Level One: Lost in Time. I'm not alone in saying the first part of the novel consumed too much of the overall book length. While crucial to the foundation of Ash's character, the first part (Ash's human life in 9000+ B.C.) became redundant after several hundred pages, and I was impatiently waiting to discover where it all was going. The present-day story was more interesting, to me, but sadly abbreviated. I mean, let's face it -- when setting out to read a book all about Acheron, what we're all really interested in is his love life. We want to see She Who Will Be His Honey. But as page 370 of 722 passes by we're still in B.C. land and there's the growing fear that the great love story will be a footnote in history.
Level Two: Beating a Dead Horse. In relation to Level One, Ash's abuse was drawn out just too far. At first, my heart broke and my eyes teared. I was completely involved. Then desensitization kicked in. The situation became unrealistic, with me thinking, "shouldn't he have seriously cracked already? How much more is she gonna put him through? Was this really necessary?" I appreciated the shift from subdued Ash to angry Ash, but with everything Kenyon was throwing at him, he should have been a complete nutcase, like Zarek on crack withdrawal.
Level Three: Respect the Narrative Flow. I was hoping to see snippets of Ash's life throughout the centuries, especially once I got the vibe of his trauma. It would have been a good way to see his adjustment and coping skills at work. Instead, the story jumps to present-day, suspiciously functional Ash. With an interlude -- still in the stone age -- that most if not all of us have probably already read three or more times and therefore resent the waste of prime real estate. Where's the transition?
Level Four: Assumed Awesomeness. Let me preface by stating, I love Tory; in fact, I think she's a fabulous character. I liked her immediately in Dream-Hunter and looked forward to the possibility that she'd be Ash's heroine, even though la mia amica E originally called that one. So, I like her, I just don't like how she was presented. There was so little foundation laid for her character, so little development. With Ash being the shiznet of Dark-Hunter heroes, it's reasonable that his lady love needs to be the shiznet of heroines. But Kenyon seriously underplayed her. If she had shaved off a hundred or so pages of Ash's abuse in trade for some added time with Tory I would have been much happier. I do give Kenyon her dues in writing a smart, funny, and admirable character; indeed, I'm saying Tory was so likable that I wanted more of her.
Level Five: Show and Tell. I suppose all my complaints can be generalized into what I like to call the Show & Tell Problem. Kenyon told when I wanted her to show. She told us about Ash's past more than she showed the impact of those events. Told us Tory was an incredible person instead of showing us how she won Ash's trust and love. For a comparison, read my ever favorite Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. Specifically the character Daemon for this purpose, although I'll come up with any excuse to talk about Daemon. Like Acheron, Daemon was violently and sexually tortured, used as a sex slave since his childhood, yet he maintains a core of decency and hope. What Anne Bishop does so brilliantly with Daemon is she conveys his pain, rage, fear, shame, bitterness, and hate without overplaying her hand and bathing the pages in his misery. As a result, I'll reread her books tirelessly, picking up all the nuances of what is shown but not described. A little more subtlety, some craftiness, would have tempered all those raw emotions and extreme situations Kenyon gave us into a complex sort of story that spurs me into multiple rereads. As it is, I feel like all the cards are on the table and I needn't revisit this book for a long time.Now that I've probably convinced you that I hated this book, I really didn't. For two days my nose was lost in its pages with fixed attention, and I'll rate the reading experience right up there with Deathly Hallows. I suppose some disappointment was fated, considering how long we've waited and how high expectations were. Simply because it's Ash, though, this book was worth reading. And the sheer coolness factor that is Tory, the emotional roller coaster created, the answers to long-asked questions... this book is a need-to-read among fantasy/paranormal romance readers. Best of all was finally having complete insight into Ash's relationship with Artemis. If anything justifies the heavy B.C. concentration, it's that. Artemis is given depth beyond heifer goddessness, having the paradoxic result of making her seem less and yet more of a bitch that she did in prior books.
So, I summarize and say, "I enjoyed it." If you haven't read it, give it a go.