October 30, 2014

REVIEW: Stone Cold Touch (Dark Elements #2)

Stone Cold Touch (Dark Elements #2), by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published October 21, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format: ARC, obtained from the publisher
Genre: young adult paranormal romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 3.5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life—no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who’s pretty sure things can’t get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to the mysterious powers of her soul-stealing kiss. The Warden clan that has always protected her is suddenly keeping dangerous secrets. And she can barely think about Roth, the wickedly hot demon prince who understood her in ways no one else could.

But sometimes rock bottom is only the beginning. Because suddenly Layla’s powers begin to evolve, and she’s offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden. Then, when she least expects it, Roth returns, bringing news that could change her world forever. She’s finally getting what she always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count adding up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing to pay…

 I waited awhile before writing this review. I actually read my ARC of Stone Cold Touch before it came out, and had to take some time to process my thoughts about the book and about the contest that is still going on to determine which guy Layla will pick in the end – Zayne or Roth. I address my personal choice later on in my review, in case you’re curious. I have very mixed feelings about everything surrounding this book and, I guess, the series as a whole.

Although bad guys were defeated in White Hot Kiss, it appears that they were just the tip of the iceberg. A Scarier, badder guy is here, but Layla has lost her ability to see auras, which means, she can’t tell who it is. On top of the short-circuiting of her powers, she’s trying to come to terms with her feelings for both Roth, who she thought was gone forever, and Zayne, the boy who she has loved forever and now appears to reciprocate those feelings. And, all the Wardens in her clan now look at her with wariness and outright disdain. It’s a lot for Layla to process, especially when Roth comes back unexpectedly.

I LOVE this world. Like, draw-hearts-around-it-in-the-margin-of-my-notebook love. Jen Armentrout has come up with some pretty incredible characters in her books, but I personally think that the Wardens take the cake. Their abilities and purpose for being here are so awesome, but beyond that, they’re not wholly good or bad like you would think. Like humans, the Wardens are shades of both. Some like Zayne, Dez, Jasmine and Nicoli are inherently good. Others, like Petr and Maddox seem inherently bad. And then there are those that straddle the line like Abbot – his actions are horrible sometime, but you know they come from a place that you can maybe understand a little (like, the desire to protect your child).

I love the different demons that are in this world too. We get to see even more of them in Stone Cold Touch. Some are sexy, some are scary, and some are downright evil. Again, Jen Armentrout has the reader questioning what is really “bad,” and what is the appropriate way to deal with the bad in the world. One solution (eradication) doesn’t always fit, yet that’s the assumption the Wardens have operated under forever. When Layla begins to question that, she’s put on the outs with the rest of her clan. It’s understandable, and yet frustrating.

I guess it’s time to address the elephant in the room. The love triangle.

Sadly, I feel like the awesomeness of the world and the characters in it are being completely overshadowed by The Love Triangle. All three characters involved – Layla, Roth and Zayne – don’t seem to have much substance on their own anymore. They have become defined entirely by their role in the triangle, which upsets me so much. All three of them are incredibly dynamic in their own right, but we never had a chance to see them shine by themselves. The main plot point – finding out who the Lilin is – was buried under the ongoing drama of which guy is the one for Layla. There was a lot of:

Roth: “Let’s go check out the scary basement for clues.”
Layla: I shouldn’t say yes because Zayne would be upset, but I still care about Roth even though I don’t want to, but Zayne is trusting me, but Roth is so hot and I shouldn’t be thinking about Zayne when I’m with Roth… oh right. There’s evil afoot. “Okay.”


Zayne: “What do you mean you can’t see auras now?”
Layla: Roth was wondering the same thing earlier. No. Don’t think about Roth right now. Ohmygoodness, Zayne’s eyes are beautiful and I might actually have a real chance with him now, but only if I can kick Roth out of my brain. Roth – DAMMIT there I go again. Crap. Hunky, gorgeous Zayne who I think I still love is waiting for an answer. What was the question again?

It honestly made me want to scream more than once. Layla being with either boy is fraught with problems. Roth is the Prince of Hell and Layla has been trained to hate and kill demons like him. That’s a big problem. Zayne has a pure soul, and if Layla isn’t careful, she can suck it out of him and kill him. That, too, is a big problem. I SO wish that Jen had never created one of them so that the story could stand on its own feet, and Layla could have the side challenge of figuring out how to be with the boy she loves. Instead, you have these two impossible relationships on top of this cool mystery, and it just seems now like way too much.

So, the main story is now on the periphery and The Love Triangle has taken center stage. I wanted a story about gargoyles fighting evil. I didn’t get much of that here. Layla never fully changes form, which was so disappointing. I wanted to see that so badly after she discovered that ability at the end of White Hot Kiss. Roth and Zayne only change forms once each, and both times, only for a very short time. There’s not a ton of evil-fighting that takes place in Stone Cold Touch. I wish Roth hadn’t come back so early in the story. Perhaps then it would’ve given Zayne and Layla a chance to kick some butt together before The Love Triangle happened.

To cast an even bigger spotlight on the relationship drama, the choice of which guy should Layla choose has been left up to the masses. It’s being reduced to a popularity contest – a challenge of which camp cares enough to clear their cache enough times in the span of three weeks to ensure a win for their “team.” I don’t know about you all, but I think Jen Armentrout has done a pretty spectacular job so far writing endings to series that have blown my mind. I’d rather the ending of this one sprang completely from her brain too. I want to know who JEN would pick for Layla (although, after reading Stone Cold Touch, I’m pretty sure I can guess who she voted for).

Me? Although swearing I wouldn’t vote, of course I did end up casting my ballot. Hypocritical of me, I know. But, I did vote for Zayne. Let’s face it – Roth will win. No doubt. He’s the quintessential bad boy with a heart, and people really go for that. I voted for Zayne because he’s got staying power. He’s been there for Layla since she was little, always protecting her and loving her from afar. They’ve discovered a way for them to be together – like TOGETHER together – and he’s willing to forsake his clan, his family – his very life – for her. That gets my blood racing.

Jen Armentrout is an incredible writer, and that’s evident in Stone Cold Touch. I had many feels while reading it – happy, sad, mad, frustrated… they ran the gamut. I will still read anything this woman writes. And, this world is amazing. Maybe we can get a spin-off for the losing guy?

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