My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I’ve been dying to write a review for Cover Him With Darkness by Janine Ashbless, The Book of the Watchers #1. The 2 reasons why I wanted to read this was, that it apparently had a fallen angel in it, a theme I really love and the title caught my eyes.
Now, prior to reading this, I had no idea Cover Him With Darkness is a line from the Book of Enoch, that connects to the fallen angel, Azazel and how he was banished for eternity for corrupting the human race. My idea about these references is vague at best, which is why I’ll stick to the story itself. I did some internet search while reading this book, to learn more about Azazel. His is even more vague. In some places he’s called a fallen angel, in some a demon, in others he’s even referred to as Satan. The only thing I got from it all that you’re not supposed to consort with the likes of him, especially if you’re not equipped to play with his fire. LOL Fortunately, the book itself did a good job of giving me an idea of him, albeit fiction-wise. He was a tough to like character, let alone love. I have read some fallen angel stories before, but the fallen angel in question had won my heart nonetheless. I wasn’t even sure how Azazel can be a ‘hero’ when he’s such a brilliant douchebag! But WOW, the flow of the story was so good that I had to keep reading to know what’s coming next.
Cover Him With Darkness is a fast-paced story that tells you about a girl named Milja of Montenegro, and how her life changes dramatically when she releases ‘The Prisoner’ of her childhood memories and broken adult dreams.
The prologue was incredible. I had shivers as I was reading it, just as I had pretty much throughout. It gives us an idea (I was thinking of Blizarrd’s Diablo II animations, old but still gold!) of how this Prisoner was imprisoned in the first place.
A winged bull and a lion, an eagle and a man, or so they seemed like, carry this beaten up thing that vaguely looked like a human form, to a mountain top. He was, in fact, so badly beaten up and so small comparing to his captors that you couldn’t tell. Then, they proceed to bind him with these bloody rope-like things, do some unbelievable things that can only be termed as more torture. But the man still seemed alive, though in severe pain, through it all. They just leave him there, bound, buried, hopeless.... in the soft rain.
... or that’s the dream Milja had woken up to for many years, with her pillows wet from tears. Just imagine if it was your dream...
Milja remembers the prisoner, and somehow knows this is all connected to him. The story then moves forward with her narratives, telling us how her gentle, priest of a father used to take a young Milja to this mountain prison held directly under their own small, lonesome dwelling on a mountaintop, close to a small village. How Milja grew up seeing the prisoner, seemingly alive, hurt, naked, tightly tied to the rocks of his prison. The open sky overhead would give a magnificent view, but that’s all he has gotten for eternity. Or so her father told her. He told her that it was their heritage, a deeply guarded secret not even the church knew of. That they have to guard this ‘bad thing’ with their life if necessary, so that it never escapes and wrecks havoc on the world. Little Milja didn’t know how can a man who looked just like a man, so broken and helpless, can harm anyone? She didn’t know for a while who this being actually was but her soft heart would cry out for him because she knew he watched her when she was there with her father when he would sometimes feed him a little or wash his face.
As she grew older, Milja’s perspective, however, changes. Because she was sort of forced to grow up so secluded and lonely, her only escape was to go down to the prison and pay a visit to the prisoner. And he knew whenever she was there, softly, hesitatingly calling out her name in a rough, barely used voice. Milja somehow knew her destiny was stitched with him, that somehow they’d be together... someday. As an adult, even knowing Azazel’s ‘sins’ (thanks to her father’s teachings she’s good at those references), Milja still couldn’t help but feel for his plight. She couldn’t imagine the eternities he’d spend here, all alone, in this way. It simply broke her heart. No amount of her father’s caution, that he’d play a fool out of her for his own selfish gains, changed Milja’s feelings.
Then one day, at 18, she was caught. It was also Milja’s first education in erotic sensations because she had always imagined him naked, even when she didn’t know what she was looking for. She only wanted to clean him a little and feed him, which turned into a kiss, and a little more....... but when he father finds out, he’s furious, scared even. The result? Milja is finds herself plane bound to Boston to live with a distant cousin.
You can’t imagine how excited I was when I was reading these parts. He was like a calling for Milja, who definitely wanted to do something about Azazel. But soon I discovered that the story wasn’t going exactly how I envisioned it’d go. That Azazel is no Knight in Shining Armor, at least for a long while in the story...
When the words reach a couple of years later that her father is gravely ill, Mijla returns to her small village. By then, she has finished her studies in the U.S. and has a job. She was even briefly engaged to this American guy. But the demise of this relationship, very unsurprisingly, was another erotic dream of Milja about the Prisoner. I won’t tell you how but she just knew that she can’t be with anyone else. It was, as if, he was always connected to her in some otherworldly way. Why her exactly, that though, Milja didn’t know.
From the moment she sets foot at her village, Milja’s life turns upside down, quite literally. First, she finds her father gravely ill. After the very emotional reunion, she’s left to take care of her father’s business, which leads her to their home. Milja feels nostalgic, a bit lost too but also a secretive exhilaration because her father told her he’s still there. She can’t wait to visit him once again!
Milja’s reunion with her Prisoner was another scene to behold. She was so overwhelmed seeing him again, and the longing in his eyes, that she doesn’t think twice before cutting off his bonds. It was impulsive, yet a simple urge. She just couldn’t take the impact of that connection between them and everything starts unraveling even before she could process what was happening. Azazel not only gains his old self back in matter of minutes, if not seconds, he also seems preoccupied. Though he kisses Milja again and again, as if he has stalked some kinda claim on her, Azazel’s true intention is never really known... until, well, I really can’t tell you how odd the next scenes were that they took me by complete surprise. However foolish or illogical that was, Milja wanted him in a way that she can’t even explain. If anyone knows Azazel (as it’s referred in the book more than once) that he’s also the instigator of carnal sins. They do have sex in a heartbeat, on an open place where anyone can see, thanks to his transportation. It was rough and so unexpected that Milja was left breathless in disbelief. But nothing flabbergasted her (or me) more than this; Azazel then just vanishes into thin air, leaving Milja just like that. No sweet words or cuddling, no goodbyes... Just nada. He’s gone.
I was plain horrified by his behavior. I was like WTF is this?
To pay for her father’s medical bills, Milja goes to sell some valuable artifacts from the temple; a step instigated by her father himself to pay for the expenses of her studies. This was supposed to be a somewhat fuzzily guided secret transaction with a local black-market guy that her father used to know. Sadly, the transaction goes awry and Milja finds herself as the target of the church, not only for selling church properties illegally but also, for unleashing an evil creature upon the world that just might lead to its ruin!
On the run, Milja suddenly finds a friend. Egan, the guy she met on the plane journey back here. I always thought he seeing Milja at the same time she was escaping those church people, was rather very convenient... and it proved to be true later in the story. But at this moment, she had not one friendly face around her. When somehow, after a chaotic day, she returns to the hospital where her father was at that moment, Azazel decides to drop by, as if to claim his territory. Milja’s heart still beats faster seeing his tanned skin and ethereal gray eyes, the leanly handsome face that doesn’t show many emotions. But the eyes tell her that he wants her and Milja can’t help but burn. But after all that’s happened to her and since his abandonment, the logical part of Milja is mad. What occurs after that, is everyone else knowing what she had done. Azazel on the other hand, seems completely confused by this hatred of him... Well, he did seem like a zombie to me, as if his brain couldn’t process why she was not ecstatic to have been becoming his ‘wife’ or fiancée, something like that. He claims her as such in front of a crowd, which is how Milja is forced to face the ages old superstitions and gut-wrenching hatred of her own people, earning her the title the ‘Demon’s Whore’. But Milja doesn’t care about anyone except for her father, his disappointed face while he watched helpless as an angry Azazel calls him ‘father-in-law’ sarcastically before he abandons her once again, telling her to make up her mind.
I was having another of my WTF moments there, as in, am I supposed to call this thing a ‘hero’? And what part is Egan going to play in this mess?
The answers begin to unravel in the next few chapters, fast and furious. First of all, Milja’s father dies that night, which she knew was a murder by the church people. She had a vague recollection of watching them going into his room before falling asleep exhausted. Then she’s wakes to a rude awakening when her own family turns on her. She’s forced to flee once again to Egan. He willingly helps her, giving her a home to stay. After that, their journey to flee from those fanatics takes them all over Montenegro and beyond.
Egan seemed like any girl’s dream come true; young and handsome, blue-eyed blonde with an Irish heritage. He also seemed to be reluctant to touch Milja unless necessary. I mean, there was this hesitant attraction between her and Egan, I even cheered for that for a while, seeing how our other ‘hero’ was not in sight unless in Milja’s dirty, pervy erotic dreams, where they’d have sex in public. I was pretty sure it was all Azazel’s doing. So, yah, I was not as excited about him as I thought I would be.
Milja and Egan’s frenzied journey comes to a stop just before them leaving for Italy, as planned by Egan, who seemed to have ‘contacts’ to seek help from and an unending supply of money. Milja at that point had nothing to do but trust him with her life. I was really feeling for her, yet I was also completely confused as to where this is going. Where was that big piece of fallen-angel jerk when she needed his help? I mean how could anyone hurt her when he seemed to be so possessive her? WTF?????
When they’re attacked, Milja on a desperate attempt to save Egan from these men, calls out to Azazel strongly... And THAT is when he comes to her in flight, as if realizing for the first time that she’s in danger, unleashing his wrath on the whole party. He saves Milja but as the douche he is, leaves Egan behind (or should I call it jealousy?). Milja is supremely unhappy and I couldn’t blame her. She at first demands answers from him, and Azazel simply tells her he had NO IDEA that she was in danger. That he doesn’t have those powers to track, unless she calls out to him. That is only when he can know. Also, that the erotic dreams weren’t instigated by him, but by Milja’s own dirty desires, though Azazel definitely enjoyed playing along. Then, Milja demands that he save Egan if he loves her a bit. The style of that demand sets something completely off and Azazel is angry at her, once again. This time he was surely surprised and deeply hurt and leaves her once again. Milja later finds out she’s in Boston, standing atop her own apartment building, out of the harm’s way at least for now.
Milja couldn’t get out of there without a passport or money, but she had nothing on her when her ‘boyfriend’ dumped her here. But in her dreams, she keeps seeing Azazel, who keeps unraveling once each time and a story bit by bit of a fallen angel who fell in love with a human woman, had children with her millions of years ago, comes into view. Milja becomes jealous knowing he had loved someone so much before her, drenched in confusion, not knowing his real feelings for her. She wanted his love, but would that wish ever come true? What Milja didn’t know was the next part of the story that was full of tragedies, and lead to Azazel’s eternal imprisonment.
This time Milja seeks help from Uriel. Though she’d met him a few times before, and he’s an opponent of Azazel, she had no other option. Uriel obviously didn’t want to but she convinces him. Uriel finds Egan’s whereabouts and transports Milja there. But before that, the next part of Azazel’s story seem to open up before her, I’m not sure with what Divine Intervention. It was full of such compelling scenes, only Milja was there seeing it as if for real; a silent spectator that no one saw or heard. It was about how Azazel’s family was killed, and how he was bound in that mountaintop. A bloody, explosive war between him and Archangel Raphael; the ‘bad’ and the ‘good’. If only one peeked behind the scenes, one would know what was really happening; a grieving father burning down the world around him, fighting the murderer of his family.
After that, I knew Milja had a positively deep understanding of Azazel’s mood swings, also why he got mad at her on that rooftop. Why he seems so dejected every time they met in one dream or the other, thinking he would never have her love. Milja wasn’t nice to him on occasions because he didn’t help Egan. That was going to change now, but first, Milja needs to save Egan, her only friend in this whole mess. She hands herself over to those fanatics in hopes of saving Egan, not knowing anything about their plan. Turns out, they wanted to bind Azazel again, this time in a way that he’d die for sure. No better way to acquire it than to bring in his whore, right?
The last chapters are superbly action-filled, with loads of twists and turns that surprised me over and over again. All hell breaks loose when Azazel FINALLY gets involved for the ultimate showdown to save his girl. There were bitterness and betrayal, not to mention Egan’s disappointing revelation. Cover Him With Darkness has a slight erotic undertone, yet Milja and Azazel have sex only twice for real in the whole story. Still it was hot, I loved it. But what I loved most was the ending where Milja had to choose just how far she’s willing to fall with her angel. After all was said and done, there was this hauntingly heartbreaking scene here that I have to mention when Milja ‘sees’ her father again, which I felt was Azazel’s gift to her so that she can make peace with herself. It brought tears to my eyes.
So, did Azazel prove he would do anything for Milja when it comes down to that? I believe he did. Though they were kept separated throughout most of the story, and there were instances where I thought this one’s going down, I’d like to congratulate the author for slapping it back on my face twice over. The ending is pretty much open, so I’m hoping the next book comes out soon. It was hinted at the end that Azazel is thinking of doing something for his brothers. I can’t wait to find out more! 4.5 stars and recommended.