Saturday, March 15, 2014

[Review] White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements #1) ~ by Jennifer Armentrout

Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she's anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses.

Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she's crushed on since forever.

Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she's not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn't an issue, considering Roth has no soul.

But when Layla discovers she's the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.

Okay.  So I loved White Hot Kiss.  WHK is a story of self discovery, love, trust and betrayal.  I don't read a ton of young adult genre books, but luckily for me, the ones I do read are seriously awesome.  WHK is no exception.  This is what makes Jennifer Armentrout such a stand-out author.  Just when I thought her two main characters, Layla and Roth, had the same flavor of two of her other famous character from another series, she turned them into something special.

Layla is a high school girl, adopted by a family of Wardens.  Wardens are charged with keeping bad guys, i.e. demons, away from earth's surface.  They are strong and intelligent, training their entire lives for their duty.  Layla happens to be half Warden, but is also half demon.  This creates a situation for Layla where she never really feels like she fits in with her adopted father, Abbott, and her adopted brother, Zayne.  No matter how much good she does, Abbott and the rest of his clan will always look at her with a weary eye.

Zayne is a bit different than the rest of the clan.  He believes that Layla can fight off her demon side and he's the only one who truly cares about Layla.  He has acted as her big brother for years, but there is an unspoken attraction between the two of them.  It's a forbidden romance type of story line.  As much as I liked Zayne, I also thought he was a bit self righteous and condescending.  He loves Layla in his own way, but he wants her to fight off a part of herself; to be something that she is not.

Demons start becoming more and more numerous around Layla, and this is about the time that Roth enters the picture.  Roth....oh, Roth.  Can I tell you how much I love this demon?  With his dangerously good looks, his intelligence, his charm and his devil-may-care (pun intended) attitude, I think I've found a new Jennifer Armentrout hero to love.  Roth is amazing.  He doesn't tell Layla the entire truth about himself or why is is earth bound, but it's only to protect her.  Roth treats Layla with respect and adoration in a passive aggressive way.  Sure - he's a complete and total smart ass, but his intentions are nothing but good.  He is very soon attracted to Layla and he does not hide the fact.  When Layla is in trouble, Roth is there.  When Layla is made to feel bad about her heritage, Roth is there to show her how amazing she is.  When Layla is confused about her past, Roth is there to show her the truth.  

One of the major themes in this book is exploring the definitions of what is "good" and what is "evil."  For Layla's entire life, she has been told that Wardens were "good" and demons were "bad."  Not only are demons bad, but they must be eradicated from the earth.  Roth opens up her eyes and lets her make her own decisions about good and evil.  It becomes clear that everything is not how Layla believes it to be.  Roth himself is the largest chunk of proof that not all demons are hell bent on destruction and hate.

I really did not like Layla's adopted father.  Abbot is a tool.  He's one of those characters that thinks he's high and mighty, charged with the high moral mission of keeping evil demons out of this world.  You know, because he's a Warden and he's pure and good.  Too bad he treats Layla like shit throughout most of this book.  Layla is supposedly his adopted daughter, but he treats her as if she's an annoyance on a good day, and a prisoner on a bad day.  He is very strict with her and easy to punish.  There were times in this boom where he wouldn't even allow Layla to explain her situation.  I can't stand characters that get on their moral high horse and feel the need to destroy the self worth of others.  I wanted to punch him in the face several time.  And if I didn't like Abbott, I hated fellow Wardens Petr and Elijah.  These two hate Layla because of what she is.  It is blind, searing hate and find Layla in precarious situations.  Layla has never done anything to warrant such terrible behavior towards her, but these two hide their hate behind the mask of keeping everyone safe.  I expect that this isn't the last we see of Elijah and his clan.

Jennifer Armentrout does an excellent job of pacing this story.  Once it gets rolling, there is no stop until the climatic end.  The action is fast paced and there are some excellent fight scenes!  But what makes Armentrout such an amazing author to me is her ability to write YA characters that I like.  Her characters always steal the show, and WHK is no exception.  I don't read a lot of YA books because of the wishy-washy characters, but Armentrout always sucks me into her YA books with her sexy, smart and real heroes and heroines.  If you are a fan of Armentrout's other books, then you will love this book.  I would also recommend it to fans of YA paranormal romance and YA urban fantasy fans.  Armentrout has a winner with this new series, and I can't wait to see where she takes it!


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