Orbit Hardback 384 pages – ISBN-10: 1841496952 – £12.99
Personal Demon is the 8th book in Kelley Armstrong’s continually expanding “Women of the Otherworld” series of Fantastical Ferocious Faux-Feminist Female Fighting Fictions. The first book, Bitten, concerned the exploits of a female werewolf coming to terms with her identity but Armstrong soon broadened the remit to include other supernatural creatures, creating a parallel world of the fantastical who walk among the ordinary. You don’t have to have read all of the previous books, but it probably helps to have encountered some, as recurring characters do tend to pop up at some point in the narrative. This allows familiarity for the regular reader, but the standalone nature of proceedings makes it fine for the casual “dipper in”. In Armstrong’s world the supernaturals generally stick together and try not to let humans know anything about their existence. There are werewolves, who live in packs, witches who lead a supernatural council and sorcerer cabals which are run like corporations, except most corporations don’t kill their employees for minor misdemeanours. Allegedly.
Our first protagonist is Hope Adams, an Expisco half-demon, which basically means she thrives on the chaotic thoughts of others. Our second protagonist, Lucas Cortez, is the lawyer son of cabal leader Benicio Cortez but, wouldn’t you know it, he’s a nice lawyer and doesn’t like cabals at all. Ironic then, that his father has named Lucas as his heir – he’ll inherit the whole caboodle when Benicio shuffles off his mortal coil. Now, Hope owes Benicio a favour and this involves partying with a bunch of young supernaturals who rob rich non-supernaturals of some of their wealth. The gang are just having kicks and are signposted to become prime corporate material when they eventually grow up and get proper jobs and Benicio wants Hope to keep tabs on them. When some of these kids get kidnapped Hope suspects cabal foul play, but when a serious attack is launched on Benicio and two of his sons, the lines of loyalty become very blurred indeed.
Armstrong’s formula has been clearly established in the way that she sets up both character and situation, leaving plenty of room for flirtation and foreshadowing of her readers’ expectations. This time the story is necessarily told from both Hope’s and Lucas’s perspectives and always first person, allowing the tale to ping-pong between the pair. Armstrong is content to get on with the adventure at hand, removing the unnecessary detail to fashion that instantly dates many examples of this increasingly popular sub-sub-genre. There are, naturally, a number of sex scenes that range from the teasing to the ridiculous – as in the flashback where she and a lover have sex as she cooks a morning fry-up!
Personal Demon is pretty much what you’d expect it to be – an adventure mystery which ain’t great literature, but is an undemanding and entertaining read.