Leanna Renee Hieber
The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker (Percy Parker #2)
Gothic Victorian fantasy
April 27, 2010
With radiant, snow white skin and hair, Percy Parker was a beacon for Fate. True love had found her, in the tempestuous form of Professor Alexi Rychman. But her mythic destiny was not complete. Accompanying the ghosts with which she alone could converse, new and terrifying omens loomed. A war was coming, a desperate ploy of a spectral host. Victorian London would be overrun. Yet, Percy kept faith. Within the mighty bastion of Athens Academy, alongside The Guard whose magic shielded mortals from the agents of the Underworld, she counted herself among friends. Wreathed in hallowed fire, they would stand together, no matter what dreams or nightmares—may come.
A few spoilers for the previous book. You can read my review here.
This will also double as my Year of the Historical review for April.
Last year I became hooked on Hieber’s rich, dramatic style. Book one, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker was one of the most unique and stand out reads for me in 2009 and I have to give the author credit. She did it again. The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker rounded out, for me, just about perfectly what book one began.
At the end of book one, The Guard, a small group of London citizens imbued with supernatural powers enabling them to, in essence, police the supernatural world, have defeated their nemesis. Alexi Rychman, professor and co-founder of Athens Academy, a small school in London, has realized his greatest wish – that of love and its physical form in one Persephone Parker. Very soon into this installment, they are married and set off for a honeymoon while the rest of the guard lets loose. Now that their leader’s away, the Guard shall play.
But they’re not the only ones restless and eager to do something. There’s a restlessness still in the supernatural world beyond the one most humans can see. Members of the old London Guard before Alexi and Co’s time cross over from the Whisperworld to warn the current Guard of the evil brewing. A war is coming, and the current Guard still isn’t quite ready yet.
Book two (for which this one will henceforth be called due to the long title) continues without a hitch what began in book one. This isn’t the kind of series we usually see in romance today. Normally today a sequel is really about a new set of characters and can pretty much stand on its own, from what I’ve seen for the most part. The Persephone Parker series, though, is actually a real series with a honest-to-gosh sequel. We retain the same characters with a few new additions and the story arc flows smoothly from one to the next. There is a slightly odd intro to the second book, in which we’re introduced to Beatrice and another member of the old Guard, but she’s so interesting that I didn’t mind being thrown for a loop for a couple of pages. Once we get to know her and her purpose, she fits into the book as easily as any of the other characters.
In book one, I felt a strong attraction from Alexi and Percy, and for their situation. Their romance is one of my most favorite tropes, that of the much older man and younger woman. So young this time that Percy was his student before marrying him early into this installment. To say there’s conflict is an understatement. Hieber managed to play it well though and really enticed me with the heat bewteen them.
I have to admit that I felt a little bit of a cooling effect this time, especially on the side of Alexi. Their age difference kind of came at me in a way that I don’t particularly like. This go around, Alexi acted more like a disapproving father to Percy, his signature bossiness and smug superiority only increasing. I do think his and Percy’s relationship is tested in this book, and his attitude is therefore understandable at some points, but for the most part I was surprised to see that I just didn’t care for the married Alexi. Had he gotten his way, Percy would never see any of the danger presented throughout the book, and we readers wouldn’t have had much of a story.
Because this is all about Percy, both book one and two. As I stated how I loved these books as a true series, and they read as if they’re one book, split in two (and necessary considering the combined length and chain of events, one book might have been too overwhelming). I could’ve easily been happy with the books carrying the same title, split into volumes (and I think the first title says it all). And they’re definitely all about Percy. As much as I loved the smoldering forbidden romance of book one, I found that I could get used to my new found disdain for Alexi. Percy manages, despite her propensity for crying and seemingly weak dramatics, to grow quite the impressive backbone. Considering her age and inexperience with life, it would have been easy to stay sheltered in Alexi’s arms, letting him do all the work, and the most important of it besides. But Percy doesn’t let him order him around, much to his frustration. She does not simply do what she’s told or stay where it’s strictly safe. And this does not produce a TSTL heroine! Amazing!
Percy is the pillar of this story. And she holds it all up marvelously despite Alexi’s wishes. Oh, I know he just wanted to keep her safe, but since when have any of The Guard been safe? They all have known something of this war with the Underworld/Whisperworld was to come. And Percy, the most inexperienced one of them all, saves the day. I don’t really know how much better than that it could get.
As I mentioned earlier, the rest of The Guard has their moment to come out and play. We get to see them much further developed, their fears, jealousies and personal problems brought to light. I loved this aspect. I don’t think there’s a single supporting character I didn’t enjoy. Michael as he pines still for Rebecca, she with her fanciful and brooding pouting over Alexi. Jane has a most interesting love interest who I won’t spoil, although I will say it is heart wrenching at one point. Then there’s the irrepressible Elijah and his determination not to be taken seriously, though he harbors deeper fears than anyone might have guessed. And last but not least, there is the lovely Josephine, who also pines for someone close at hand.
Through all of this, friendships are tested. Alexi and Percy have a lot to get through as a newly married couple and The Guard is fraught with perilous thoughts of their lost youth, having spent it all in the service of their calling, distracting them from their goals. It’s not an easy job, the life they’ve been called to, and each shows that despite possessing impressive power, they are each as human as the rest of us.
The world that Heiber has created is where the strangely beautiful part comes in, and I love how she incorporates Greek mythology into the whole mix, while spinning it to create a new kind of battle to save an unsuspecting humanity. I will say that the villains don’t really do much for me, but being that Percy was so great in this one, things like that didn’t really bother me; Percy manages to balance that out. Hieber does throw in plenty of conflict, challenging that possibility of an HEA not just for Percy and Alexi, but also that of The Guard. I loved the parts where we visited the Whisperworld, a kind of holding cell for spirits, and if I’m recalling correctly, is where spirits go to when The Guard banishes them. I distinctly recall while reading the harrowing moments set there that I was struck with how good the book was.
So not only did I feel the game was stepped up character-wise, but also with the worldbuilding. I liked how it read, along with the first book, like one entire novel. Honestly, I loved it, wasn’t enjoying a couple of things, but not so much that I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the book. On the contrary, I found it very hard to put down and even more enjoyable than the first. Hieber’s is a voice I’m all for experiencing again and again.
Rating: Four and a Half Scoops
Visit the author’s site.
*And news on book one – according to the author, it’s being produced as a musical production! Congratulations to Ms. Hieber!