Prince of Shadows (Paladin Warriors #3)
by Tes Hilaire
Valin has never quite fit in among the rest of his Paladin brothers. His power to manipulate darkness and slip into the shade puts him at odds with the Paladin's purpose of eradicating evil with the power of God's Light. Only his dark edged humor hides his true nature from his brothers.
But when he meets the vampire, Gabriella, something he thought was long buried begins to awaken within him. It is forbidden for a warrior of the Light to love a creature of the Dark. But maybe he was never made for the Light to begin with…
The saga of the great warriors for heaven, the Paladins—former angels sent to earth to combat the evil that plagues mankind—returns for the third installment. Tes Hilaire's series is one that I can never go into with any expectations because for sure they will be challenged at every stage. The overall story of these warriors is ever changing as well, but with each new story the characters change and become more and more interesting. Valin's story was one that was, at turns, frustrating and amazing, as these two very damaged individuals came together and learned to trust and love again. Tears, laughs, action and emotion build this story up and teach us all that having faith is the only way to every reach a happy ending. Can’t wait to see what happens next in this series.
Valin's story begins with his search for the vampire who stole his heart at the end of a previous big battle, though most believe she is dead. Valin knows that the pretty redhead is still alive and he won’t give up until he finds her. When he stumbles upon her one night while patrolling, he can’t keep himself from following after her and using all his powers to find her again. When he does finally locate her, he is surprised to find she is working with a group of warriors who are battling the same evil, but trying to stay under the radar of the Paladin warriors. Gabriella is determined to keep her distance from the frustratingly sexy Valin, though he makes it harder every moment they are together. Working together seems to be a logical choice, especially since Valin refuses to leave her side, but as they grow closer and their emotions become entangled, the danger to their hearts and missions becomes too great to risk.
Valin is one of those characters that falls into the most interesting category; neither wholly light nor dark, he exists in the realm of gray, the realm of shadows where he feels most at home, until he meets Gabriella, who brings more light to his world and reminds him that fighting for the good in the world is his most important mission. He is definitely one of the sexiest men around, and his inherent gift gives him the special addition of often ending up butt-naked! And really who could complain about that little added pleasure. While he is strong willed and determined, to be sure, he has a bit of a soft underbelly that only Gabriella gets to experience. Gabriella has her own issues she is dealing with, being a daughter of a terrifyingly disturbed demoness, unknown to her father, and turned vampire by the most sadistic of vampires that have ever existed. She knows that letting Valin into her heart will put them both in more danger, but resisting him is harder for her than accepting her imminent death. Gabbie is definitely a badass chick, but even when she is kicking ass, she goes out of her way to protect those around her, whether friend or family, to ensure they survive no matter the cost.
Valin and Gabbie are connected from the moment they met in the caves where she was held hostage, though Gabbie denies it with her every breath. Valin is determined, once he catches her, that Gabbie won’t get away from him again. When he finally corners her, forces her to deal with the connection between them, the passion that flares is palpable to the reader in every word of the page. Valin knows that it won’t be easy to keep Gabbie from pulling away from him, but he refuses to give up and makes damn sure that he uses all the tools in his arsenal to win the war for her heart. Gabbie on the other hand doesn’t want to have these feelings for Valin, but finds herself too deeply involved from the start. When the end comes, both Valin and Gabbie sacrifice it all for one another and only the intervention of an extremely unexpected individual will allow them to earn their HEA.
Overall this story was one that left me crying, laughing, and thrilled. We got to know several more characters in the Paladin contingent as well as the troops of half human/half Paladin warriors. Valin and Gabbie are both interesting characters in their own rights, but seeing them working together, loving together, and finally finding their HEA, through a bit of terrifyingly heartbreaking and ultimately remarkable circumstances, far surpassed the greatness of their individuality. The heat between them is amazing to observe and seeing them together in the end despite it all shows that their faith was rewarded. Tes Hilaire certainly has a unique take on the war of good and evil and all the troops for both sides. I can’t wait to see where she will take the Paladin warriors and their allies in the coming pages of the series. The one thing I always take from her books is that change is eternal and embracing the changes in ourselves and others is the only way to understand the world around us and within us as well. Can’t wait to find out what’s next!