Series: The Dark Elements #1
Publication Date: February 25th 2014 by Harlequin Teen
Genres: Young Adult, paranormal, romance
My Rating: 1 Star
AMAZON – BARNES & NOBLE – iBOOKS
One kiss could be the last. 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.
So, I’ve debated long and hard if I should even publish this, but I feel like it’s important to be honest and since I planned to write this review for today even before I finished the book, I decided negative reviews are just part of the whole reviewing deal. You can’t sugarcoat it all, and there will be books you won’t like as much as others, and that’s okay. It’s okay to have your opinion. But alas, read with caution nevertheless. It feels more of a rant than a review.
After finishing White Hot Kiss, I’m pretty sure this book series was only picked up for publication for one and one reason only: riding the hype of Jennifer L. Armentrout to its fullest. Now, I love Armentrout. Her Lux series has been one of my favourite paranormal romances, and she’s a genuinely lovely human being and writing machine, but with this book, disappointment couldn’t be avoided. The more of an author’s works you read, the more you compare the earlier releases to the newer ones, and with White Hot Kiss, I was surprised this actually came out of Jennifer’s pen (or keyboard, you know what I mean), because it was such a let-down compared to her other works. I used to enjoy her books immensely, but damn, White Hot Kiss was an utter mess. There were no lovable or redeemable characters, the “banter” between the love interests was off and cringe-worthy, and dear God, “Roth’s chuckle was as dark as the tunnel.” pretty much sealed the deal of a 1-star-rating for me with that kind of writing.
Let’s start with where it all went wrong in the first place: the world building. None whatsoever. Nothing in this story made sense. Gargoyle Wardens came out to the world so they could protect humans from demons, but the existence of demons had to be hidden because of some bullshit free will mantra everyone kept repeating in this book, which made absolutely no sense. None. Let me repeat myself, none. This world read like a cheap copy of The Demon Trapper’s Daughter series, and it really irritated me, because the atmosphere of the setting didn’t feel right, and I kept thinking, is this all there is to this? It was such an anticlimactic read that had me rolling my eyes every other sentence. I love me some The Lesser Key of Solomon and Lilith and all, but really? If you feature a plot to kickstart the apocalypse, at least make it epic. This read so infinitely tedious I had to force myself through the last 70% of the debacle. That has never happened to me with any Armentrout release before. I get that she foc.uses on romance more than on action, and I’m cool with that, otherwise I wouldn’t have read all her other books, but this is my second major complaint:
There was nothing believable about the romance between Layla, the half-demon/half-Warden female lead, and demon Roth. I have no idea what happened with these characters, but if Armentrout manages to fail to sell me on her guy characters, something is definitely not right. I know that this book was written prior to most of her other stories, and that Roth was inspiration for Daemon in Obsidian, but what the hell? That doesn’t excuse the fact that he sounded and acted like a prepubescent sex-craved fifteen-year-old. Sorry, not so hot. His snake named Bambi? Also not funny. The chemistry between him and Layla was non-existent, and the only thing that drove their relationship was the fact that aw, they could make out and have some horizontal fun, something Layla hadn’t had before because her kiss sucks out a person’s soul. (And guess what? They had biology class together. So original.) She pretty much threw everything away, even her “great love” Zayne, whom she’s been in love with since forever apparently, to dally with a demon, someone she’s only known for a couple of days. She was gullible and naïve, and it grated on my nerves. And please don’t get me started on Zayne, who is the biggest ass in the history of Armentrout’s guy characters. I have never hated a guy this much so early on in the story. I didn’t see what Layla saw in him at all, all he kept was disappointing her and then making her feel like it was her fault, when it was clearly his, and the airhead actually apologized to him over and over and over again. Layla had no backbone whatsoever. Her character was as see-through and pale as her supposedly gorgeous white-blond locks. In no situation was she fierce or loyal or relatable, like other female leads Armentrout has written. All she kept doing was whining over the two boys in her life, over her mother and father abandoning her and about how she was lusting after souls nonstop. Well boo you, any other heroine would’ve risen above it and stood strong. Not Layla. Layla only does a little bit of strong at the very end of the whole book, and it was anticlimactic and felt out of place. Her character development was horribly executed and incredibly unbelievable.
Now, don’t get me started on the plot of the novel, because you could pretty much tell what exactly was going to happen 10% into the story, but that ending? Cheap and lazy writing. All the chapters prior to the “big finale” were emotionless and just crept along, and then I’m supposed to believe the one sentence in the entire book I liked – “I lost myself the moment I found you.” – was a fit for this character that showed no dimensions whatsoever? No. That’s not how it works, and I’m pretty shocked that this book even made it through an editor without serious rewriting. The whole pace was off, and it resulted in a lack of connection between the reader and the story that actually had me think “Please just end this agony now and be over, book.” Don’t even get me started on the villains either, because I actually laughed at how ridiculous they all were. Armentrout might not draft her books, but she’s grown as a writer, and it doesn’t hurt her stories now, but then, damn, it hurt her story. There was no tangible red thread in there anywhere.
I really hope the second book will see some improvements, but I’m still utterly speechless over the fact this book is actually one of Armentrout’s. And apparently people have enjoyed it as much as her other works. Considering I thought everything about White Hot Kiss was nothing like her other books, this really, really shocked me. Now, I would rather have quality over quantity than the other way around, and as awesome as it is to have a book release every month, I hope Armentrout has taken her time improving this world and its characters with the sequels. I was so excited to read about gargoyles, but damn, was I taken for a ride. And not one that I enjoyed. I’d just rather watch the cartoon series, frankly, and pretend it’s what White Hot Kiss should’ve been like, because I was super excited for this series, but alas, it just wasn’t meant to be.