not incidentally—finding himself quite taken with gorgeous “holistic veterinarian” Cara Thorngood, whose own past is marked by sorrow and who is brought into Ares’s life not only broken, but seemingly very bowed:
The hardened, battle-edged commander side of him wanted to tell her to snap out of it. To grow a set and get over it, soldier. But another side of him wanted to… what? Comfort her? Fold her into his arms and whisper sweet, mushy things into her ear.
For Cara, meeting Ares—then calling himself Jeff, having muddled her memories of their first, dramatic encounter—was likewise a paradigm-shifting experience:
Their gazes met. Tangled. Awareness washed through her like a hot liquid rush of oh…my…God. No man had ever affected her like that, especially not from just a look.
But Cara is having dreams. Not only of Ares, but of a strange black dog with whom she is somehow connected—a black dog locked in a symbol-strewn basement in England and whom she feels an overwhelming need to set free. In her dream, the dog tells her:
Find me or we both die.
And indeed they will. The dog is a hellhound, who has bonded with Cara, the first human to have been given the privilege. To complicate matters, Cara also has the mystical mark of an agimortus bestowed upon her, and her death will be the very thing that will transform turbulent Ares into terrifying War.
'Cara, your death will bring about the Apocalypse. Utter destruction. The end of the world as we know it. So yes, your death is bad.'
'That would be a bummer.'
What delights about this first book in Ione’s new, Demonica-adjoining, series is that it takes all that was enthralling about its parent sequence and then ups the ante considerably. Certainly, previous installments brought us a big picture window into the doings of a wide variety of heroes and villains (or should that be anti-heroes and anti-villains?) belonging to many supernatural races and creeds; we were given a fully-realized vision of a textured and layered civilization that exists just a little bit to the left of, and underneath, ours. But the Lords of Deliverance series bids fair to eclipse its progenitor series—from which we have some charming cameos here, of course, and from which Ione’s directness in the matter of The Sex is just as evident, if not quite as prevalent—because in the matter of breathless, heart-stopping action, of unexpected powers, climactic battles and predestined True Love, Eternal Rider takes things to a whole new level.
At one point our smart-mouthed, newly-confident heroine tells her reluctant beau:
'I might not be some sort of biblical legend warrior guy, but I’m not completely helpless.'
I have to confess that I am helpless; utterly so, before Larissa Ione’s enchanting, maddening, thrilling and wholly disturbing world of the demonic, the godly and everything imaginable that lies in between.
Yeah, I thought I was over the Apocalypse. After Eternal Rider, though? Not so much.
Rachel Hyland is the Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.