Title: Demon Moon
Author: Meljean Brook
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Stand alone or series: Technically book 4 in the Guardians series, although it is the second full-length novel. It can be read as a stand alone novel (or in my case, after reading Demon Angel, the first full length novel in the series).
Why did I read this book: I read and really liked Demon Angel–plus, Meljean is awesome. I have vowed to catch up with her books by the time Demon Bound is released next month.
Summary: (from MeljeanBrook.com)
Savi Murray’s insatiable curiosity had gotten her into trouble before, but she’d always escaped unscathed. Then came Colin. In the midst of Heaven, he gave her a taste of ecstasy—and of Chaos. Deadly creatures from that realm herald the return of an imprisoned nosferatu horde, and Colin and Savi’s bond is their only protection—and their only passion…
First, I gotta lay all cards on the table: I think the world of Meljean Brook (she is freaking cool), and I really enjoyed her first novel, Demon Angel. I felt that the world building was superb and that the characters were made of awesome (especially Lilith). So, it goes without saying that I was excited to read more of the Guardians universe. Encouraged by emphatic praise from Ana and the unanimously stellar reviews across blogland, I started Demon Moon with high expectations. This is a tough review to write–I struggled with Demon Moon, alternately feeling confused and lost, and then in the next breath feeling completely immersed in the story. This second novel was a mixed bag for me…Ultimately, I liked Demon Moon, but not nearly so much as its predecessor.
Savitri Murray is a very, very smart woman. Too smart for her own good, perhaps. A technology maven and video game entrepreneur with a photographic memory, Savi has tried multiple professions (ID forger, med student, engineer, etc) and flitted from one to the next in boredom. Savi’s formidable intellectual prowess and her light-hearted, fickle nature mask her darker mettle and her past. The sole survivor of a violent attack against her immediate family, Savi was saved by Hugh Castleford (hero from Demon Angel) in the nick of time. Left with her Grandmother (Nani) as the only other person in her world, Savi becomes adopted as Hugh’s surrogate-sister, complicating both Savi’s and her Nani’s lives. During the events of Demon Angel, Savi has learned the truth of the world–of Hell, Chaos and Caelum, and how Guardians, demons, and all the other creatures in between walk the earth–and she has faced them firsthand. So, when she and Nani are flying on a commercial plane back to San Francisco after a trip to Bombay, Savi immediately recognizes the nosferatu on board. Desperate for help, Savi tries to contact Hugh and Lilith, but when she cannot reach them, she turns to the other man who can help her: Colin.
Colin Ames-Beaumont is a very old, very beautiful vampire. For centuries Colin has been a victim of his blood. Unlike other vampires, Colin cannot take a vampire partner for his blood has been tainted by the Doyen’s sword, and has anchored his blood to the realm of Chaos. Anyone who drinks from Colin is forced to experience the madness and terror of the realm–just as Colin is damned to see Chaos any time he looks in the mirror. It is because of this anchor to Chaos that in Demon Angel, both Colin and Savi were teleported to Caelum, to keep them safe (and keep Colin’s anchor secret) from the clash between Lilith, Hugh, the Guardians, and Lucifer. And, during their stay in Caelum, something has passed between the two. So when Colin, preoccupied with diverting requests for him to assume leadership responsibility for the vampiric community in San Francisco (left in shambles after the events of book 1), receives the urgent message from Savi about a nosferatu being on her plane, Colin is beside himself with worry and fear. There is something about Savi that Colin cannot resist–the memory of their time together in Caelum, her unique scent and taste, it makes Colin feel things for Savi that the self-absorbed beautiful vampire should not feel.
Savi single-handedly manages to stop the nosferatu from destroying the plane, but in the process becomes tainted by nosferatu blood and hell hound venom–something that will have serious complications in the future. Following the attack, Savi is recruited by Lilith and Hugh to work for the Special Investigations (SI) unit of the Department of Homeland Security–and both Savi and Colin find themselves thrown together even closer than before. Inexplicably drawn to each other, Colin and Savi try to maintain a friendship (*snorts*) for a relationship between the two is doomed from the start. Because of Savi’s tainted blood, transforming her to become a vampire is too risky–and because of Colin’s tainted blood the point is moot anyhow since anyone would go mad from drinking from him. And, with Savi as a human, Colin cannot monogamously drink from her forever as it will leave her weak and could kill her. Colin would then have to turn to other humans to drink from, and with drinking comes sex…and this is something that Savi will not be able to tolerate. They agree to a month together, but breaking it off as soon as the month is up.
Meanwhile, they also have their hands full as someone has been tangling with the leaderless vampires, enlisting nosferatu and loosing wyrmwolves–denizens of Chaos–on earth, with attacks geared towards both Colin and Savi.
Demon Moon, at nearly 500 pages long, is an ambitious undertaking. As with Demon Angel, Meljean’s characters are the strength of this novel. Both Savi and Colin are very different from Lilith and Hugh–while there was a certain epic flair to the Lilith and Hugh’s relationship, Savi and Colin instead have a muted, less dramatic but still very tortured relationship. Both characters are painted boldly–Savi as a young woman craving knowledge and yet intent on separating her feelings and memories as items to be classified and locked up tight, never to be seen again; and Colin who uses his vanity, charm and beautiful looks to simultaneously seduce and push everyone away. Both share the same superficial coating, the same ability to lie to themselves, the same aching loneliness; and yet deep down they both yearn for more, and recognize it in each other. This certainly read as much more of a traditional romance novel than Demon Angel did, and leaned more heavily on the attraction between these two characters than its predecessor.
While I admire the different direction taken with this novel and am awed by the emotional depth to the characters, I felt that there was something missing in terms of world building and the plot direction, and the writing style in particular. One thing that I loved about the prior novel was the intricacies of bargaining, the importance of human free will and the restrictions placed on any creatures, demon or Guardian, that would try to interfere with those decisions. In Demon Moon, these themes are perhaps inapplicable since the focus is on vampires and Chaos…and yet I was disappointed that something which seemed so vital to the earlier book was not examined in this second novel. I also loved the grand scale of the universe building from Demon Angel, with Hell, Chaos and Caelum intricately defined and the lore surrounding the creation of this world. Yet, in Demon Moon, even though we get to “see” both Caelum and Chaos, the world building feels pale in comparison to the undertakings of the first book. While the physical descriptions in this novel are beautifully written (the image of impossible staircases and tessellating circles are wonderful), these images of Caelum and Chaos feel almost detached from the overall story. In terms of continuity and plot, I also felt that Demon Moon could have been better developed. The non-romance conflict revolves around the mysterious ‘leak’ in Chaos, resulting in creatures being released from their realm to earth, and someone trying to take control of the leaderless vampires. The mystery isn’t bad at all, it’s just barely addressed and too easily resolved for my tastes. Of course, the real story here is the focus on the romance between Savi and Colin, so I suppose it is understandable that less time is devoted to the overall world and plot conflict–but again, I feel like I was spoiled by Demon Angel and wanted much more.
Perhaps the hardest thing for me to come to terms with in this novel was the writing style. This is something I had noticed toward the end of Demon Angel, and to some extent in the novella Thicker Than Blood, but to a much lesser degree. While I was riveted by the first three chapters of Demon Moon, shortly after the nosferatu attack I found myself confused and constantly having to reread passages. For 100 pages or so, I kept backtracking to check if I had skipped over a paragraph inadvertently, or to make sure that my pages weren’t accidentally stuck together. For example, shortly after the first wyrmwolf battle, Colin lifts a woozy, feverish Savi:
“They have five seconds,” he said softly.
Who? Before what? She couldn’t make the effort to form the questions. Jet lag? A strange time for it when she was flying, flying.
Colin’s arms tightened around her, and he shuddered. “Castleford. Michael.” His voice was flat. “And as usual, you’ve arrived to bloody late.”
Five seconds before what, indeed? We never find out. The next chapter jumps to Savi…somewhere else, and apparently she has been hiding out for the past weeks (months?). Pages later we learn what happened after the club, but I still can’t shake the confusion. I’m not sure if this can’t just be boiled down to stylistic preferences. Ana and I have discussed this at length, and while Ana is a fan of this sort of impressionistic style of writing, I am not. Considering that the majority of reviews I’ve read online don’t seem to have this problem, I suspect that (in the astute words of one amazon reviewer) my brain is wired differently. You know, a one person sees a vase, the other person sees two people kissing type of deal (Meljean’s recent Batman left brain v. right brain post comes to mind as well).
The other issue I had with the writing was the length of the novel, in particular the length of the dialogues between characters. Every character in the book is incredibly witty and they quip at each other for pages on end. In small doses, I loved the conversations between Savi and Colin and the verbal and mental sparring wars that would occur between these two–but after so many similar dialogues and the many lengthy character conversations, it became tedious and some of the plot points felt forced through the dialogue. As I was telling Ana, I think Demon Moon is a solid book, but with some cleaning and paring down, it could have been really good (for me, of course this is completely subjective).
And yet, for all the problems I may have had with cumbersome dialogue or stunted plot, there were those flashes of brilliance that kept me reading on–and that have kept me hungry for more in this series.
Notable Quotes/Parts: I think this section captures Savi’s character, her yearnings for immortality beautifully:
“I want to see what happens,” she said finally, and though her eyes remained dry, tears hoarsened her voice. “When I think of all you’ve seen and experienced in two centuries–and Hugh and Lilith, what they’ve seen…” Her hands fisted. “And I expect that if the demon doesn’t manage to kill us this month, the next fifty years are going to be pretty freaking amazing. People are coming up with stuff all the time, changing all the time. But I want more than that. I want a hundred, five hundred, a thousand. Ten thousand. Can you imagine? I just want to see it.” Her words slowly dropped to a whisper. “I would’ve eventually asked Lucas or Fia or someone to turn me…but then I took that flight.”
Additional Thoughts: Occasionally, a book cover comes along and completely captures the essence of a book. But then, there are those covers that leave me scratching my head and wondering “huh?” Demon Moon falls into this later category. For one thing, Savi is Indian and with close cropped Halle Berry style hair…she certainly isn’t a Caucasian woman with long flowing Lilith tresses. (Although, I should mention that Colin is fair and could be the dude on the cover here.)
Verdict: I liked Demon Moon, but far preferred Demon Angel. While I think this volume had its fair share of problems, the strong characterizations and moments of excellence sprinkled throughout the book are more than enough to keep me as a fan of the series. I will be back for more.
I should also mention that the facets of the book that I had problems with were things that Ana loved–I honestly think this comes down to different tastes. For a different perspective, here’s a link to Ana’s review: in which she gives Demon Moon a perfect 10.
Rating: 6 Good
Reading Next: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon