Zarek is the most dangerous of all the Dark-Hunters. He endured a lifetime as a roman slave and centuries as a Dark-Hunter in exile. Zarek trusts no one. Because of his steadfast denial to follow any orders, he is kept in isolation in Alaska where his activity is seriously limited and closely monitored. There are many who fear he will one day unleash his powers against humans as well as vampires.
Have nine hundred years of exile made Zarek too vicious to be redeemed? The gods want Zarek dead but reluctantly agree to allow justice goddess Astrid to judge him.
Astrid has never yet judged a man innocent, and yet there is something about Zarek that tugs at her heart. He views even the smallest act of kindness with shock and suspicion. But while Astrid struggles to maintain her impartiality in the face of her growing attraction to Zarek, an executioner has already been dispatched...
Not too long ago, when I reviewed Lover Awakened, I mentioned that I am rather partial to the tortured hero. There are many that I love - Sin from Born in Sin, Zsadist from Lover Awakened, and yes, Zarek from this book amongst others!
Zarek has been exiled in the wilds of Alaska for many hundreds of years as punishment for going on a terrible rampage and killing many people in his town. He has little if no interaction with the other members of the Dark Hunter world, and very little with the humans in the nearby town in Alaska. The bare minimum of contact with anyone.
In the previous book in the series, Night Embrace, Zarek was called out of exile to go to New Orleans, but whilst he was there he was caught on camera killing two people, in full view of mortals. Now, it has been decided that it is time to get rid of this problem Hunter once and for all. It takes all of Acheron's persuasiveness to convince Artemis that he should be judged before she has him killed, and in the end she reluctantly agrees.
Astrid is a judge, who is dissatisfied with her immortal life, who has never, ever found anyone innocent in the thousands of years she has been judging. The only time she came close she was betrayed by a man she thought she loved, and she is therefore incredibly wary of falling in love again. Zarek is led to her, in her set up situation where she is a blind woman living alone in a home, with only her pet wolf as company. In reality, the pet wolf is her eyes and ears, and is much more than just a wolf.
Snowed in by an incredibly bad blizzard, as Astrid spends time with Zarek she gradually comes to understand that whilst he is dark and brooding and violent, he also has a heart of gold. He hates himself more than he hates anyone else, and through spending time in his dreams she begins to understand exactly where his self esteem issues come from - a terrible existence that you would not even consider calling a childhood - slavery at the hands of his own father, torment and torture from his half brothers being just the beginning.
They fall in love with each other against a background of Zarek being hunted by Artemis' executioner. She has called him off, but he has a score to settle with Zarek from many hundreds of years ago, and he has decided that he will kill Zarek no matter what!
This book moved me in so many ways. As I said previously, Zarek was right up there with my all time favourite tortured heroes. There wasn't much more that was left to be done to the poor guy, and he deserved his HEA. It was interesting to hear the revelations of what happened all those years before to cause him to be exiled in the first place, and the implication of those revelations. There is also something quite unusual about Zarek, meaning that he is different from every other Dark Hunter in a crucial way.
Yet, amongst all the darkness there was also real humour. The fact that Astrid's sisters were the Three Fates caused several laugh out loud moments for me, particularly with them being so anti Zarek at times throughout the book.
This book also saw the introduction of Simi, who I had heard so much about from other DH fans, but couldn't ever figure out, so now I know what that is about, as well as a couple of new Dark Hunters who I am sure will get their turns at happiness in due course!
An enjoyable read, in a very entertaining series. Onto the next one!