I'm not sure exactly what prompted me to pick up Eve of Darkness by S.J. Day, the first book of "The Marked" series. Maybe it was the setting, modern-day Los Angeles with the ongoing war between Heaven and Hell being waged by organizations of Angels here on Earth? With both original brothers as main characters in the book? I love this kind of fantasy, so I was definitely there. Thankfully, the book lives up to its plot and setting, even if it wasn't as good a read as I had hoped.
A one-night stand ten years ago with the man who turns out to be the original Cain has marked Evangeline Hollis for life. When Cain's brother, Abel, finishes the deal in the present, Eve's life will never be the same. She is now one of the "Marked": sinners who are working off their sins by ridding the world of the demons and monsters that roam the Earth in disguise. Both brothers are powerfully attracted to her, but each has his own ulterior motive for trying to safeguard Eve through her initiation period, especially when she manages to anger one demon without even realizing what she’s done. Without Cain's guiding hand as her mentor, she might not even survive the first day. So why does their boss want her out on the frontlines so soon? Will she live to find out?
There are lots of delicious bits in Eve of Darkness, both for those who love reading sex scenes and those who don't (though those who don't may get turned off by the extremely graphic sex scenes). Heaven is one vast bureaucracy, with Archangels running them as fronts for the soldiers are out doing the dirty work. I'm not sure exactly how the hierarchy works, and how Cain became such an independent agent while Abel is still an agent Handler under the North American branch head, but it's extremely interesting. By becoming one of these soldiers, Eve is given superhuman abilities, senses, and powers, like being able to summon an appropriate mystical sword for any occasion.
Eve is a fascinating character, half-Japanese with a father from Alabama (thus giving her a delicious Southern accent). As with most series like this, the main character's family life is a bit chaotic, but that's nothing to what it's going to be with Cain hovering around. Cain feels responsible for what happened to her: Eve was actually God's temptation for him, and he caved in with hardly any resistance. The whole situation is his fault, and he feels very protective of her for that reason. Abel is drawn to her for mostly physical reasons, but also because Cain wants her - and this sibling rivalry has been going on for a LONG time. The only character in the book who doesn't have some kind of ulterior motive, besides Eve's parents, is Eve herself.
Author S.J. Day expertly forms the relationships around Eve, from her warm neighbor to Cain and Abel themselves. The sex is hot, and even when they're not having sex, most of the characters are thinking of it (other than the neighbor). Eve and Cain’s powerful chemistry leaps off the page, and I found their relationship effectively written. We don't see much of Abel's interaction with her except for the lust that they seem to share, but we do see him in other parts of the book (not only sexually but also in how he cares for the Marked he handles, such as when one of them dies). None of Day’s characters rings a false note.
I wish I could say the same for the prose. It's not bad, and for an urban fantasy, it's actually pretty good for the most part. While I cannot find any evidence in Day's bibliography of her writing romance novels, she would certainly be good at it. I don't know how many times Cain is described as being almost irresistible, his jawline attractive, women turning to stare when he walks into the room. Abel gets that a little bit, too, but it's mostly Cain. The sex is hot, but it's not described in the same type of language used in romance novels. It's direct, graphic, and in your face. Day doesn't pull any punches. So maybe she doesn't have the "romance" gene in her, but she's certainly close.
Eve of Darkness has a plot and characters that outpace Day's prose style, but it's a good read regardless if you're interested in that sort of thing. The overly religious may be offended by the set-up, but I don't see any reason to be; it's just another take on the age-old "heaven/hell" war with an interesting twist.
I have a feeling the style won't change in subsequent books. They were released very quickly following this one, indicating they were all written together. Even so, it's well worth a read for those who want an exciting, sexy book with good characters and a plot to match. Oh, and did I mention that it had explicit sex in it? I wouldn't want you to think I hadn't warned you. If you don't mind that, pick this one up today.