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Diary of a Binge Reader

by Donna Soluri

Unlike Beth, I have plenty of bingeable experiences. You name it, I’ve binged it — and I didn’t even need a lockdown situation to encourage my streaming behavior! I’ve binge-watched TV shows, some multiple times (I’m looking at you Gilmore Girls and The Originals). I’ve binged watched movie universes. I’ve binged on music. Who among us hasn’t gotten a Stevie Nicks wild hair and channeled her goddess energy on repeat all weekend? Just me? And don’t even get me started on binging books; I can tell stories for days about that particular inclination! Which leads me to my most recent binge reading adventure. . .

Several years ago, I found myself in a bit of a dark place. Usually, a great mood booster for me is reading romance, but things left me so distraught, even my old standard comfort reads lost their usual dark-cloud-bursting flair. As a person deeply entrenched in the romance world both professionally and as a hobby, I was in a real pickle. My personal life had caused me to question all aspects of romance, even the book kind. Dear gentle reader, it was bleak.

While I read a couple of books to hit promised deadlines for articles and reviews, my heart simply wasn’t in it, and I went from reading five to seven books a week to maybe two books a month. That sad reading pace went on for more years than I care to tally. It was terrible, and I needed a fix. I decided to give it one last go. I cut my romance teeth on paranormal (pun intended) and the world building and mythology surrounding the stories have always fascinated me. What on earth must it be like inside the minds of authors who come up with alternate universes, sometimes whole other languages and customs, while still managing to tell a love story that ends in happily ever after? Fascinating! Also — and I’ll die on this hill — when it comes to sex, paranormal bodies are just more durable, thus making the whole reading experience even more titillating.

Death of Darkness (Immortal Guardians #9)

The stress of reading Death of Darkness might’ve been enough to age me, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t LOVE it.

I started my research and quickly discovered Dianne Duvall’s Immortal Guardians’ leader, Seth, was finally getting his HEA. A quick scan of my reading journal told me I had some work to do before the August 2019 release. How much work? Well, Seth’s book, Death of Darkness, is book #9 in the series. My notes told me Phantom Shadows was my last read. If you’re keeping score, that would be book #3. Armed with a new mission, I decided to start my journey to get my romance mojo back. It was June of 2019. I figured I had six books in six weeks. I could do it easy peasy, taking my time and easing myself back into reading. Famous last words. I was done in a week!

If you’re not familiar with the Immortal Guardians series, I strongly recommend righting that terrible wrong. First off, large chunks are set in North Carolina, specifically my beloved town of Chapel Hill. Mind you, these aren’t just vague references. She has the walk time right from one random part of town to the other, complete with name-dropping side roads and hidden locations. That alone pulled me in. In the Immortal Guardians world, Duvall gives us a very special hierarchy of sorts. We get humans, vampires, gifted ones, immortals, and well, others. All look like humans, but all are very different. Humans are just that, human and very mortal. Humans can be transformed into vampires. This is not a good thing. Vampires are bad, they suffer from bloodlust, and the disease that transforms them gives them unparalleled speed and endurance and heals their bodies, but it is also what eventually drives them crazy. Vampires, by in large, are a menace to society. Humans, for the most part, don’t know they exist except in movies and books.

Vampires have a very short shelf life. Once transformed, they only survive for a couple of years before the bloodlust, and the disease eats their brains. Gifted Ones look like humans on the outside and think they are human, but their DNA is very different. They have thousands of chromosomes instead of the standard 23 pairs. Gifted Ones can go their whole lives without incident and never transform into anything else. Gifted Ones have unique, well, gifts. Perhaps they have premonitions, or they can seemingly read someone’s mind and know if they are lying. Maybe they hear other’s thoughts or can see things from the past. It can be very slight or glaring, but they live like they are humans because that’s all they’ve ever know. If a Gifted One is transformed with the vampire virus, they will become an Immortal Guardian. Immortal Guardians are the good guys. They protect the humans and destroy the evil vampires plagued with bloodlust. Theoretically, they can live forever unless they lose their heads. Some in this series are a thousand years old — the virus does not destroy their brain, but it does amplify their unique gifts. There are also aliens, well, one, in particular, Ami, but that’s getting ahead of the game. The Immortal Guardians leader, Seth, is…you know, until we get to his book, we honestly don’t know what he is. Because of his age and powers, we assume he’s the OG Immortal Guardian. You know that adage about assuming, right? Duvall would never make Seth’s story that easy. He is so much more than that!

“WHO AMONG US HASN’T GOTTEN A STEVIE NICKS WILD HAIR AND CHANNELED HER GODDESS ENERGY ON REPEAT ALL WEEKEND? JUST ME?”

Before my Immortal Guardians binge, I’d read the first three books and a couple from a spin-off series. Darkness Dawns sets up our world beautifully. Roland Warbrook is our IG, he’s wicked old and because of his loner, grumpy demeanor, feared by vampires and immortals alike. The dude is not even close to approachable, and he is a-okay with that! Sarah Bingham is his complete opposite. She’s a teacher. Hello grumpy/sunshine trope! Night Reigns is next. It’s Marcus and Ami’s story. Ami isn’t your run-of-the-mill Gifted One, she is something decidedly special, and we don’t fully understand her for a while. This book also alludes to time travel, a personal favorite trope for me! The time travel element leads to the first Duvall spin-off I read. Rendezvous with Yesterday, the second book in the The Gifted Ones series, shows us how Marcus lived hundreds of years ago and how he made sure things happened to get him to where he is today. Genius subplot! Finally, I moved on to Phantom Shadows. Bastien was the super bad guy villain in previous books, but Duvall pairs him up with brilliant doctor and scientist, Melanie, and we are off to the races!

I knew I had my work cut out for me when I picked things back up to prepare for Seth’s book, but nothing could’ve prepared me for how completely and irrevocably I’d be pulled in. Darkness Rises is Etienne and Krystal’s story. The Gifted One, Krystal, has been out slaying vampires on her own, as a freaking human, for years! Her talent is reading auroras, and she’s badass as a human, so you can imagine how tough she is when Etienne makes her immortal! Dear reader, I was hooked all over again and could not stop!

As if Darkness Rises hadn’t pulled me in enough, the next book, Night Unbound, was a full-on “stick-a-fork-in-me-I’m-done-the-kids-can-order-pizza-for-dinner” moment. Immortal Guardian Lisette falls for Seth’s nemesis, Zach. Zach is an angel of sorts. He has wings and can transform into anything he wants to be. At this point, all I could think was, WHAT IS HAPPENING?!!? Zach is a member of The Others. We learn Seth was once part of that group, and they’ve all been out to get him since he left to protect the human race and the Immortal Guardians. What are The Others? And if Seth is strong enough to overpower them, what the heckity-heck is he? There was no stopping me at this point.

Shadows Strike can best be described as a Criminal Minds episode on steroids. The Others are coming after Seth, and they will lie, deceive, manipulate, whatever it takes to get him. Good thing Immortal Ethan and his Gifted One, Heather, can read minds. The military gets involved, big things blow up, it’s a huge roller coaster ride of suspense!

After moving around the country a little, Blade of Darkness brings it back to Chapel Hill! Our Immortal, Aidan, is ancient. After thousands of years roaming the world, he is ready to find his person. Dana is a psychic, and her sixth senses sees him coming, but she isn’t sure what to do with him. There is more suspense, so much danger, bad guys run amok, all hell breaks loose, and then we get an HEA. I freaking LOVED IT!

“NO REGRETS. NOT A SINGLE ONE. I WILL NEVER LET A DUVALL BOOK GO UNREAD ON MY TBR LIST AGAIN. I WILL TAKE VACATION TIME IF NECESSARY TO READ HER BOOKS THE MOMENT THEY LAND ON MY KINDLE.”

Awaken the Darkness ties up some loose ends with some missing Immortal Guardians. It’s written in a slightly different way from the others in that it mainly stays with our two main characters only, until the very end. You’ll understand why it’s a bit different. A lot is going on that slowly gets revealed to you, and the prep for Seth’s book is embedded. We also learn some things about how immortals function, which will come in handy in Duvall’s future spin-off, The Aldebarian Alliance, which has space travel and aliens, some of which are Marcus’ in-laws! When I tell you Dianne Duvall builds incredible worlds, I am not lying. The journey she takes a reader on is extraordinary, page-turning, intense, emotional, funny. It’s just everything.

Now I’d come all this way, my house was an absolute disaster, my whole family was hungry, I’m embarrassed to say how infrequently I’d showered, but whatever, it had been a long damn week. I was ready for Seth’s story. Or so I thought! Death of Darkness just about did me in. Sure, I’d read all of the books. My brain and eyeballs were fully entrenched in Immortal Guardian lore. I thought I knew everything Duvall could possibly throw at me. Seth’s backstory is literal mythology. The bad guy in Seth’s book is almost as powerful as Seth. He is genuinely the only entity who could threaten a being as all-powerful as our main man. Seth is a little weary; he’s been at this alone for eons, so he is wholly unprepared for the pull he gets from shop owner Leah. The attraction that needs to protect her runs parallel to his need to protect the entire world from destruction. To say the actual world is on Seth’s shoulders would be an understatement. The suspense in this book aged me at least ten years. When the “big bad” happens, it was worth every single microwave dinner, frozen pizza, and box of Cheez-Its I fed my family during my binge reading experience. No regrets. Not a single one. I will never let a Duvall book go unread on my TBR list again. I will take vacation time if necessary to read her books the moment they land on my Kindle. Even if they were set somewhere other than my beloved Chapel Hill, I could confidently say they are that worthy of your investment.

Just to tie this up neatly, book #10 is Broken Dawn, and it is a subtly brilliant setup for the Aldebarian Alliance spin-off I mentioned earlier. It can be read as a standalone, not that I can possibly fathom why you’d forgo reading all of the others before it! If you pay attention to some things that happen in the background of Broken Dawn, you’ll get a perfect introduction to the spin-off series. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again and again, Dianne Duvall is a world building genius. I dare you to start this series and be able to walk away from it. It can’t be done, not if you love paranormal romance. There are many top-rated paranormal series out there that do a phenomenal job world building and telling unique stories. Duvall is, in my opinion, an underrated talent. You should definitely add her to your list if you haven’t already. Her books are so worth the time investment. Just ask my kids; I retold each story to them over frozen pizza and Cheez-Its every night for over a week. They can back my claim up!

BINGE READ THE IMMORTAL GUARDIANS SERIES—

GUESS WHAT?!

You haven’t seen the last of Diary of a Binge Reader. Oh no, not when the staff here at Book+Main are voracious readers with a penchant for getting far too invested in books. Make sure you come back and visit the Book+Main Blog for more Diary of a Binge Reader coming soon!

About Donna

Donna should be an empty nester, but she’s not, thanks COVID-19. She’s a voracious reader of all books; she can’t pick just one sub-genre. A staunch supporter of seasoned romance and a lover of cupcakes, you’ll often find her with a cup of tea and a mountainous TBR pile close at hand. Follow her @DonnaSoluri on B+M Bites.

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