January 22, 2014

REVIEW: White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements #1)

White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements #1), by Jennifer L. Armentrout
To Be Published February 25, 2014
e-ARC, obtained from publisher
young adult paranormal romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating:  5 STARS

(From Goodreads)
One kiss could be the last.

Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she's anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses.

Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she's crushed on since forever.

Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she's not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn't an issue, considering Roth has no soul.

But when Layla discovers she's the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.

OhmygoshohmygoshohmyGOSH!!!! White Hot Kiss is one of the best books I read in 2013. Layla. Zayne! ROTH!! I fell in love with these characters so fast and so hard. I was brought to tears several times by the desperation and hopelessness of Layla's situation. I was angry as hell at Zayne's reactions sometimes to what was clearly just her frustration at the hand that was dealt to her. And, I laughed out loud at Roth's devil-may-care attitude (pun very much intended).

The relationship between the gargoyles (Wardens) and demons was explained a lot more as the mystery surrounding Layla's parentage is unraveled. When the secrets are revealed, an intricate plot to bring about the end of the world is also revealed as is the knowledge that Layla is imperative to the plan's success.

Seeing Zayne and Roth unknowingly trade off protection duty was fun. It's apparent that both boys care very much for Layla, but the manifestations of these feelings are very different. Zayne has a tendency to shelter Layla from harm - to protect her from all the boogeymen out there that might hurt her. Roth goes the opposite direction and enjoys seeing Layla embrace both sides of herself while educating her on her abilities to protect herself.

And yet, Layla's situation seems so hopeless. She is half warden and half demon. Her warden side ensures she has a soul. Her demon side gives her this awful ability to suck the souls from others when she's physically close to them. It makes a relationship with Zayne, whom she's loved for years, virtually impossible (can you imagine never being able to kiss someone you love??). Plus, wardens hate demons. I mean, they were created to destroy them. Layla is, at best, tolerated by the other wardens. Most outright hate her and try to kill her as they do other demons.

What is Layla to do? Her choices aren't really choices at all. She can either continue pining after Zayne, the boy she has loved forever but can't have, or she could hook up with Roth who is a very bad ass demon. Since demons have no soul for her to suck away, the physicality roadblock is removed. But, he's inherently EVIL. She's been raised to hate them. And, he can never really love her, right? I'm having a hard time putting into words the desperation and bleakness I felt from her.

Everyone around her is moving forward with their lives. But, Layla is in a constant state of sameness. So many times, Layla wonders why she should exist if she can never be truly happy or have what she wants. I get that. I'd feel the same way. But, Layla's so much stronger than anyone gives her credit for. Instead of sitting in her room crying for what she can't have, or even killing herself, she tries to make herself useful and faces her fears and prejudices to team up with Roth to find out what is behind all the bad mojo in the city.

Everyone in White Hot Kiss has pigeon-holed themselves into their "role." Zayne is the Protector. Roth is the Bad Guy. Layla is the Outcast. One of my favorite parts of this book was watching everyone bust out of the molds in which they were kept. Zayne has to learn to trust that Layla can take care of herself sometimes and make her own decisions (and mistakes). Roth learns that "bad" is not black or white. And Layla sees truly how much people care about her when they are willing to risk everything for her.

Jennifer Armentrout did an outstanding job making me FEEL. Seriously, there are so many feels in this book, there were times when I had to talk myself into picking it back up because I just knew I was going to go into emotional overload. There's action and a cool mystery and amazing new paranormal characters. But, there's also a lot of sadness and frustration and desperation. And one hell of a love triangle. There's that too.

If you've already read Bitter Sweet Kiss (Dark Elements #0.5), rest assured - you find out very early on how things are going with Dez and Jasmine. There's only a brief mention of Dez and no actual appearance of him. Jasmine and her sister Danika pop up quite frequently, however. 

There just aren't enough good things to be said about this absolutely brilliant new series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. It is captivating, fascinating and just plain crazy good. I can't wait for more.


LRAtRandom said...

I have a feeling this one will take the spot of being my fav JLA book.

Richa said...

I loved loved LOVED this book! Read it twice already, and I'm sure I'll read it a couple more times before the next book comes out :P Layla and Roth <3 <3
I really can't wait for Stone Cold Touch!
Great review :)

Book Blather said...

I hope I have time to try this one this year - I'm working my way through my TBR pile at the moment. Great review! Wardens, demons and a love triangle with lots of feels, sounds good. :-)

Jessica @ a GREAT read said...

Oh awesome review! This is like my top must read (YA) book of the year! Yeah, I have a lot, but since this is YA, I can categorize safely! ;)

So very eager and dying to read this one and positively green with envy that you've scored an ARC! I got plenty to read in the meantime but am ever so glad to be reading these reviews early, because as it gets closer to release day, I tend to not read reviews because I am usually either waiting for my book to arrive or in the midst of reading it!

Can't wait to read it! Love JLA's books and cannot wait to dive into gargoyles! Amazing review!