My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
I have no idea where to start, seriously! The Book of the Watchers series by Janine Ashbless is SO complex and absolutely amazing that I’m just....... speechless really. This series is rich in story telling with a great research and a marvelous writing style where the author blends many dimensions, of facts and fictions, together in such a way that the only thing I can say for this series is WOW! I had to read In Bonds of the Earth at a snail’s pace just to savor each chapter.
I’ve never read anything by the author prior to this series. I picked up book 1 of the Watchers series, Cover Him With Darkness, because 1. I was in search of a good angel-demon type book and 2. I loved the title. And boy it sucked me right in from the start; from the moment when little Milja met Azazel the Fallen, bound in a dank, dark cave, for eternity... awaiting another eternity. Azazel is called a demon, a fallen angel, Prince of Darkness or Satan as I found in some sources. I’ll personally stick to the story itself because many of these notions discussed in the book connected to the Book of Enoch is rather vague to me. But that didn’t hinder my enjoyment at all. The whole story behind Azazel and his many brothers’ fight with the good angels and how they were then entombed in various places in the world is told in book 1. It was such a fascinating story, with excellent visuals, such as Azazel’s fight with St. Michael and the destruction of his human family.
Milja, a girl born in a small mountain-bound village of Montenegro, has known The Prisoner since her childhood. The Prisoner was there always. Many had been in charge of him over the uncountable years, her father the priest, being the latest. Milja’s mother was already dead, so her father has been the center of her world... until the day she started having dreams of The Prisoner, whom she’d only met a few times; always with her father by her side. Her father has forbidden her to ever communicate with the prisoner, let alone release him, no matter how much he begs. Yet, the sad, heart-wrenching dreams of him in pain, absolutely misery of many, many years tore at Milja. Then one day, when she was around 20, she does the unthinkable. She goes to the cave alone to meet him for the first time in years since she went to school. The Prisoner was always in her thought, in her dreams, so much so that she only had one boyfriend but couldn’t even maintain that relationship. She knew by then who she belonged to, and she decides instantly that she’s going to release him.
The moment she does, though the world doesn’t fall apart immediately, Milja knew she’d done something irreversible. Azazel and his brothers are extremely powerful. He may look like a tall, dark, insanely attractive man but he’s not really a human being. And he’s not going to be contained with any bindings unless it’s done by the church, and with the entrails of his own offspring born with a human. The ones they call the Nephilims.
There are much more in this book than Azazel’s release and his sh!tty way of treating Milja, much like a toy he can use, then dumping her for a time while she battles her family who disowns her, the grief of losing her father suddenly, then the church and God knows what else until she meets a stranger called Egan who comes to her rescue. There is that fascinating history, where you get to see Azazel’s life thousands of years ago. The references and the connections the author used in this story were really done well.
Azazel was of a mind to release all of his brothers (200 or so but I maybe wrong) from the eternal captivity, which he already told Milja. She knew this was a disaster waiting to happen cause Azazel, being an otherworldly creature, doesn’t think like a human being. Some of his thought process is absolutely primitive. And he will avenge the wrong that has been done to him, to them all. He will kill anyone comes his way. The war will be of such a magnitude that the human beings hadn’t seen in thousands of years.
In the end, Milja’s life is in danger when she finds out the Vatican and the churches around the world are after her for releasing one of the Fallens. Azazel, though he’d confessed his love for her, vanishes for sometimes who knows where, as Uriel begins following her. He’s one of those who show her Azazel’s past. Some, Milja begins realizing herself through his own thoughts and dreams. The moment they had sex, it seemed like a connection was forged that let her know what he’s feeling or if he’s around, just not where. Sometimes he’d come to her rescue when she called his name—which I found to be incredible—until he didn’t. Egan comes into play when Milja gets in trouble with the Church, even though, ultimately she learns that Egan was one of the spies of the Vatican. But he’s the type who’ll try to rescue any damsel-in-distress, or die trying. Someone with a soft heart. Naturally he’s working for the ‘good’ side. Both were attracted to each-other, until he betrays her and hands her over.
That is another story that leads to the super climax... and the magnificent way Azazel finally returns to save Milja, showing he does care for her, even if he’s been callous on occasion. Milja, though angry and disappointed in Egan, doesn’t tell Azazel what he’d done, in turn saving Egan’s life. He’d be meatball otherwise. :/ Book 1 ends there, with Azazel still determined to rescue his brothers, with Milja by his side. He knew she can be of help in that endeavor, just how we still didn’t know.
Book 2 does pick up right after book 1 so I’d suggest you read the series in order. In the beginning of In Bonds of the Earth, we see Milja is trying to get a grip on her life. It’s really difficult to juggle a hot fallen angel/demon/sex on the stick (yeah I’m using that cheesy bit) and her own ‘normal’ life or whatever normal was left of it. When she’s not being worried over Azazel’s plans that’s yet to surface, then the aftermath of that ‘plan’, she’s literally being shagged silly by him. It’s true, he’s a totally sensual creature and sex is one of the most important part of his being. Milja enjoys it tremendously, yet at times, she doesn’t know where this will lead her ultimately. Really, what do you do when you’re the mistress of a fallen angel who’s planning on unleashing chaos in this world? I can honestly I have no idea. :o
However, Azazel wasn’t that clueless. He had a plan, the first was to save one of his closest brethren called Penemuel. But first he had to track down where Penemuel was trapped. In the course of the story, we meet one of Azazel’s long lost children, almost as ancient as he is, Roshana AKA Avansha, as Azazel knew her to be. Egan also returns, and unsurprisingly Milja doesn’t trust him any longer. Roshana tracks down Milja knowing what she’s to Azazel and gives her a job. Milja didn’t know who she was until much later. But, under her youthful beauty and smooth veneer, Roshana was hiding a terrible secret...no make that many terrible secrets. Some of those had been hinted at but never fully described. But we’ll soon learn that she had an ultimate goal, the reason why she tracked down Azazel. As a nephilim, she wanted tremendous power, and only by using Azazel she could do it. But to use him, she had to gain his trust to a level where she could trap him. That’s where Milja would prove to be useful, as well as the plan to find Penemuel whom Azazel wanted rescued ASAP. He told Milja he had felt Penemuel’s pain and suffering and knew him to be alive. They had found a few of his brothers to be already dead.
On the quest to uncover Penemuel’s burial site, Milja and Roshana journey to Ethiopia. Azazel wasn’t present, but he was tracking them nonetheless via his aura that he left in Milja. He was there with them, and Milja felt it more than anyone else. Yet Roshana didn’t want him to come with them, reasoning that he may become violent (Azazel can go into one of his rages) which would prove to be a hindrance. Milja was following them out of her love for Azazel, even agrees to become the eye to figure out the hidden place while investigating the many churches of Lalibela. But she didn’t know how she’s going to be left behind once Penemuel is discovered. It turned out Penemuel has changed his sex, and now he’s a she and Azazel is weirdly attracted to her. This not only gives Milja a pause with jealousy, I was in awe seeing how Azazel simply forgets about her after getting together with Penemuel. Unfortunately, she was badly wounded and he gets on the task of treating her. If only Milja’s own misery ended here! When the church where Penemuel was buried is on fire, Azazel vanishes with Penemuel, Uriel comes and takes a seemingly dead Roshana, leaving Milja all alone. She’s arrested later while also badly ill from smoke inhalation and what not. In the prison, she was being treated horribly. That, with the inhumane condition of the prison prompts Milja to find a way to contact Egan. She knew no matter what passed between them, he will come for her. And he does.
Here I’d like to mention that I’ve never been to Ethiopia and Lalibela was unknown to me until I read this book. I loved the author’s description of it. I did google about it, even watching a documentary that showcased Lalibela as the center of many mysterious happenings. I don’t really believe in the alien theory but it was fascinating nonetheless.
But at that point, Milja was only too interested in getting out of there ASAP. Egan helps her accomplishing just that. While they were at it, she finds they’re still attracted to one another. Too bad, as Egan confesses, he’s also a priest. Even heartsick at Azazel’s abandonment, Milja decides she can’t wait to learn what happened to him and why he’s acting this way. But with that, comes the doubt. Roshana had always taunted her, saying she’s only a slut her father was using. Milja agreed to that in the most literal sense, but she loves him and she had hoped Azazel cared for her too. In his own odd ways, he’d shown his tender side. But, did he ever truly care? I really felt for Milja for the way she was left behind in that prison, when her repeated calls for Azazel went completely unanswered. I don’t even know how she was saved! She knew he was alive and somewhere, only she couldn’t make a guess where. She couldn’t get thru to him. From there, she had a belief that it may have something to do with Roshana who had already shown her real face after Penemuel was rescued.
Egan, the Knight in Shining Armor, comes to rescue again when Milja confides in him finally, pleading for his help. Only he can plan out something like this, his experience as spy coming in handy. I was waiting with bated breath to see what happens............. when it ends in a freakin’ cliffy! :( I read that book 3 is supposed to be out on December this year, but I don’t know how I’m gonna wait for that long!
Now here is the thing, after all that Azazel has put Milja through, I don’t hate him because he’s not human so he can’t feel the emotions like one. I just don’t know what to think of his total abandonment of Milja at times when she needed him the most. In book 1, he did return at the most climactic situation on Milja’s pleading and saved her with a bang. However, here, after seeing his very apparent devotion to Penemuel and his sudden anger and distrust of Milja after finding Roshana’s dead body? Milja who did everything in her power, risked everything, to free him from his captivity more than once? I don’t really know. I know my review is too spoiler-y but I had to mention these things to justify my own ambivalent feelings towards him. I do absolutely adore Egan, so I had hoped from time to time that he turned out to be the H because Azazel can be unstable and unpredictable at times. But I also have this insane urge to see if a fallen angel can be ‘domesticated’ enough to live with a human female and have a family in the modern era, if you get my drift. :p Have to note here that Milja has already discovered after being with Azazel for quite a few months, she’d developed some super-human powers too. His rubbed off I supposed. Whereas I should’ve eyerolled, I was only left with envy. You don’t wanna know what I was thinking! LOL
I seriously have no idea what’s going to happen in the next installment but I do plan to find out in The Prison of Angels. Eagerly waiting for its release now! 5 stars and color me impressed!! Highly recommended.
ARC received from the publisher in exchange on an honest review, thanks to Sinful Press and Lisa.