I had high hopes for this story, but it didn't quite ring all the bells. Escaped slave girl, the barbarian who saves her from a fate worse than death, and the always fun obstacle of incapability to communicate -- how could this go wrong?
The world seemed like an interesting one, but it never took off fully because of lack of sufficient detail. There were hints at intriguing political and geographical situations, but it was insufficiently fleshed out.
I mention the world building first because the whole premise of the situation between Ivy and Dredd doesn't really work well unless you actually understand what's going on in their world. I had some idea, but not enough of one to suspend disbelief and in the end I had more questions than satisfaction.
I will give credit to the fact this wasn't a case where the heroine just sort of falls in with the hero and is okay with everything just because he's hot and is good at sex and because he fought someone to the death for her. Ivy is both smart and determined and she ends up escaping from the man she can't communicate with who has ideas for her that she's not totally on board with and that's really cool.
That said, it would have been nice if Ivy and Dredd had more of a chance to actually get to know one another and speak and stuff when they met again. Instead, it's like "oh yeah, we've done the requisite coyness thing, let's just move on to our happily ever after". Which okay, a little more mental prep would have been appreciated. The ending felt a bit rushed as a result.
Darkness Embraced was an entertaining read and I do look forward to other books by this author.
Sold into slavery as a child, Ivy Black has known little but pain in her life. Offered as a sacrifice to the terrifying race known as the Ajax, she’s found by the fiercest one of them all. Betrayed and cast out by his tribe, Dredd is a lonely warrior longing for redemption. Now he’s found the answer to his prayers: his fated mate. If only she understood that.
Though Ivy is drawn to the feral warrior, she resists him, the need for freedom stronger than her desire. When she escapes, a maddened Dredd begins a brutal journey to find her. He becomes one of an elite group of gladiators called Beasts. Dredd travels the realm, fighting in the arenas and searching for Ivy. She’s found a new life but can’t forget the strong warrior and his sensual touch.
Then one day Dredd arrives in her village for a tournament…