Sunday, April 22, 2012

Early Review of Wicked Road to Hell (League of Guardians, #1) by Juliana Stone

"So, what brings you back to these parts, my friend?"
"I'm looking for someone."
Ransome snorted. "Aren't we all?"
"This one's special."
Again the wolf laughed. "Aren't they all?"
Declan shook his head. "Not like this one."
The smile that graced the wolf's face fled immediately and his eyes narrowed. Declan nodded. Now he had his full attention. 

Declan O'Hara thought he was on a routine assignment. He was sent to retrieve a person of interest for the Seraphim. The Seraphim are "angelic creatures who had absolute dominion over the upper realm. They also dipped into the affairs of humanity or wherever else they saw fit." Declan was a sorcerer and a Seraph, part of a group of warriors who did the Seraphim's bidding, no questions asked. Armed with information he acquired from an informant, he finds his quarry. What he didn't expect to find, however, was her--Ana DeLacrux. She died over two years ago or so he'd thought.

"We're all players in a game much bigger than either of us can imagine. I was presented with an offer, life and servitude to a new master, or eternal death."

But the revelation that Ana is alive, isn't the only thing unusual about this assignment. His quarry turns out to be a teenage boy named Kaden who bears one of the marks of seven. It was foretold that those bearing the mark of seven would wield unspeakable power. The only unknown variable is whether they'll use those powers to do good or evil. In the wrong hands they could tip the scales toward good or evil. Declan had thought the seven was a myth. Seeing the mark for himself, well, that changes everything including his loyalty. He'll be asked to join a secret group called the League of Guardians, and he is about to be initiated. His first assignment will also his initiation task.
"So how will I know I passed?"
Cale waited as a couple strolled by and turned. "That's easy."
"Yeah?" Declan fell into step beside the Seraph.
"Sure. You make it out alive. 'That' means you've passed."


"For millennia the struggle between light and dark, between the upper and lower realms, has been policed by a secret group of warriors culled from every fabric of existence. They are both otherworld and human, male and female. They are known to each other as the League of Guardians. Their pledge, to protect the line between dominions and make sure neither side grows too powerful. If they fall, so shall the earth, the heavens and hells. And there will be no more."  (From Wrong Side of Hell: A League of Guardians Novella (series prequel) by Juliana Stone)

I am enjoying this series so far and the author's writing style. While it's labeled paranormal romance, it incorporates some of the grittiness you see in Urban Fantasy novels. From the very first sentence Ms. Stone foreshadows Declan's predicament in this book--"Declan O'Hara stepped into the middle of a crossroads..." While Ms. Stone was talking of an actual road that Declan was literally standing at, Declan is indeed at a crossroads in his life, as well. He'll have to decide whether to obey or disobey his superiors and his decision could alter the balance between good and evil. If you read the prequel, 'Wrong Side of Hell', (which I recommend you do) you'll already know that Bill is the head of the League of Guardians, but at the time, Declan has no clue of the group's existence.

When Ana supposedly died she and Declan hadn't truly explored a relationship. They both could feel a pull toward the other, but Ana had attempted to resist it for years. Truth be told, as Ana was a Vampire, a relationship between her and Declan was forbidden and, hence, doomed before it could ever start. When Declan encounters her again for the first time since her alleged death, she's protecting the boy he was sent to capture for the Seraphim.

Declan is a bit of an old fashioned type of guy. He feels a need to protect Ana and tries to keep her from dangerous situations. Lucky for us, Ana isn't an old fashioned girl. She's no stranger to danger (forgive the rhyme) and isn't the type to stay home and bake cookies.

In this book, Declan will travel the wicked road to Hell for a second time in order to find more of the children who bear the mark of seven. Declan had spent 6 months in Hell under Lilith's command before and it's not somewhere he ever wished to go again. As you can imagine, there are some unpleasant stories associated with the place. While he escaped from Hell once, the odds of him doing so again are almost nonexistent. Most would consider it a suicide mission. He knows of only two individuals who have ever escaped Lilith's clutches, and he was one of them.

As I read this book, I kept feeling like I'd missed some pertinent history that had to do with Declan and Ana. The background that seemed to be linked to the characters wasn't included in this series,but was talked about. It just seemed too detailed not to have been written into another story somewhere. Upon looking at some of Juliana's other series, it appears some of Declan's previous experience in hell, at least, can be found within the pages of her Jaguar Warriors series' third book, 'His Darkest Salvation'. While I didn't feel lost without the information, it has made me curious enough to hope to find time to read 'His Darkest Salvation', perhaps even the whole Jaguar Warriors series. I'm hoping it will hold more information about Declan's and Ana's relationship.

Overall, I found this a compelling story that kept my attention. It had plenty of action, suspense and wonderful characters. The world Ms. Stone created is interesting and well thought out. It includes a supernatural world which secretly lives among our own. It includes weres, vamps, sorcerer, seraphim, etc. I'm hoping that Juliana will include some sort of formal, written or verbal, prophecy about the mark of seven in the next book, 'King of the Damned' which is due out at the end of November. Again, I would suggest you read the novella 'Wrong Side of Hell' before reading "Wicked Road to Hell'. I gave it 4 out of 5 roses. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, it gets a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Notes to keep you in the know:
"Poutine is a French-Canadian food that (very) slightly resembles American Gravy Cheese Fries (Uuukkkk), but is actually very, very different in many respects. Poutine is readily-available across Canada, but it only really tastes good in French Quebec or Maillardville, BC...Poutine is Acadian slang for mushy mess and is best described as a heart attack in a bowl. By the way, there is a proper way to pronounce poutine, and it's not 'poo-teen'. The phonetic pronunciation is 'peu-tin', which always elicits a vacant stare when one orders it using that word." (To learn more about poutine, check out the Knight's Canadian Info Collection website where the above was borrowed from: )

Order of series:

Other related books by Juliana Stone you may wish to read:

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