Guys- I am going to preemptively apologize. This is a long review. It has more or less become a diatribe for the trauma I’ve recently went through with breast cancer, and my lovely brain is still enduring the effects of chemotherapy. There are times I feel I cannot even string together a sentence. I feel as though this review is a jumbled mess, however there was so much emotion that went into this book that I could relate to that it needed to be said.
While I do my very best not to completely spoil a book, some may find parts of this review under the “spoiler” category. And with how recent “The Onyx Hourglass” has been published, I want to give fair and proper warning.
It takes an egregious amount of effort to let our walls down, and show our vulnerability to another human being. The minute we experience something tragic, or hard, those walls immediately go back up and we tend to shut humanity out. Death is about as tragic as Sephy Sinclair can get.
We are six months after the shocking and brutal death of Persephone Sinclair from “The Opal Blade“. Everything is in absolute disarray: Luce and Thane are left in temporary charge of Mortaria. Xion is devastated with another love lost. Hades just met and lost his daughter. Yet the two polar opposites are united in finding the book of the dead to resurrect the one thing they have in common: an unrequited love for Sephy.
Running Mortaria is easier said than done, and Luce is feeling the pressure. Thane is busy patrolling the Ashen Wasteland, making sure the demons are under control; although since the last battle, it’s been relentlessly quiet. Luce is having trouble managing it all, which is making her rely more on alchemy. But tapping into her darker nature is causing some concern. The Fates come to pay a visit and voice their concern regarding the frequency of magical use, and how it can lead Luce down her darker path (clearly magic is the gateway drug). Thane, who claims she loves all of Luce, is less than accepting of the magic, and does not hide her disgust when she finds Luce using her power.
Desperately seeking a resolution to death, Xion and Hades go on a little road trip around the world, visiting any location that had a hint to holding the book of the dead. At the last destination, it’s through Xion’s adorable clumsiness that causes him to fall through the floor and into a hidden chamber containing the book of the dead. To their dismay, it burns those who do not hold a powerful link to the book. Seeing as Luce is the daughter of the former owner. . .you guessed it! Our very own Luce who is being admonished for such deplorable acts by some, is now being sought after by the ruler of the Underworld to retrieve and decipher the texts to resurrect his daughter.
Don’t worry. The villains, and just plain hate-able characters are still around too (::cough cough:: ANUBIS). Pandora is still out for her revenge. It seems the Demon Lords are showing her more respect in this book than the previous. They seem more open to discussing tactics to overthrow Mortaria. Lilliana and Katerina are working in tandem with Pandora to bring mortal recruits in; a play that pays off for Pandora as these mortals in search for immortality worship her as the Queen she knows she is. Anubis is still looking out for only herself. Ever the busybody, Anubis is still sticking her nose in everyone’s business- with particular attention to Luce and Thane’s relationship.
And of course we have our main character; Sephy Sinclair. Sephy has been dead for six months, caught in the Nether. The way I like to think of the Nether is a deprivation tank. Unbeknownst to her, she has a team trying to bring her back to life. What was thought at a failed attempt to raise the dead, actually took three days to take effect. Sephy wakes up buried six feet under, with no idea what’s going on. I mean how would you feel waking up after being dead six months, not breathing, sweating, moving etc. I don’t know about you, but I can barely make it up out of bed, searching for the light switch while my mouth and throat dry up making me feel as if I’ve inhaled and swallowed lava.
The character development in this book, was beyond amazing. If you’ve read the first book, you’ve already acquired the bookish relationship with them all; love ’em or hate ’em. We see a lot of inner turmoil- something I can particularly relate with in this moment of my life- but I do believe that about 90% of people can walk away with something they can relate to. Luce and Thane’s relationship is on the rocks. Luce completely takes to heart that Thane loves her 110% meaning the good and the bad. In Thane’s mind, love should be enough to not warrant turning to the “dark side” using alchemy and channeling Luce’s inner demon. I don’t know about you, but if I’m told NOT to do something, I become rather obstinate. I make it a point to prove the statement wrong. I believe that is EXACTLY what Luce is attempting to do throughout the book. We see her as this good, kind hearted, porcelain, well kept devil, and she wants to show not only Thane, but the Fates, and Muerta that dabbling in alchemy FOR THE GOOD will not change her- will not make her “go dark” so to speak. We all want to be accepted at our base core. We want our partner, spouse, significant other, to handle the good and the bad. There were times throughout the book where it felt like Thane just didn’t want to deal with the bad at all- understandable to a point when you’re in a relationship with the devil, but still. On the other hand- you have the Fates semi predicting what Luce’s path will look like if she does not heed the warnings. I know fate is a tricky thing, but when you have these ladies in your corner warning you about the ramifications of what you’re doing, maybe should pay attention? I feel as though Luce disregards Thane’s requests like an petulant child at times. Maybe it’s because Thane is constantly away patrolling the borders, lack of communication etc.
Then we have Xion. I fell in love with Xion in the first book. His loss was just a devastating blow. So when he goes to get the love of his life resurrected, how can you NOT love him? Apparently resurrection does not look good with Xion. His hopes and dreams of everything returning to normal are quickly dashed. No fault of his own. But when the love of your life doesn’t want to see you, you can’t help but internalize your feelings. We have a lot of inner monologue going on. Why would (what he presumed) the love of his life not be interested in seeing him. Is she not thankful for coming back to life? Can’t they just pick up where they left off? Is she a zombie? Are they broken up? Why can’t he stop thinking about her? Reasonable questions to ask if you’re unsure in your relationship. I know asking if my spouse is a zombie is part of my everyday logical thinking. . .(he works 3rd shift guys- laugh a little would ya?)
By far my absolute favorite character development is Sephy. She let her walls down at (what I’m assuming) one of her most intimate moments in life. She opened her heart to trust, possible love. And in that moment of letting her defense down, she was brutally murdered. She didn’t ask to be murdered. She didn’t ask for another shot at life. She was blissfully unaware in the Nether. So imagine her surprise waking up in a coffin. Anyone in their right mind would panic. Anyone would fight their way right out of that coffin. Sephy wakes up on the grounds of the Sinclair Estate- at least she’s home.
“It feels like drowning, being smothered by the world, and I can’t breathe for the dirt lodging itself in my throat and in my nose. I reach up, desperate, cold, shuddering as my ever muscle and sinew tenses, fighting for life in a way I never have. . .”
She crawls her way back to the front door. It’s bad enough she tried to fight for life while being stabbed to death, but coming back from the grave and crawling to your front door. . . Thank goodness for Jules. I’ve had a soft spot for Jules since the previous book as well, but this is another side of him. He doesn’t ask any questions (although in his mind I’m sure he is) he just scoops up Sephy and takes her into her shower. This is the first “glimpse” we get of her scars. Not only are we dealing with the multiple stab wounds across her stomach that went all the way through, but the lovely autopsy “Y” incision at the chest. This particular scene got to me. No words can put what emotion Nicolle dragged up from the darkest pit of my soul:
“I’m laid bare before him as he begins to work, using one leg to keep me pinned to him as I scream out, finding energy I didn’t know I had left inside me as I am made to withstand yet more agony.
He pulls out the staples, one by one, letting them tinkle onto the shower tiles as my blood runs scarlet down the drain.
I whimper, and he cries, tears falling down his weathered cheeks and eyes so full of guilt it makes me want to cry harder. I’m shaking physically by the time he gets to the staples in my abdomen and scream bloody murder with each torturous click of the metal device he’s using to remove them, tearing open my skin.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Nearly done. I promise,” he’s sobbing as he uses his wet sleeve to wipe his tearstained cheek, an entirely redundant act.”
UGH! But that’s not all. She makes it through a grueling shower, but even a shower isn’t even to wash away trauma.
“Who am I? This is the question which resonates throughout each moment, each act, of the next few days. I spend a lot of time sleeping, too exhausted to deal with the realities of being alive, not wanting to listen to the punishing sound of my own breathing, my own heartbeat.”
I’m sure anyone who has gone through any kind of trauma has felt like this. Not to be morose, but this is exactly what I felt after having my double mastectomy. Each breath was too much of an effort. So naturally, you do just want to tuck yourself nice and snug in a cocoon, away from the world, and just merely exist. But that is what Sephy WAS doing! She was existing just fine! And it took two selfish men to re-decide her fate, and make her cope with everything that was done to her.
Once trauma has effected our lives, we take every precautionary step to not let it happen again. For instance, I had a double mastectomy at a young age in hopes that cancer will not return; I understand there is still a possibility it may, but I have taken drastic steps to assure myself. Sephy understands this completely:
“I let my guard down. . .I hoped. . and I was killed for it. There’s no place in my life for anything that makes me that vulnerable, Xion. Not ever. I can’t go through that again.”
I can’t even imagine love being a trauma. The thoughts that go through your head. Emotionally shutting down. How frustrating for the person on the receiving end as well! Unfortunately scars like this aren’t just physically visible, but permanently engraved into our brains as well. I feel as though we are hardwired to look for the traumatic in the minutest of detail. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a good moment, somehow, some way it’s going to hurt us.
One other quote that got to me, and then I swear I’ll turn it over to something positive and end this review.
“Sephy. . .you’re the strongest person I know.”
Being constantly told you’re strong, when you know you’re not. Being killed doesn’t take strength, not even resurrection, when it’s something you’re forced to do. Sephy didn’t choose any of it. If she would’ve been faced with the choice, then yeah, maybe she’s strong. When your choice is taken out of the equation, it’s just called surviving. Maybe in Sephy’s case dealing with it.
Okay- one of my absolute favorite, laugh out loud scenes. Why? Because it’s too relateable I don’t care who you are.
“Holy hell, what is that smell?” I demand, finding Xion, who stops abruptly right in front of me with a napkin clutched tightly in his palm.
“Meatball sub. . .” he mumbles, licking marinara sauce off his bottom lip. I pout, noticing a seemingly bottomless chasm opening up where my stomach usually resides. It gives an audible rumble.
“Can I have a. . .” I ask, but he frown, a look of completely over the top affront twisting his usually stoic features.
“Absolutely not,” he replies, cutting me off.
“Well, geez. It’s not like I was asking for a freaking kidney. You brought me back from the dead without my permission. The lease you can do is give me a bite of your stupid sandwich,” I complain, crossing my arms over my breasts and pouting. The scent of thick tomato pulp and fragrant spices taunts me.
” I don’t share food. And besides, I asked you if you wanted something. . .” he defends himself while Hades coughs beside me.
“She’s a woman Xion. She can’t actually ask for what she wants, so she has to hope you’ll guess. And then when you don’t, she’ll steal yours. It’s the way of the world. Now hand over the sandwich so we can get going. . .”
We are soon halfway through the year (already!), and “The Onyx Hourglass” has been my favorite read so far. You’ve got your epitome of a middle book right here: A continuation of the story, MAJOR character development, MAJOR plot development, and a whole ton of emotions that are absolutely reader related. Nicolle has outdone herself, drawing the reader in to a trauma and making them heal to the end. If you don’t come out of this book feeling something (even hatred) then she didn’t do her job correctly.
This reader is looking forward to the final book, out sometime in December!
“The Onyx Hourglass” is available now! And to stay up to date on all of the projects Kristy Nicolle is working on, be sure to visit her homepage. I was chosen to receive an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review. Given that fact, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all.