Monday, April 5, 2010
In Which Trai Reviews 'Personal Demon'
It's my fiftieth post! Yay! When I started this blog way back in September, I wasn't sure if I was going to stick with it, but I have! :)
I'm continuing with my Kelley Armstrong catchup, though I'm taking a break after Personal Demon, at least until The Reckoning comes out (the third in the Darkest Powers series; it comes out tomorrow, but I won't be getting mine until next week as it will ship with Armstrong's Tales of the Otherworld).
The Book: Personal Demon (book eight in the Women of the Otherworld series)
The Author: Kelley Armstrong
How I Found It: As explained before, big fan of the Otherworld books.
The Review: Okay, so I might've said in my other reviews of Armstrong's work that I'm desperately in need of a refresher course in her world, considering I started the series so long ago. (Well, four years isn't that long, but whatever.) Since I only really read Carrie Vaughn in the last couple years, I kept getting the traits her werewolves and Armstrong's confused. Bit of a barrier. But that's my fault, so no big deal. Anyway, what I meant to say: this book was a really good refresher on the aspect of the Otherworld that most confused me at 14, the Cabals.
This book also marked a return of a narrator I really liked when Armstrong introduced her: Hope Adams, from her novella Chaotic. I remember reading the anthology it appeared in when it was first released, gym class be damned. I really liked Hope as a narrator, even if I wasn't quite sold on Karl Marsten yet. I'll have to reread that novella sometime soon; I barely remember it anymore.
ANYWAY. This review is turning into a ramble. The plot: Hope Adams is an Expisco half-demon, one of the rarest kinds in Armstrong's world. While full-fledged demons have certain powers and an innate hunger for chaos, Hope's got the sucky end of the deal: she only gets the hunger for chaos and the ability to sense it, with no nifty powers to defend herself. Her job writing supernatural stories for a tabloid is convenient for her and fun, and it would be all she needs, until she is approached by a Cabal for help.
This relates directly to the situation in Chaotic, which left Hope and werewolf jewel thief Karl Marsten with a favor to repay to the Cortez Cabal. Hope is by herself, Karl having left her with barely an explanation to go to Europe, and Hope is determined to repay the favor by herself. Benicio Cortez, head of the Cabal, asks Hope to infiltrate a gang of young supernaturals who may be plotting against the Cabal. Hope agrees, but very soon finds herself crossing paths again with Karl, who is none too pleased with Benicio's offer, and may want to rekindle things with Hope.
Hope is the primary narrator, but the secondary narrator is Lucas Cortez, Benicio's son and unwilling heir to the Cabal. Lucas and Paige's investigation into the ever-more-complicated situation arising out of Hope's undercover mission supplements the main story, the first time Armstrong did multiple narrators in one book.
The book was a little slow to start for me, but I have to say that I ended up really enjoying it a whole lot. Even if the 22-year age difference between Hope (28) and Karl (50, though he ages slower since he's a werewolf) was a tad squicky, they made such an appealing couple and I really enjoyed reading their scenes. Karl truly grew on me and I think that's a testament to Armstrong's ability as a writer.
I wasn't sure at first how I liked the switching between narrators-- I knew it was mostly a plot device, to show the Cortez side of the story that we wouldn't see if Hope had been the sole narrator. There were also points where, say, Lucas would take over for three or four chapters and I would start to think the balance was uneven. But in the end, I saw that it was necessary to include Lucas' narration-- this is just as much his story as it was Hope's.
Hope's story is largely about coming into her powers and developing the relationship between her and Karl. Since we already saw Lucas' relationship with Paige develop into love and later marriage, a lingering question for him was the leadership of the Cabal. His father has named him heir, even if he's certain he doesn't want the position.
This book was really integral to the future of the series, I think-- Armstrong took some irrevocable steps towards shaping the series' future that really shocked me. I'm sure she has a direction in mind and I'm really curious to see if that's further explored in Book 9 (I know it probably won't be in Book 10, as the focus is on the Pack), or if it'll be left to Savannah's books. Either way, it was nice to see the plot of the series really advance and to see the characters develop in their own rights.
On the whole, despite my initial misgivings, I really enjoyed the book. It was an engaging mystery with some pretty shocking twists, and I can't wait to see how the whole situation will eventually be resolved. I loved reading about Hope and Karl's growing relationship, and the book was just plain fun, even if it has that pinch of horror to it. I wouldn't recommend this one to new readers of the series-- way too much to be known beforehand, IMO-- but readers of the series should definitely read it, even with the lukewarm reviews to be found elsewhere.