Saturday, February 13, 2010

Immortals: The Gathering by Jennifer Ashley

Hunter is an Immortal Warrior, one of five that lived like brothers. All they have in common is that one of their parents is a God- and Hunter's is Kali, and his Immortal brothers call him The Crazy One. Recently, the world has felt strange, different and menacing. Hunter has felt uneasy about it, but he's been staying with a number of women, enjoying their bodies. But when he gets up to get a drink of water, he is suddenly pulled away from where he is by a summoning.

But something interrupts the summoning, and he's dumped onto a small island where Leda Stowe lives. Leda is a wildlife rehabilitator who lives in isolation on a tiny island because she's afraid of people judging her for an incident in her past. Right now, she has two animals in her care, a lion named Mukasa who was rescued from a Mexican druglord, and Taro, a bear rescued from a circus. Of the two, she's more concerned about Mukasa, and has been worried about an attack by the Drug Lord or his men.

So when she finds the half-naked Hunter in Mukasa's cage, she thinks he might be working for the Drug Lord, but he disarms her suspicions and those of her contact, Douglas, although Douglas is angry that Hunter keeps coming onto Leda. Leda is definitely attracted to Hunter, and he soon has the story about why she's hiding out on this heavily shielded island- long ago, Leda was a member of the Coven of Light, a group of White witches who practice life magic. But when her husband fell deathly ill, she did everything she could to save him- and it wasn't enough.

So she did the unthinkable- she summoned a Groth demon to empower her magic enough to save her husband's life. But when she'd saved him, he was not at all grateful, and rejected her for summoning the demon, even though it was to save his life. He left and divorced her, and the coven kicked her out for what she'd done. And her life magic was tainted with the demon's death magic. Hunter, in accepting what she did to save her husband as right, convinces her to make love with him, and as he does so, he removes the death magic from the life magic she normally possesses, as well as removing the compulsion on her soul to meet the demon and become his whore.

He also chases off the Drug Lord's men when they come to reclaim Mukasa, and then must drive of a demon attack that he attracted by using his life magic on the island, drawing attention to it. But their happiness is soon interrupted by the arrival of Samantha, a half-demon who works as part of the Supernatural Crimes Squad. Her mother has gone missing, and she fears that her demon father is to blame. Hunter distrusts Samantha, who is full of death magic from her demon father, but Leda casts a sleep spell on Hunter when they make love and leaves for the mainland with Samantha.

Hunter follows her, along with Mukasa, leaving Taro in the care of the Undines who make the island their home. Hunter wants to protect Leda from the real world, but he can't. Already, she's tried to do a scrying spell to find Samantha's mother and failed, the magic blowing up in her face. But part of that is due to what is causing problems in the world: an old and powerful demon wishes to destroy and remake the world, and one of Hunter's immortal brothers, Tain, is on its side. While it's hard to believe that a warrior with such strong life magic is on the side of a demon who wields death magic, Tain has been a captive of the demon for hundreds of years, and has been tortured so much that he's gone crazy and feels the pain the demon inflicts as love.

But the demon isn't happy with having just one of the immortals on its side. Several times, it appears as Leda to Hunter, wanting him to impregnate its body and give it a child. But every time, Hunter is able to tell the difference and reject its advances. He loves Leda, not just her outer form, and when the demon eventually shows up to kidnap him and torture him as it tortured Tain, his brother, it's up to Leda and her friends and allies, including the Vampire Septimus, to rescue him and keep him alive until the rest of the brothers show up- each with the woman they have come to love. But can the four other immortals find a way to rescue their brother Tain and bring him back into sanity, as well as destroying the demon before it can take over the world and remake it in the demon's image, using the magic of the brother immortals? And is there any hope for Hunter and Leda's love when he no longer remembers her? Will he reject her when she uses the same method to save him that she did her husband?

My biggest problem with this book is that it's near the end of a series, and the culmination of a whole lot of story and plotting, but at the same time, I didn't read the previous books. I saw this one in the store and picked it up, not realizing that others had come before it. But, that being said, this story was fairly stand alone- Aside from a mention of the witches calling the Immortals at the beginning of the book, and the Immortals becoming scattered all over the place when something interrupted the calling, the rest of the book does stand on its own. You become aware there are other books in the series when the other immortals and their loves show up, but you don't need to read them to thoroughly enjoy this book.

I really liked this book. Yes, Hunter starts out as basically a male whore, using his body to bring women happiness, but once he and Leda come together, it quickly becomes much more than that. She's more than just another body to him. He wants to protect her, and he comes to see her as more than just another warm body- perhaps because she does more to stand on her own than just lie back and let him protect her. She has sympathy for what he has suffered, and she doesn't demand he stay with her- all she asks is that he give her a child to remember him by when he finally leaves her.

Hunter has denied his pain for so long that he's almost forgotten that it exists, but loving Leda makes him remember it, and want to hide again. Leda helps him face the pain of losing his wife and child so long ago- and while it is very convenient that the demon who killed them is also the demon he is currently fighting for the body, mind and soul of his brother, Tain, it doesn't feel like a "How conveeeenient!" moment when it's revealed, just another crime to lay against Kekhsut in its quest to sway the Immortals to its side.

I liked the book, and I'd recommend it, but it wasn't a personal high point in romance novels for me. I didn't feel I had to immediately go out and buy the rest of the novels or complete the collection. It's a nice, good book, but no more than that. Recommended.

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