Review | A Touch of Darkness – Scarlett St. Clair

About the Book

A Modern Hades and Persephone Retelling

Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.

After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever.

The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows—and it’s forbidden.

299 pages (kindle)
Published in April, 2020
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I’m going to admit right off the bat, this is not my typical read. This isn’t the kind of book I usually gravitate toward. I’m not big into stories with lots of graphic sex, and you do get that here. Consider this a “sexy” urban fantasy. It’s a huge, wildly popular genre, it’s just not my typical genre.

So, if this isn’t my typical read, why did I read it? 

I’m working on two different books right now which both feature gods alive and well in the world. I’ve been sort of wanting to see how other authors have tackled the idea of gods not just as remote figures, but characters who are very present in a story. One of the books I’m writing is set in a 1920’s-style city, and I really wanted to see how someone would write gods in a modern sense, with modern life around them, and modern problems. I have gotten this in some of the fantasy books I’ve read, but I was more interested in exploring an urban fantasy look at things. Sometimes there is value in stepping out of your typical genre.

I was having a bit of a hard time finding such stories until I ran across this Hades X Persephone series on Kindle Unlimited. The book had a lot of ratings, looked like a lot of devoted fans, and the cover art was gorgeous. I figured, why not. 

I found the worldbuilding aspect of this book to be the most interesting part of it, truthfully. Set in a modern world in a city called New Athens, the world itself was like a reimaging of all things Ancient Greek, but set with modern amenities. The gods exist, and so do humans. There are nightclubs and coffee shops, universities and newspapers, cell phones and the like. I really enjoyed how the author visualized a more modern version of the Ancient Greek world that so many will associate with these gods, and the stories of them. 

There is also the Underworld, which was absolutely fantastic. Like New Athens, the Underworld is given a fresh spin, and Persephone’s job down there, her challenge, as it were, is an interesting one. She sort of has to figure out what she’s supposed to be doing, and the readers figure it out along with her. You’ll meet some figures you may or may not expect to meet, like Hekate (whom I loved). While Persephone’s time down there is mostly relegated to a few specific areas, you do get a sense of the wider landscape, and the things contained in it, as well as Hades role there.

The story kind of fell apart after that. Persephone was a character I couldn’t really relate to at all. She was a pretty terrible reporter, and she had a pesky penchant for assuming the worst about everyone. Her relationship with her mother was probably given a bit more weight than it deserved. I didn’t like how she always seemed to see Hades in the worst possible light.

So, as you can see, Persephone was a character that just missed the mark for me. For whatever reason, the two of us did not get along.

Hades, on the other hand, seemed to fit the role of the brooding alpha male steeped in mystery quite well. The obsession between Hades and Persephone is pretty obvious from the get-go, but the author was quite clever with how she mastered Hades story within the context of everything that happens. He’s a dark figure, and he’s larger than life, a rather tortured soul, but as the reader slowly gets to know him, it becomes obvious that he’s not quite as dark as one would think, and a whole lot about him is misunderstood. I really enjoyed the secondary characters that circulated around him. Some were better crafted than others, but they were all unique spins on the people and creatures I’ve read in mythology and I enjoyed seeing more modern versions of them in this unique world.

There is romance, because of course there is. It’s Hades and Persephone, so what else would you really expect from these two? That being said, I didn’t quite expect the romance to be as graphic as it ended up being. Mind you, I edit erotica on the side, so this wasn’t really a dealbreaker for me. It’s just something to note. You might see this gorgeous cover, and go into the book expecting one thing and exit it having gotten another. 

A Touch of Darkness is the first book in a trilogy, and it’s wildly popular if the ratings on Amazon and Goodreads are any indication. I doubt I will continue with it, but that’s more because of me, and less because the story displeased me in any major way. I loved the fresh take on worldbuilding. I loved the Underworld, and I loved the author’s interpretation of gods being present in the world. Those were all things I read this book to explore, and they were done really well.

The story itself left a bit to be desired, but I think this is less the author’s problem and more the fact this just really isn’t what I gravitate toward when I read. I’m glad I read it, because it did illuminate me in ways I didn’t quite anticipate. I think, for readers of urban fantasy who enjoy heavy, heavy romantic notes, this series should be a must-read. The writing is great, the story is gripping, and the world is really well crafted. 

Sometimes you just need popcorn, and this is the literary form of that. It’s popcorn. You get comfortable, you sit back, and you just devour it. And, let’s be real, there’s value in popcorn. Especially good popcorn. Who doesn’t like really good popcorn?

So.

For a fresh take on Persephone and Hades, A Touch of Darkness might be exactly what you’re looking for.

4/5 stars