Zarek of Moesia has never had an easy day in his life. He was the child of a slave and the Roman Senator Gaius Magnus. His mother gave him to a slave to kill when he was first born but the slave took pity on him and gave him to his father but his father used him as a whipping boy for his legitimate children. Any time one of them did something wrong, Zarek would be whipped. They disfigured him so badly that one leg was shorter than the other and he was almost blind. His father finally paid a slaver to take him. The slaver used him to clean out the cesspits because he was so disfigured no one wanted to be around him.
When he was killed, he became a Dark-Hunter. Acheron took away his disfigurement and scars and made him whole again. That was over two thousand years ago. Nine hundred years ago he was banished to Alaska for doing something terrible. He only remembers bits and pieces, the village he protected on fire, people of all ages dead and an old crone dying and telling him he did this to them.
In Alaska, he lived alone for nine hundred years. Unable to go out in daylight when the summer sometimes had no night, he was stuck in his cabin starving and in winter, freezing.
Because of his life, Zarek has a bad attitude. He is the epitome of antisocial. He hates everyone and doesn’t hesitate to show it. Recently, he was granted a short reprieve from Alaska to help out in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. He ended up in a lot of trouble thanks to some trouble-making gods who were up to no good. Now, the goddess Artemis wants him dead. She has unleashed Thanatos to kill him but when Acheron finds out, he makes a deal with her to call off Thanatos until Zarek is judged by the goddess Themis. Themis chooses her daughter, Astrid, to judge Zarek. She’s given two weeks to judge Zarek. If it takes less time then she can come home early. Artemis is happy because in all of history Astrid has never found anyone innocent. Acheron trusts Astrid to do the right things.
On the flight back home, he overheard the Squire, Mike, piloting the helicopter talking over the radio. He didn’t think Zarek could hear him since Zarek was in the back with thick steel separating them. Zarek already knew that the god Dionysius had paid Mike to lighten the windows and let the sun shine in on Zarek so he could burn up and die. The helicopter came equipped with windows that darkened to keep out the sun. He could hear another Squire asking Mike if he did it and Mike said that he decided not to because the Blood Rite Squires were going to kill him. He said, “Don’t worry. I’m going to dump him out and leave him for the others to track down, then get my butt out of Alaska faster than you can say ‘Rumpelstiltskin’” I assume Blood Rite Squires kill rogue Dark-Hunters.
When they land, Mike and Zarek get out. Zarek gets on his snowmobile and says, “Mike.” And when Mike looks, he says, “Rumpelstiltskin” then throws a grenade under the helicopter, and races off leaving Mike throwing a fit over Zarek ruining a twenty-three million dollar Sikorsky helicopter.
When Zarek rides his snowmobile into town to get a new generator for his cabin, he gets a big surprise…well, not too big of a surprise. He knew the Squires would try to kill him but he didn’t expect the Daimon on steroids nor that his friend, Jess aka Sundown, someone he met in the Dark-Hunter chat rooms online and the only other Dark-Hunter who would speak to him, would be there along with the Squires. He saw the Squires who all shot at him and he saw Sundown and then a Daimon started beating on him. This Daimon was unlike any other he had ever seen. He said his name was Thanatos, meaning ‘death’, and Artemis sent him after him. Someone shot him in the back with a shotgun and he thinks it was Sundown. He thinks Artemis lifted the ban where if a Dark-Hunter hurts another Dark-Hunter, they feel the exact pain and have the same damage. Meanwhile, Thanatos is practically killing Zarek.
He runs and finally loses everyone but he is so exhausted and beat up that he collapses in the snow by a cabin. He wakes up four days later in a comfortable bed and a warm home. He has been rescued by a beautiful tall blind woman and her pet wolf.
Astrid chooses to be blind while judging anyone because eyes can be deceiving. She has a Were-Hunter wolf named Sasha who she can touch when she wants to see through his eyes if necessary. She finds Zarek in the snow outside her cabin and brought him in and tended his wounds. He’s slept for four days so she only has ten days to judge him.
Although Astrid rescued Zarek, his antisocial ways and his suspiciousness can’t be helped. He is super rude and snarly towards her and the wolf…well, the wolf deserves it since he is always growling at Zarek but Astrid is nothing but kind and patient to him so she doesn’t deserve it. All Zarek wants to do is leave so that whatever is after him doesn’t hurt her or the wolf and because he is just an asshole who likes to be alone. But Astrid has made sure a blizzard is outside so that he can’t leave.
To understand him more, Astrid calls in M’Adoc, an Oneroi Dream-Hunter, who gives her some sleeping potions so she can enter Zarek’s dreams. In the dreams, she finds out a lot about his past and it ain’t pretty. His dreams are of his past and all nightmares so she puts herself in the dreams so he can have a good dream. They end up having sex in one of the dreams.
Meanwhile, Jess learns that Thanatos is a Daimon with superpowers. Artemis created Thanatos from a Daimon. She made him to kill Dark-Hunters, thinking she could control him. He’s supercharged and can walk in daylight. He can also summon Apollites and Daimons to come to him from hundreds of miles all around. He’s like a beacon and none can resist coming to him. Two other Dark-Hunters, Bjorn and Syra, have found their way to Alaska because they were following large groups of Daimons who were traveling to Alaska.
Jess isn’t there to hurt Zarek. He’s there to help him and he suspects one of the Squires named Otto is there for the same reason. He and the other two Dark-Hunters follow the Squires to Zarek’s cabin. While they are there, Thanatos shows up and stabs Bjorn with a strange-looking golden knife where his Dark-Hunter brand is and Bjorn disintegrates. Then another Dark-Hunter named Spawn shows up and helps everyone get away. Spawn is almost more hated than Zarek because he was an Apollite in his human life.
Jess wakes Zarek and Astrid up and tells them about Thanatos and that he is on his way to kill them. Thanatos wants to kill Astrid because 900 years ago, Zarek supposedly killed Thanatos’ wife and he wants to take away something that Zarek loves. Now, Zarek has to find a way to save Astrid from Thanatos who cannot be killed by anyone except for Acheron.
Even though I had read this story before, I did not remember anything about Thanatos. It is weird what my mind chooses to remember from the stories I read. I remembered the love story between Astrid and Zarek but just the basics. The strangest thing is that Zarek is one of my favorite characters from the series so I would have thought that I would remember more but I didn’t.
This book was yummy all the way! It is definitely the best so far in the series. I am glad I re-read it.