am 2. November 2013
Following the events in “Oaths of Blood” Elise is still in Hell. Together with half-succubus Neuma and nightmare Jerica, friend of Neuma, she hatches plans to conquer the home place of the demon she killed back on Earth, the House of Abraxas. Elise plans to use it as a base from which to conquer the Palace of Dis, thereby to put an end to the war that began with what now is called the Breaking.
The Breaking, a failed attempt by James Faulkner to open yet another gate to Eden broke down the dimensional barriers between Hell and Earth, opening a fissure first contained to Las Vegas, now spreading rapidly all over the North Americas. Leaving those lucky enough not to have been dragged to Hell or fallen under the claws of invading demons to flee the country for safe zones in Europe, Russia and China.
James is now headed for Ireland on board of a hospital ship, escorting the young witch Brianna which has fallen into a coma after a magical backlash received by the death of her bound kopis, Seth Wilder.
The wolves are back at the sanctuary in Northgate, mourning the loss of their former lover, uncle and adopted pack member. Abel, Rylie’s mate, wounded by the loss of his brother, tormented by secrets kept by his mate surrounding the circumstances of his death, has estranged himself from his mate and the pack. Rylie fights with her feelings of guilt over Seth’s death, feeling the burden of being Alpha lasting heavier on her than ever before.
Meanwhile Elise has to discover that taking the House of Abraxas did not bring her any closer to fulfil her plan. Instead of the hoped beginnings of an army of her own she finds herself in possession of hundreds of human slaves, far too broken and scared to even attempt to leave the cages they are kept in, and a house full of mindless minion-demons too scared of her to move either. On-top she has to discover that her return to Dis has not gone unnoticed, someone is leaving behind corpses as love letters for her.
But time is running out for Elise, because the Palace is far ahead in their building of a bridge that will connect the realms, finally allowing for easy access to and full scale invasion of Earth.
“Ruled by Steel” is through and through a story for Elise, fans of Rylie and the pack (read: Me) will find themselves a bit disappointed at the little screen time (or is that page time?) they get.
Fans of Neuma and of Summer’s lover Nash on the other hand can rejoice in seeing them step out of the sidelines. “Ruled by Steel” focuses much on Elise’s efforts to take control in Dis and keep the war from escalating, while Nash fights on Earth to keep it contained much as possible. Creating much playground for Elises’s ally Neuma and angel Nashriel, the two of them as of yet having only appeared as side characters in Ascension. I dare say it will be interesting to see whom author SM Reine will grant second star billing in the next chapter of the Ascension.
One of the more chilling aspect of this novel is, as so often is the case with stories depicting Hell, not the glimpses we get of eternal damnation as the look at the hell we are bound to create for ourselves in our life.
Unfortunately Rylie is going through more hard times. She has still not found back to her former self confidence and is again making decisions that I’m sure will come back to bite her.
I like the path the author is taking Elise on there, letting her grow gradually more human, letting more people, demon, werewolves – even angels get close to her. I’m not so sure if I like the path she’s taking Rylie down at the same time, one that leaves you worrying how much more that girl can take before she breaks under the burden of secrets she decides to keep to herself. It seems that in the same amount that Elise opens up, Rylie is bound to close herself down and one can only hope for her that she will make it through these trials coming out the stronger for it.
With some good old rallying the forces storyline, a bit of a mystery thrown in, but also a fair amount of character time “Ruled by Steel” presents itself as a good mix between the first two parts. It provides an entertaining read that never slows down, except for the closing chapter that feels like an extended epilogue, allowing the pack to reconcile with its loss and in the by now usual tradition closes on a line that leaves you back at a precipice, struggling to hold on, eagerly awaiting the next instalment.