Title: Stained (#1)
Author: Ella James
Published: September 14, 2011
Series: yes (second installment 'Stolen' published April 4, 2012)
Goodreads Summary: After a fire destroys seventeen-year-old Julia’s home and kills her foster parents, she chases the half-demon responsible across the country and back, determined to avenge her family and discover why a host of celestial baddies want her dead. With Julia is enigmatic hottie - Cayne, who has his own score to settle with the half-demon, and who might be just as dangerous as the creature he and Julia hunt.
I'm just going to get right into it. 'Stained' started off with Julia coming home to see her home on fire and she flees, refusing to be placed under another foster care.
Julia finds and sleeps in an old warehouse, under a tarp. She's all alone, with nothing left. It's made pretty clear from the start Suzanne and Harry, her last foster parents, were loving and caring and Julia considered them her parents. But what instantly could not be ignored by me was that Julia wasn't, in any noticeable way, upset or whatever it is that you are when you've witnessed your family burn to death. She didn't cry or hurt. It was all incredibly odd and unrealistic.
And it all just got to me more when Cayne (quite literally) dropped into Julia's life, through the roof of the warehouse, fighting a winged monster.
Julia, apparently perfectly fine from everything that's happened, runs after him and demands that he can't leave her and that he needs to answer her questions.
When Cayne looked at her after having ignored her nagging, she went, "Ah, he's not catatonic!" and "Dang, you walk fast" - there was a little wit and a little sarcasm thrown in here and there from the girl who lost everything three days prior, the girl who (let's face it) should've been curled up in a corner shaking and crying, traumatized. It just irked me, I couldn't help it.
One minute Cayne is trying to get away and the next he gets an idea and they've agreed to team up and take Samyaza down (the demon that intended to kill Julia and whom stole something from Cayne), this arrangement was settled in the span of fifteen minutes or so it seemed. It was very sudden.
This is where the plot started to launch into action and soon Julia and Cayne finds themselves on a cross-country trip, tracking Samyaza. The story is fast-paced and there's a lot of good action - fighting, shooting, stabbing, and frankly a lot of blood.
There were a few encounters that were bewildering and unclear. I didn't understand why Samyaza would choose to fly away when he could've done more in attempt to kill Cayne or Julia, and it was never clear to me why the Stained ones were being hunted which I'm sure will be explored more in the later installments.
At first I experienced James's writing to be a bit bumpy and curt but I eventually found that I liked her nicely descriptive style.
'Stained' is dialogue-driven and I did feel I'd wanted more of an emotional, personal depth to the characters. I didn't particularly connect with Cayne or Julia. I didn't feel like I knew them, who they were, or what they were really feeling.
Both of them had some split-personalities going on. Julia begged and pleaded to know Cayne's memories and out of nowhere, practically in the same sentence, told him it was okay if he didn't tell her. Cayne had stood his ground on not telling her and suddenly decided she should know. They were making all kinds of one-eighties.
Another one of Julia's cases which almost had me laugh:
Julia: ".. why don't you just call André?" (so that she could go with him instead.)
A moment later. Cayne: "I called André.."
Julia: "But why?!" Hm..
Something would occur and when the next chapter came around it'd be unclear if the previous scene had really happened or how much time had passed since.
I hadn't expected the ending at all, only because it was such an out-of-the-blue end to a short book. Unfortunately the cliffhanger did not get to me. I failed to be intrigued by what was to come and I just hadn't been engrossed enough in 'Stained' to feel compelled to purchase the second installment. All-in-all it was a decent, okay read for me.