Monday, February 2, 2015

'Cover Him With Darkness' by Janine Ashbless Is Beautifully Written

Cover Him With DarknessCover Him With Darkness by Janine Ashbless

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has received praise from a number of erotica authors and editors whose work I enjoy and respect: Kate Douglas, Violet Blue, D.L. King, Saskia Walker, Shanna Germain, and Portia da Costa:

"Janine Ashbless has long been a master at conjuring the erotic in myths and legends. Now she's taking on religion and all I can say is wow. Just wow! What is evil? What is good? Can the faithful have completely missed the point? Sexy food for thought: Cover Him With Darkness is an intensely wild ride."
—D.L. King, editor of Seductress and The Sweetest Kiss

"One of the hands-down masters; Janine Ashbless showed me that erotica can be literature."
— Violet Blue, editor of Lust: Erotic Fantasies for Women and Girls on Top: Explicit Erotica for Women

"One of the most talented, original and brave authors in the erotica field"
—Shanna Germain

"The best erotic fairytale writer around."
—Saskia Walker

"Vivid and tempestuous and dangerous, and bursting with sacrifice, death and love."
—Portia Da Costa

How could I resist giving it a chance? I couldn't, and my will to resist its charms was annihilated utterly by Janine Ashbless's spellbinding prose. This book is simply magical, proving once again that good erotic writing is good writing, period.

The heroine is Milja. The daughter of a village priest in rural Montenegro, Milja has grown up with her family's momentous secret: they are the guardians of an ancient, immortal prisoner. He is Azazel, a fallen angel. When Milja impulsively releases him from his bonds, she unknowingly puts her life and lives of her family in terrible danger. The Church will go to any length to see that Azazel is once again bound.

You may remember the angel/demon Azazel from Can't Teach an Old Demon New Tricks by Cara Lockwood. In that book, Azazel is a very dangerous demon feared by Satan because of his determination to take over Hell, as well as the father of several monstrous, giant children by innocent human women. The Jewish Encyclopedia mentions that the name is used three times in the Hebrew Bible, although its meaning is unclear. It seems to come from the ancient Hebrew words for "a strong mountain," perhaps referring to the cliff from which the scapegoat was sacrificed in the ancient, pre-Temple Day of Atonement ritual. In later Jewish folklore, the name seems to have become associated with a demon or evil spirit of the wilderness, like a jinn, an ifrit, or a fearsome desert creature like Pazuzu. Only the Book of Enoch uses Azazel as the name of a rebellious angel who taught forbidden knowledge to humankind.

If one reads the King James Bible, then Leviticus 16:26 says, "And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp." In some translations, however, the same passage reads, "The one who sets the goat free for Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward may come into the camp" (New Revised Standard Version, used in the Roman Catholic Church).

If the word is so old that even the rabbis don't quite understand what it means, then it is a very old word indeed, possibly left over from before Jews and Arabs were separate cultures from our ancient Mesopotamian forebears. Ashbless - an artist, of course, and thus completely free to take all the artistic license she wants - seems to be drawing primarily on the Book of Enoch for her version of Azazel.

Ashbless's tale is darkly romantic, a dizzying balancing act between heavenly pleasures and depths of pain. Milja finds herself in a love triangle of cosmic proportions. Can she ever truly love a creature as inhuman and powerful as a fallen angel? Or will she find love with Egan Kansky, an American transplant originally from Ireland, even though Egan seems to be hiding a secret of his own?

"Cover Him With Darkness" began as a short story published in Red Velvet and Absinthe. I never read that anthology, but I'm glad the novel developed from it. Both the beautifully written prose and the compelling narrative make the novel a real page-turner.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review, which represents my own honest opinion.

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