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Series: Stained #1
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
After a fire destroys seventeen-year-old Julia’s home and kills her foster parents, she chases the half-demon responsible across the country and back, determined to avenge her family and discover why a host of celestial baddies want her dead. With Julia is enigmatic hottie – Cayne, who has his own score to settle with the half-demon, and who might be just as dangerous as the creature he and Julia hunt.
[Cayne] looked at her face, eyes wide and concerned, and then his mouth flattened and he pulled her ear to his chest. “Listen to my heart.” He wrapped both arms around her, so she was sitting in his lap. “Listen to my lungs.”
They were steady. Steady and soothing. Julia tried to emulate them.
Holy shit. Holy shit. What did I just read?
Seriously, I don’t know where this book has been hiding my whole life. I loved it from the first, and there’s nothing–nothing–that anyone can do to make me believe otherwise. I don’t hand out 5 star ratings very often. Usually, if I do, they’re technically 4.5. Stained every single star I gave it from the very first page. There wasn’t a moment while I read that I didn’t know if I’d give it the highest possible praises, and that… hahah, if anyone knows me, or how picky of a reader I am, they’ll understand how difficult that feat is to accomplish.
I’ve been floored by the amazingness of this book. Espérame. *deep breaths* Okay!
So, Julia. We meet her as she is witnessing her house go up in flames along with the foster parents she holds dear to her, and she takes off in fear, winding up at an old pecan factory after a while. This is how it starts off:
The monster clawed at the dark sky, hissing and spitting and belching ash. Its fat orange talons twisted the little house until it cracked, until the walls caved and the roof collapsed.
Neighbors sprang from their quiet homes and stumbled to the yard, drunk from the light, shouting for their help. And for nothing. No one inside was alive.
Then, while at the pecan factory, some dude comes crashing through the roof, engaged in a scuffle with the same monster she’d seen set fire to her home with her foster parents inside. After the monster flees, she heals the guy who crash-landed in the factory and they strike up a companionship (although rough at start). This would be Cayne. Talk about a dude with a troubled past.
“You’re looking for my demon.”
He sighed. “So am I.”
And, basically, Julia and Cayne team up to hunt down the monster, who is actually a half-demon/Nephilim known as Semyaza and hunting Julia because she is a Stained–something indicated by the red starburst birthmark she has on the back of her shoulder and by her ability to see auras, heal wounds. And, even more basically, Julia and Cayne are awesome together. Cayne starts off standoffish because he has no memories from before the last three years of his life, but he warms up to Julia, in his own way, eventually.
[…] Cayne was “kind” enough to explain that he had followed the half-demon to Memphis from Charlotte, North Carolina. And that was it.
“Because he has something you want,” Julia tried. “Are we talking like a magical stone, or like, your girlfriend?”
So, since this is the majority of the plot for a long time–not the minimize all the action in between, oh no! There is plenty of that to be had. Plenty. See, look:
“So how long do you think it will take us to find Sam?”
Cayne gave her a sideways smile. “Weeks,” he said, and that made her heart flutter.
–I’ll take the time here to focus on the writing.
I think the overstatement of so-called “good” writing lies in an insane attention to detail and relating it to something pretty, or perfect, or eloquent. Author Ella James does this, but in such a simplistic, minimalistic way that I simply envy her for. Every single word of this book was effortless–Under the Never Sky effortless!–and I ate it up the more I was offered. It’s succinct and phenomenal and all-around masterful.
The sleep was beautiful and dreamless.
Julia felt fussy, so she fetched an über-fluffed pillow from the bedroom and a bottle of water from the minibar.
(This is highlighted because POINTS for use of the umlaut! Hell yeah!)
She was drifting, gilding under a moonless sky, in the shadow of a million stars, over a bare landscape of stone and dirt, through wisps of clouds.
For a while, she knew only dream things: feathers and blood and snow and feathers and kisses and curls and covers and caves and snow and snow and blood.
Knowing came like a needle. The pain of understanding. Julia felt it sink into his skin. A cloak of gray fell over the vibrant green world, and under the charcoal sky men in odd clothes leered, livid faces animated by hate sharper than the rocks against his bare back. And then a blade along his throat, cutting him until his own blood made him sticky.
When he left, nothing but terror and moonlight to help him up the mountain. it was too high; he was choking on blood as their terrified cries filled his ears.
A blur of death and war followed, a mealstrom of pain and blood […]
The blood was his paint, their bed his canvas. One stroke wet the brush, three more finished his masterpiece. Against the grays and whites, red was alone and beautiful.
He felt the forest floor as if fit itself around him, the dirt going soggy with blood. he heard their grunts and the thud of their boots on roots and weeds. The clamor rose above the call of an owl and the rush of midnight wind through the bramble.
It was the night they almost killed him. The night he was born again.
Julia snuggled into his chest.
She felt both giddy and duped. All her life, she’d enjoyed things like snicker doodle cookies and mystery novels and Seinfeld reruns and hot baths, and there was this. It kind of knocked everything else out of the water.
In short, please read this book. I don’t know what kind of books you like to read, but if you are even slightly interested in the supernatural, and a nice slow-burning romance that doesn’t overtake the story, and general awesomeness, then give Stained the time of day. I was so happy that I did and will be for a very, very long time to come.