Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Demon Bound by Meljean Brook

Title: Demon Bound
Author: Meljean Brook

Type: Paranormal Romance
Published: 2008

Why: I read and loved Demon Angel.

Have to say this first: I remember when I first read Tiger Eye from Marjorie M. Liu. I was...astounded. Masterfully drawn to non-human characters of alternate worlds through an arrangement of words as beautiful as the imagery they projected. It was a turning point in my reading history, swinging wide the door to paranormal romance while, at the same time, narrowing my tolerance for weak writing. Liu showed me how good it could be.

Then, of course, no one else ever measured up. Not to Liu anyway.

Until Meljean Brook. (And yes, because I came late to Brook's books, I know that you already know this. You've been telling me and telling me and believe me, I've already kicked my own ass for waiting so long to read her books.)

Thoughts on Demon Bound: The dynamics of Brook's world remain complex--in a challenging and stimulating way--and I found myself still trying to assimilate it all. Given that Brook's world defies...well everything, I don't know that I ever will. And that's part of the charm, isn't it? Seriously:

1. There is no repetition--IOW, Brooks does not necessarily pit the same forces against one another book after book. Nor does she take us to the same places.

2. There are no stereotypes--not even of her own making. Take Michael, for example. Just when I have his position or his role--one of benevelence in my mind--figured out, Brook more than casts doubt on his true nature. In Demon Bound, she completely up-ends it, revealing his origins in nothing less than a matter-of-fact tone. A tone that says "deal with it," accept his fate, whatever it may be. And what of the angel held in the grip of a demon's bargain? We are not assured--in either case--of the characters' inherent goodness. Caged by circumstances and born of sometimes horrific conflict, these characters are as unpredictable as they would be had they breath or blood.

3. There is no balance--not between good and evil and not even within the factions of either force. In Demon Bound, Caelum remains practically deserted. Civil war continues to rage in hell. And there are other species--more than I can keep track of--straddling the good versus evil line on earth. And everyone operates under a different set of rules--some breakable and some not. Clearly, Brook started this series exactly as she meant to go on--with an impossible love affair--between the highest of good, an angel, and the lowest of bad, a demon. Put simply, it's all mixed up.

In my review of Demon Angel, I said that Brook's world did not feel like it was entirely of her own making. And that's exactly it. First, there is enough in here to evoke our own, personal understanding of heaven and hell--places not of Brook's creation. And second, her own rendering lacks clear definition or boundaries. She won't even establish one supreme, "right" force. Yes, the Guardians--hence the series' title--but, through Brooks' eyes, even they're not exactly invincible. Or always right for that matter. In this, Brooks is like no other. Period. Even Liu doesn't compare.

The worlds of Liu captivate, but they are too fantastic to penetrate. Liu engages the senses, absolutely, but the reader remains in her seat, watching. Mesmerized even, but still, simply watching. Brooks has created a world almost "real" in concept, one in which she refuses to assert control. The result is a feeling or idea that we, the reader, could be pulled into that world and then tossed about at the mercy of an unknown and unchangeable fate. Powerful and not just a little bit scary.

In both Liu and Brook's worlds, the reader can never be truly, comfortably certain of an HEA. Yeah, we KNOW to expect an HEA, but Liu and Brook are frightenly adept at making us second guess it. Which is particularly troubling here, because again, in both, reader vestment in the characters is almost painfully instant. A product of the forces (read conflict) at work in their respective worlds.

In the case of Brook, it makes for some amazing characterization. Let's take the matter of complexity first. We learn (and I do mean learn) of this world through Brook's characters. No glossary, no info dump. Best to pay attention to every single word, every single action her characters take. Puts a new spin on getting to know her peeps, eh? You literally can't take your eyes off them for a second or you'll miss something critical. And, keeping the "real" and the "real scary" of her world in mind, we can't AFFORD to miss something critical.

Second, there is the wild assortment of powers or gifts. Interesting in their own right, but also key to defining character. Alice for instance, jiminy. Able to sense spiders, communicate with them, spin her own web of indestructible thread, and so on. Her spinster persona. All of it. I think she even walks like a spider--can't tell you how much time I spent trying to ENVISION that. Like Jake, I couldn't initially figure her out and frankly, wasn't even sure I wanted to.

Totally creeped out by it, just like Jake, whose own gift--that of teleporting--provided more than just insight into his own character. It provided the book's fall-out-of-your-chair humor. Literally. That image of him tipping over backwards in his chair, instantly vanishing off to God knows where, all because Alice creeped him out, was nothing short of hilarious. His latent adolescence; her creep factor. Engaging and endearing. But underscored by the seriousness of Alice's bargain and threatened by the shear brutality of their fight to survive.

Finally, there is Brook's cast of regulars. It's a cast that includes Lucifer. What more can I say on this? His presence alone...yeah.

Going forward (and for me, backwards to catch up with the series), I've no idea how it will all play out. No idea how it CAN all play out. Hers is such a complex world. With a life of its own. And me, completely in its grip.


  1. Excellent review, Jennifer! I completely agree. It's the complexities of the world that make it so vibrant, I think, because you never know what to expect around the next corner.

    Also, I wonder if you'd be willing to help me? I'm trying to put together 5-10 group discussion questions for Demon Angel. My book club is discussing it this month and I need to have something prepared ahead of time (we're meeting tomorrow).

    Would you be willing to help me think up some good discussion questions? (er..well, think them up for me, I guess)

  2. I struggled to get through Tiger Eye, but I loved Demon Angel. This post is a great summary of what I love most about the series. I love that each book has a different feel and flavour.

  3. Ok - Just to clarify--cuz I'm sure to have a slacker reputation everywhere online--I DID get with Holly on those questions, LOL! We just took care of that offline. :)

    And Hi Kat! Just added your site to my reader and can't believe I've been missing your posts all this time--great, great site! Reviews, updates on contests, issues, etc. All of it - excellent! Thanks for stopping here. :)


Have you read it? What do you think?

Related Posts with Thumbnails