Title: Demon Angel
Author: Meljean Brook
Review number: 26
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Stand alone/series: First full novel in the Guardians series.
Summary: For two thousand years, Lilith wrought vengeance upon the evil and the damned, gathering souls for her father’s armies Below and proving her fealty to her Underworld liege. Bound by a bargain with the devil and forbidden to feel pleasure, she draws upon her dark powers and serpentine grace to lead men into temptation. That is, until she faces her greatest temptation—Heaven’s own Sir Hugh Castleford…
Once a knight and now a Guardian, Hugh spent centuries battling demons—and the cursed, blood-drinking nosferatu. His purpose has always been to thwart the demon Lilith, even as he battles his treacherous hunger for her. But when a deadly alliance unleashes a threat to both humans and Guardians in modern-day San Francisco, angel and demon must fight together against unholy evil—and against a desire that has been too long denied…
Who will be the first to succumb?
Why did I read this book: Because of the rave reviews I read all around romanceland. Katie from Ramblings on Romance has listed it as one her top reads for 2007 and because she is yet to let me down, that settled it.
“There is no light without darkness”
Have I been living under a rock or in a cave? It feels that way – how have I managed not to find out about Paranormal Romance before , I have no idea. And now, I have much to catch up and so many gems to discover.
Demon Angel is definitely one these gems – a beautifully written love story that spans for 800 years from medieval Europe to 21st century San Francisco. It is the story of Lilith, a demon from Hell, Lucifer’s daughter, who roams the earth, tempting men into making bargains and into losing their souls to the devil: queen of deceptions, destruction and lies, complete with red skin, horns, and hooves. She meets Hugh, a young knight who is a honorable man – he poses a great challenge to Lilith for he can see through her lies and who soon discovers who she really is and is bent on thwarting her plan of ruining the souls of the people he has pledged his sword to. What both of them did not expect is the lack of fear from Hugh and the fact that they both enjoy their sparring so much. Until her plan comes to fruition and he makes a sacrifice that takes him to the other side – he is made into a Guardian, a protector of humans.
From that moment on, they spend the 8 centuries battling each other and batting their attraction – an attraction that is physical and much more: they enjoy each other’s company, the allure of what they can not have. Until he reaches a point where he no longer believes that Guardians have a place in the world and he decides to Fall, but not before doing one last merciful act – that of saving her soul. He thinks that by killing her she will be free from Lucifer’s servitude and once he takes that course of action, he Falls and becomes human again. Little did he know that to kill a demon is not that easy, and Lucifer manages to keep her alive: there is some sort of connection between Lucifer and Lilith that goes beyond that of a father and a daughter: she is the last of the Halflings (humans turned into Demons) as all of the others have succumbed to their human nature one way or another and Lucifer has punished them all with eternal torture ; she tries to prove herself in his eyes, but you can imagine how ruthless a father and a guide Lucifer could be, right? He has been trying to tip her over the edge of evilness for 2000 years and once Hugh tries to release her he only manages to make things worse – now Lucifer has made a bargain with her – no more Punishment for her in exchange of Hugh’s life. She keeps away, waiting for the final word from Lucifer to fulfill the bargain.
Some 16 years later, Hugh is a teacher at a University, a man plagued by nightmares and a shadow of himself – he misses Lilith, killing her was one of the hardest things he has even done. Lilith is now working as a FBI agent – as are various demons – and when bodies start to appear and Hugh is somehow a suspect , they are thrown in together again to try to find out what the hell is going on. And after so many years they finally reach a point of no return in their lives and in their hearts. And this is only the tip of the iceberg : this is not a typical romance novel, the love story is not really central to the plot, there is much, much more than that. Hugh and Lilith are caught up in the middle of a game that goes beyond what they feel for each other, they are rather like pawns in a game of chess between Heaven and Hell – but one must never forget that pawns can still be invaluable little warriors.
The plot is extremely intricate and so are the characters, not only the protagonists but also the secondary ones specially Savi, Hugh’s surrogate sister and techie wiz and Colin Ames-Beaumont a vampire who is beautiful and vain but who cannot look into a mirror without seeing Chaos – Hugh is his sworn protector. (Both are the protagonists of the next in the series.). And let’s not forget Sir Pup, the three – headed hellhound who is Lilith’s puppy dog and protector.
No Guardians or Demons are omniscient and all must abide by rules; the most important ones being: no one can interfere with a human’s free will and life is sacred above all things, hence no human will ever die directly by the hand of a demon or a guardian. Sure, there can be deception; there can be guidance but no direct interference.
Appearances can be deceiving and following the books precept, as worded by Lilith, of “there is no light without darkness” we see a bit of both in each of the characters, Hugh may be a Guardian and essentially a good man, but there is still a touch of darkness in him that loves Lilith for the liar that she is and the same goes for Lilith, only the other way around. They do not make excuses for each other and Lilith once says that they should not judge themselves by a morality that has nothing to do with them.No one is infallible, not Guardians and not even Lucifer – that is one of the things that stroke a chord with me.
Another thing that ended up resonating really well for me and I think it was quite a coup of genius, is the subversion of the common conception of associating angels with purity and demons with the opposite with regards to sex by making Caelum, the city of Heaven where Guardians live, a place where love and sex, yes sex, are free to be had whereas demons do not have that pleasure – They can have sex but they are incapable of feeling the physical rapture.
The whole of the background world is richly woven and it is clear to me as a reader, how well read Meljean Brook is. The world that she created has roots in classical pieces of Literature and pop culture which I found fascinating: from Oscar Wilde to Milton, from Dracula to Harry Potter, from Neil Gaiman to the X-files.
This is not, by any means, an easy and quick read as there are a lot of subtleness in the story and in the dialogue and if you blink you are likely to miss a piece of information that will help you along the way in understanding the plot or the world they live in . What this is though, is a very rewarding read, which grabbed my attention, kept me wondering at what would be in the next corner and melt my heart when Hugh and Lilith finally were able to let their defenses fall and acknowledge their love and need for each other.
This is one of these few books where I am not only equally fascinated by the hero and the heroine, but for all of the story that surrounds them. I love everything about it, to the very last lines, which I adore. And for that, I thank Meljean Brook – for her kindness to a reader such as I.
Notable quotes/parts: The book is divided in part 1 and part 2 – part 1 tells their story from when they meet and Hugh is made into Guardian until he Falls 800 years later. I saw many reviewers who were not so much into this part but I have to say that I ADORED IT. It showed them sparring, warring, laughing, kissing and participating in historical events: they were there when Vlad was impaling people in Romania , when London was destroyed by the Great fire of 1666. It was fun and it was essential to me, to understand them and to see how they were deeply connected.
Additional Thoughts: If you like the book, you should go check the author’s website. She has an excellent primer with the story so far, a glossary and the Doyen’s Scroll with quotes from the books that relate to the mythology. Meljean Brook
Verdict: I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone who loves a good old complicated romance in a fascinating world or to anyone who simply likes a good story.
Rating: 10. To be honest, I am fairly new to Paranormal Romance so I can not really compare with what is around there but I know a good book when I see one.
Reading next: The Dare! Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey