My Rating: 3.5 stars: Liked it - recommend (B+)
Originally Posted at That's What I'm Talking About
Beauty Awakened opens with brief prologue that offers a slice of life from our hero, Koldo’s childhood. The images aren’t pretty. His mom is a Sent One (like an angel) and his dad is a Nefas, a barbaric, demon-esque race. Koldo’s mother physically, emotionally, and mentally abused him, culminating with the cutting off of his wings at the age of seven. Then she sent him to his father where he was brutally tortured for eleven years.
Flash forward to present day where Koldo is one of the members of the heavenly “Army of Disgrace,” a group of desperate and dangerous beings known as Sent Ones, each whose status with the heavenly plane is in serious jeopardy. Koldo is dispatched on a mission to kill a specific demon tormenting a man in a hospital when he sees and becomes captivated by Nicola Lane, a woman who has two demons attached to her. Nicola is visiting her very ill twin, who has been infested by a demon. One look and he knew he had to help save her.
There is a lot that happens within the course of Beauty Awakened. First, there is Koldo and Nicola’s budding romance and his attempts to save Nicola and her sister. Then there is Koldo’s desire for revenge against his mother and the sudden reappearance of his father’s people--messing with Koldo and those he cares about. Finally, the story follows a handful of the other members of the “Army of Disgrace” as they try and track down some very nasty killers. Although it feels like a lot to keep straight, Ms. Showalter does a pretty good job of keeping the story moving forward, with most of the pieces coming together for a satisfying conclusion. The one exception to this is the side story centering on three of the Sent Ones: Thane, Xerxes and Bjorn. While I felt that the events surrounding the trio will ultimately prove critical to the overall story arc and future stories, it felt out of place in Koldo’s story.
I enjoyed watching Koldo and Nicola grow as individuals and witness their budding romance. Koldo has a clear plan for Nicola... teaching her to live with joy and not focus on negativity. He tells her all about demons and the Sent Ones. (In fact, there is a rather lengthy explanation of the series mythology, which has its roots in Christianity.) Yet for most of the book, he walked a fine line himself, and he didn’t seem to realize it. It was Nicola that helped him learn to love and forgive just as much as he helped her - which made reading about their relationship very enjoyable.
Koldo is completely open and honest, and isn’t too wise when it comes to dealing with human emotions. Again, this actually makes the book better when Koldo and Nicola have a heart-to-heart. In one particular instance, Nicola had agreed to go on a date with a coworker, more for the benefit of getting her sister out and about. Instead of it ending up as a huge misunderstanding and a contrived way to introduce conflict, Nicola and Koldo were honest about their budding feelings. It gave me hope and allowed me to care for them and become emotionally invested.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot happening in this book. One key plot line centers around Koldo’s mother. In the previous book, Wicked Nights, Koldo hunted down and captured his mother. This storyline continues in Beauty Awakened, and Koldo must decide if his revenge is worth his own happiness. Although the story played out fairly predictably, it was Nicola’s reaction and actions that stood out and made the journey more intimate in the end.
There are other excellent character interactions, with my favorite being between Koldo and Axel. The pair learned how to have fun and be lighthearted during serious times. And speaking of Axel... there is a hint about a potential reveal dealing with one of my favorite Lord of the Underworld characters, William! And William isn’t the only LotU character to make an appearance in this story.
Overall, I enjoyed Beauty Awakened, but the ending kind of ruined it some. The whole battle scene was just too easy. And, while I have no issues with what happened to Nicola (spoiler-free), things happened way too quickly. (Nicola was always a fighter throughout her life, so it was good to see that manifest in her new role established at the end of the book.) Then toss into the mix a scene referencing Kane (LotU) and the “extra” scenes dealing with Thane, Xerxes and Bjorn (which left the reader with a bit of a cliffhanger ending). Finally, I felt let down with how things ended involving Axel because I felt his importance throughout the story was diminished by the final scenes.
Overall, I enjoyed Koldo and Nicola. Their romance was sweet, and I liked the pace, which was on the slower side, but appropriate given the circumstances. I loved how honest they were with each other. I admired the message of joy defeating the "toxins" from the demons. Honestly, we could all use some happiness!