Funmbi and Katie review J.M. Darhower’s Extinguish series. With solid characterization, an amazingly unique plot, and steamy scenes, Extinguish and Reignite are MUSTBUY and MUSTREAD.
[Major Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
Funmbi’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you’ve read We So Nerdy’s list of favorite things, you know J.M. Darhower’s catalog of books are among my very FAVE. Earlier this year, I read (or re-read) all of J.M.’s novels, and while they’re all compelling, the Extinguish/Reignite novellas are unparalleled in their ingenuity. This series takes familiar stories of heaven and hell, angels and demons, good and evil, and totally flips them on their head. I devoured Extinguish/Reignite over and over again, mostly because I wasn’t ready to let go of the beautiful, poignant world J.M. created.
As the holiday season descends, when we’re more sensitive to spirituality and the otherworldly, these novellas are wonderful stories of love, healing, and forgiveness.
In Extinguish we meet Serah, a Power (warrior angel) spends her time protecting children from evil spirits. She finds joy sitting on a swing-set in a Chorizon, Pennsylvania elementary school, watching young kids play and caring for them and their families when needed. But on this day, Serah’s world is turned upside down. She learns that her twin brother Samuel has fallen from grace, and before she even has time to mourn him, Serah learns that she has a new assignment. She is to journey to the gates of hell and demand a ceasefire in the millennia-old war between good and evil. This puts Serah in direct contact with Lucifer (or Luce as he prefers).
Luce is angry, resentful of God and his brother Michael, and determined to find his way out of hell. Over time (days, weeks, months, years…), Serah and Luce get to know one another. She’s able to grieve the loss of her brother and ask questions, and he gets a pseudo-friend/confidant. They play War (the card game), explore new dimensions, and engage in passionate debates about right and wrong. Luce and Serah both realize that nothing is ever black and white…
Yet, in the midst of this, the real war intensifies. Earth is steadily collapsing, humans are falling prey to disease, and evil is rising.
But things truly fall apart when Serah, seduced by Luce, gives herself to him. Luce is able to use her grace to free himself from hell, triggering the apocalypse. (YIKES!)
Luce now freely walks the Earth, and Serah pays the price with her life. But was it worth it now that he’s lost the woman he loved?
Reignite picks up with the world in chaos and the war between good and evil escalating to a new level. But Luce isn’t as invested as he was before. He spends most of his time with Serah, who is now a mortal with no memory of her life as an angel. However, even the most mundane things take on a supernatural quality when these two are together, like breakfast at a diner, mowing the lawn, and babysitting. Luce and Serah’s relationship continues to deepen physically and emotionally, but he’s clearly keeping a big secret and she knows it.
Interestingly, Luce also spends more and more time with his Father, though Luce doesn’t have much choice in the matter. (In fact, this leads to some pretty awkward and oddly endearing situations!). In the course of Reignite, we learn about Lucifer when he was God’s right hand-Arch Angel during the creation of the Earth and humanity…and the resentment that emerges when Luce realizes that humans have something he doesn’t—free will.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, over thousands of years, it seems God Himself has left an opening for even Luce’s own redemption.
Reading Extinguish/Reignite reminded me of a conversation I had with my Mother when I was a kid. I asked her if she thought God could ever forgive the Devil, and she responded by saying something like “Don’t you know God is love? If Satan sincerely asked for forgiveness, God would give it.”
Now, Luce (who would probably dropkick Mom for calling him Satan) doesn’t precisely ask God for forgiveness, but we do learn that God ends up giving Luce exactly what he’s asked for.
This story is beyond brilliant. Throughout the novellas, J.M. drops nuggets of wisdom that resonate so deeply with the soul:
Heaven’s an idea…You could call it an illusion, pure imagination, but it’s deeper than that. It’s a magnificent dream on an everlasting loop….Heaven’s what you make it, whatever you want it to be. A lifetime of obedience earns you an eternity of freedom.
Isn’t that just gorgeous…and hopeful???
I particularly love the idea that angels can also fall in love, question their faith, quarrel, envy, and yearn, just as humans do. Serah’s journey really embodies this as we watch her try to figure out her purpose. While I love Serah’s innate goodness and integrity, her vulnerability (especially as she’s falling in love with Luce) makes her even more relatable.
But for me, the shining star of Extinguish/Reignite (pun intended 😉 ) is Luce. In what world can I say that I fell in love with Lucifer? Well, J.M. created that world! Luce is foul-mouthed, mercurial, devious, and furious. He’s also hilarious, charming, and so very sensitive. It’s really no surprise that these two fall in love:
“You two are so entwined it’s difficult to distinguish where you end and she begins. her future was never set because you hadn’t decided yours. I gave you what you wanted, Lucifer. I allowed you free will. Every choice you made altered what happened to her.”
Make no mistake though, this is a paranormal romance story too, so we definitely get to experience the deeply erotic and romantic love that emerges between Luce and Serah:
She remained still, reeling as he gently kissed her, his tongue swiping across her bottom lip. She let out a shuddering breath, his tongue exploring her mouth the second it opened, softly caressing hers. Something jolted inside of her at that moment, something astonishing, something brand-new. She brought a shaky hand up and ran it through his dark hair. Every part of her touching him prickled, pins and needles under her skin, like it was waking up for the first time.
He kissed her neck, nipping at her skin as he nudged her legs apart. With no hesitation, no trepidation, he slid inside her, the two of them coming together sinuously like they’d always belonged that way…They’d lost themselves in abandon last time, drowning in the shallow waters of lust, while they floated in something much, much deeper now. Forbidden love.
*SIGH* Forbidden love is always the most delicious, no?
Despite ongoing war, the rise of a new Satan, and an extended separation (extended in the human sense), Luce and Serah eventually get the opportunity to spend eternity together in their shared heaven, and the HEA is perfect.
I recommend Extinguish and Reignite to fans of paranormal romance and those looking for something unique and really lovely too.
Katie’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Serah is a Power, a warrior angel meant to protect innocence from evil. She watches over the children (and some adults) of the world and loves their pureness and wonder. She spends most of her time at a playground in a tiny town of Chorizon. One day, Serah’s existence shifts dramatically when her brother, Samuel, falls. She’s overwhelmed by his loss, and within moments of finding out, she’s given her new assignment.
Go to Hell and convince Lucifer to stop the war that’s been waging for thousands of years. She has no idea why her Father thinks she’s the one for the job, but she can’t say no.
Lucifer has been locked away from nearly six thousand years. He manages Hell and all those bound within. Occasionally, a demon will break through to the surface, but never him. His brother, Michael, made sure of that when he carved the sigils into his chest that keep him locked in place. Over the years, he’s had a few visitors that God has sent his way, trying to talk him out of continuing his war.
Never one like Serah, though, who smells like sunshine and flowers and actually passes through the gate and into his world.
What follows after will change everything. As Luce and Serah become more familiar with each other, Serah begins to feel more human, and Luce realizes what it will take for him to get out of this prison and reign over Earth.
When Lucifer’s decisions destroys Serah and takes her Grace, he’ll have to deal with fallout he never expected. Is ruling the world worth losing the only woman he’s ever loved?
Reignite opens right where Extinguish ends.
Lucifer has been unleashed upon the world and with the Grace he took from Serah he can’t be stopped. Lucifer is an Arch Angel, after all, nothing can kill him but another Arch Angel.
After the tragic events of the ending of Extinguish, Serah’s been left mortal and without her memory in Chorizon. Serah is haunted by dreams of a man dressed in black. Little tingles of memory when she’s awake and feelings of connection to people she doesn’t really know. Serah can’t help but want to be close to the man and when she’s given the chance, she chooses him.
Luce can’t stay away from Serah and finds himself returning to where she’s at, watching her as she goes about her human life, wishing she’d see him. Then wondering why the hell she can and how he’s supposed to leave her alone now.
All the while, an angel that used to be his right hand is plotting the next great angel revolution. He needs Luce’s face to back the plan, though, but Luce declines.
Maybe Luce really isn’t Satan after all…
I love this series and its characters so much!
At first, Serah sees everything in black and white, but then she gets to know the real Lucifer; he’s cocky and dirty, more than a little sinful. Under all that, she figures out who Luce is and how his desires and reasons for fighting weren’t exactly wrong. I love Serah’s growth because it happens subtly.
“It means the world isn’t black and white,” she replied. “Sometimes, it’s gray, and sometimes that gray explodes into colors you never knew existed before.”
Serah’s fall is definitely at the fault of her lust, and Luce manipulates the situation for his own gain. Surprisingly, it’s these moments and afterward that make his character redeemable.
Terror ran through her, seizing her now-beating heart as she frantically shook her head, not wanting to believe it. Lucifer just stared at her, not an ounce of surprise in his expression. He’d known it would happen.
It had been his plan all along.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, the blue fading back to darkness. “So fucking sorry.”
Watching Serah fall is the worst thing that’s ever happened to him. Seeing Michael carve the same sigils in her chest that were marked on him, crimple him. In an act of extreme selflessness, Luce completes her fall and makes her mortal and saving her from Hell.
Throughout the second book, we see Serah find a place for herself in the human world and as Luce tries to decide where he fits. They’re both at an odd impasse, not sure where they belong but knowing they feel better when they’re together. They see each other, they speak, and they carry on a relationship even when she’s not sure what their connection is, only that it’s there.
“You feel it don’t you?” he asked, his voice gritty, barely a whisper. “You still feel it.”
During all this, Luce is traveling between his demon followers hide out and Hell. Occasionally, he’ll get beamed up to Heave to see his Father, but for the most part, God allows Luce and Serah to create their own paths.
He gives Luce the free will he’s always wanted.
“That’s the thing about free will,” He continued, once more reading Luce’s thoughts. “Decisions have consequences. They don’t just impact you, but everyone around you also. Every choice you made somehow altered what happened to her.”
It’s because of Luce’s loss he comes to the realization that he doesn’t want to fight anymore. He doesn’t want to lead a revolt of angels to control the world. He doesn’t want to offer his face as the spokesperson for a new war led by a long lost friend.
His character has done a complete one-eighty since the first page, and Serah who never questioned anything is finally living a life full of experiences she never had the chance to do.
The ending of the story had me in tears because I’d been waiting for their reunion in this way since the start of Reignite.
“When I opened my eyes, I didn’t want to be here, because I didn’t think you’d be here. I thought you’d be down there again, back in the pit, and I’d take an eternity in your Hell before I took a single second in my Heaven without you.”
From the strong characterizations to the well-written plot, these two books are complete winners. J.M. Darhower’s descriptions of Heaven and Hell and the sweeping nature of both is incredible.
Do yourself a huge favor and ask for her books for Christmas. You’ll never regret it.