Note: this is the latest in a continuing series. Go here for my thoughts on the series thus far.
Another note: Arachnophobes, beware….
Like most of Meljean Brook’s fans, I’ve been waiting all summer for Demon Bound, to find out more about the mysterious Alice and “youngster” Guardian Jake. It must be a little nerve-wracking for popular authors, to live up to the expectations of their (possibly rabid) fans… but Ms. Brook should rest easy, because Demon Bound will satisfy the most demanding fan.
Brook creates the most unusual heroines. Really. I didn’t think she could top Lillith, a two-thousand year old demon, for pure out-there-ness, but Alice comes awfully close. She’s creepy, cold, aloof, and on a mission to kill one of the series’ most beloved characters. She has an extremely creepy affinity for spiders. If that scene in the second Harry Potter movie freaks you out, well. Prepare to be freaked out again. Did I mention that she’s creepy? She’s creepy, that’s definitely the word. At least, she seems that way at first. Developing this character into a strong but vulnerable, empathetic heroine seems pretty unlikely, and constitutes the best part of Demon Bound.
On second thought, maybe the best part of Demon Bound is Jake. He is awfully good. A youngster in the current pantheon of Guardians, his immaturity at a mere 60 years is something of a theme for his character. Now, you wouldn’t think that “immature” is the best starting point for an alpha hero, but somehow it works. Like all of Brook’s Guardians, Jake has a deep, immutable streak of honor that gives his cheeky, wisecracking, sometimes hesitant personality balance. It’s unrealistic to expect Jake to emerge at the end of the story with the—hmmm, I’m repeating myself—maturity of Ethan or Hugh or Colin, and he doesn’t, but his ebullience and desire to prove himself turn out to be the perfect foil for Alice’s somberness.
Ah, but wait, the best part of the book is the way they outwit the demon Tequon and the bargain that Alice made with him. I absolutely LOVE this kind of intricate puzzle with the AHA, I-love-it-when-a-plan-comes-together ending. (Those of you who only know of Paul Newman* from the salad dressing need to add The Sting to your Netflix queue.) Seriously, this book has the most deliciously perfect plot twist at the end.
Now, if you thought you knew everything there was to know about the delicate balance of humans, Guardians, demons, and other immortals in Brook’s universe, be prepared for more surprises and more revelations (really, the appearance of the nephilim in Demon Night should’ve taught you that lesson). I myself am ridiculously ignorant of biblical mythology, so after I finished this book I went on a little wikipedia safari and I have to hand it to Brook, her fictional world is beautifully created from—and is consistent with-- threads of existing lore. She’s not done building this world yet; each book brings another layer of intrigue and possibility.
Beyond the romance and intrigue that make up Demon Bound, there is another theme here that elevates it out of the category of fluff (not that there’s anything wrong with fluff): both Jake and Alice are able to achieve their Happily Ever After only by facing and overcoming their fears. Alice’s personal Sword of Damocles has informed every aspect of her life as a Guardian, and she has spent more than a century trying to figure out a way to avoid her final impossible choice. Only when forced to work through an active solution does she defeat her demons, literal and figurative. Jake, too, works through issues both trivial and profound in order to help Alice while still acting honorably as a Guardian. His subplot of coming to terms with the remaining threads of his former earthly life is tender and moving – although a relatively small part of the story, it may well be the best part.
Brook continues to deliver surprising characters, relationships, paranormal elements, and plot twists – the only thing that won’t surprise you is your total inability to put this book down.
For the series reading order, see my recent post.
*RIP, Paul Newman. For a lovely tribute, see Stacy's latest post. Other than her failure to mention The Sting (heh), her thoughts are very similar to mine. We'll miss you, Paul Newman -- you were one of the good guys.