Title: Demon Night
Author: Meljean Brook
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Stand Alone or Series: Book 5 of the Guardians series, but the third full-length novel in the series. The books are written such that one could theoretically read them as stand alone novels, but I would highly recommend reading at least the full-length novels in succession to minimize confusion, and to get a better sense of the overall universe and continuity.
Why did I read this book: Leading up to Meljean’s release of Demon Bound on November 4, I vowed to catch up with all her novels–and I have! Next week stay tuned as Ana and I will bring you an early joint review of Demon Bound, with a certain author guest! Plus, as it is our day for Demons for Halloween Week, what better way to celebrate?
Summary: (from MeljeanBrook.com)
Charlie Newcomb worked hard to get her life back together. But all that is shaken when she’s set upon by three vampires desperate to transform her beauty into something evil. But to get to her, they must first get to Charlie, now under the intimate protection of Ethan McCabe. As her Guardian, Ethan is attracted to her vulnerabilities—as well as her strengths. The closer he gets, the more protecting her becomes not just his duty, but his desire. But will it be enough to save Charlie when the demon night falls?
Demon Night marks the fourth book/story I have read by Meljean Brook–I loved Demon Angel, enjoyed “Thicker than Blood”, but wasn’t crazy about Demon Moon. Following my mixed reading experience with the last novel, I was not sure what to expect with Demon Night, though I was eager to read it. I needn’t have worried. This third full-length novel marked a welcome return to the issues raised in Demon Angel, and nearly all the problems I had with its predecessor were absent here. I whole-heartedly enjoyed Demon Night (though I still think Demon Angel is my favorite novel of the bunch–thus far).
Charlie Newcomb is, in plain terms, a fuckup. She was born with a beautiful gift, a singing voice so pure that even a Guardian can barely discern a flaw. However, Charlie also has something of an addictive, self-destructive personality and a alcohol habit–eventually leading to a drunk driving accident that irreparably damages Charlie’s voice forever. As Charlie’s downhill slide continues, her sister, the strong and intelligent Jane, delivers her an ultimatum–and effectively saves Charlie’s life. She quits the bottle and straightens herself out, spending hours at the gym and choosing to work as a bartender in a cruel sort of self-torture-pennance. And thus is Charlie when we first meet her, rolling her eyes at the d-bags in the bar, waiting for her break to start. On that break, however, in the dark shadows of the alleyway Charlie is attacked by vampires, but saved at the last second by a winged man–who she thinks of as her guardian angel. She’s not far off–her rescuer is Ethan McCabe, aka “Drifter”, her next door neighbor who also happens to be a Guardian–a sort of angelic protector, dedicated to defending humanity. The relationship between Charlie and Ethan is, as per Meljean’s usual, extremely well done. Charlie–needy and yet so strongly opposed to dependency fights an inner battle as she finds herself falling in love (needing) Drifter. Ethan initially warns Charlie that he will be there to protect her but nothing more, as he knows she might take his protection for something more, coming to depend on him and need him in ways he cannot provide. Their relationship grows slowly from fear and a tension of mutual attraction to full blown angst. Watching both characters grow through their relationship is a wonderful thing, and Miss Meljean (Drifter has taken over my vocabulary) shows us again how she can craft a scintillating romance with incredibly deep, layered characters.
As the Demon Night unfolds, we discover that Charlie’s sister, the brilliant Jane, is conducting some important research concerning the properties of vampire blood for a private company (aptly named Legion). Ethan is assigned by the Guardians and the SI (Special Investigations unit, a secretive branch of the Department of Homeland Security) to watch over Charlie, as someone has been orchestrating attacks on the extended family members of those scientists involved in the research of vampire blood. Whoever is behind the attacks has been forcing these family members to transform into vampires, as leverage. And, a new, terrifying creature, neither demon nor vampire nor nosferatu, appears on Earth, causing the Guardians a whole new set of problems.
The one thing that I had the hardest time with in the previous book, Demon Moon, was the confusing plot and writing style. Thankfully, Demon Night managed to avoid this pitfall altogether! I did not find myself confused or needing to backtrack at all. Everything just seemed to flow better than in the previous book, perhaps even more so than Demon Angel.
Although this book had more of a straightforward plot and was much easier to read, I also believe it fits a lot better into the overall continuity of the Guardians universe–much moreso than Demon Moon. The romance angle is superbly developed in this novel, but not to the detriment of the plot–and we see a return to the themes of the first novel, the lasting effects of Lucifer closing the gates to Hell, and the introduction of a terrifying new creature to this universe. I loved seeing the Frozen Field (I had been intrigued with this since its mention in Demon Angel), and the menace of the released nephilim. Most of all, I loved the return to Demons and their bargains. I love how Meljean takes the abstract theme of “Free Will” and viciously tears into it–though demons technically cannot harm humans directly as they cannot restrict a human’s free will, this does not mean that humans will not make decisions based on lies, or bring harm to themselves or others around them. We see a full-fledged return to this concept in Demon Night with the demon Sammael, and the limitations on Guardians such as Drifter or Jake. (In particular, I felt as though Jake–rookie Guardian that he is–would screw up pretty badly and restrict someone’s free will, which would result in him falling back to human form or ascending to a higher plane)
So far as characters go, I have to admit of all those I have encountered in Meljean’s work, Drifter is by far my favorite hero. I’ve always had a soft spot for gunslingers, and Drifter’s softspoken nature and his acceptence of Charlie, scars and all, is touching. Bit by bit we learn about Drifter’s past, his lost brother, and how he became a Guardian. Although initially I thought his “gift” was kinda weak, it certainly makes sense with his character, and I appreciated the later application of his power when combined with Charlie. Cool stuff. Plus, I’m a sucker for the whole “Miss (name)” thing. Very gentlemanly.
And then, there is Charlie. I loved this character. She is so wonderful because of her deep flaws–she has no one to blame but herself for the loss of her voice, and she is certainly more raw than previous heroines in the series. Her nature, compulsively needing things and yet needing NOT to need things feels incredibly real. Instead of a super!genius! Savitri or Demoness Extraordinaire Lilith, Charlie is just Charlie. Maybe not the smartest or quickest gal on the block (as she constantly puts herself down, saying she isn’t very clever), but she has been at rock bottom and fights fiercely for everything she has earned back. If I could have faulted the characters in the universe prior to this book, it would have been because everyone is so very clever (Savi with her programming genius and philosophical questions, Hugh with his multiple languages and degrees)–but Demon Night gives us a look at different, damaged characters, and it is for the better. I also loved the little touches that make Charlie seem more tangible as a person–her phonetic memory, for instance.
The secondary characters in this book are similarly strong and multifaceted–I have to admit that the relationship between Sammael and Jane is wonderful, maybe even more compelling than that between Ethan and Charlie (for me, anyways)! I have seen some reviews or interpretations that remark that Jane is weak for her inability to leave Sammael–but I don’t necessarily think that’s true. I think the scene that best describes Jane is when she explains to Charlie that she does not give up on people, or demons for that matter. Just as with Charlie, Jane issues an ultimatum and for better or for worse she sticks by those she loves. While this can be interpretated as a weakness of sorts, it’s a trait that makes sense for the character–and I loved reading this strange devoted relationship between the two characters. Sammael’s actions, driven by his own twisted love for Jane, also make perfect sense for the character. It might not be a healthy relationship, but love is love–and I give major kudos to Meljean for writing this complicated love story in opposition to the romance between Charlie and Ethan.
While the pros far outweight the cons with Demon Night, there were a few things I wasn’t crazy about–in particular the conclusion of the book, for last fifty pages or so. The final obstacle to Charlie and Ethan’s relationship felt protracted unneccessarily, and a bit silly, all things they went through in the book considered. Also, I’m not crazy about the vampire transformation and storyling, period–though this has more to do with my personal tastes as everything is written very well. I do like the uncontrollable nature of bloodlust for vampires here, but in general I’m just not a vampire kind of gal (of course, this is hardly a fault with the book–it’s just my personal baggage! Vampire fans should be very pleased with this angle to the book). The only other thing that I didn’t like in this book–and to a certain extent, in other books in this series–is the lengthy Architect-type conversations. By Architect conversations, I mean as in The Matrix Reloaded–when Neo finally opens the door and meets the Architect, who proceeds to answer all of Neo’s questions point blank in a drawn-out dialogue. Now Demon Night isn’t in the same zipcode–heck, not even the same state–as The Matrix: Reloaded in terms of data dumping, but I do wish that some of the reveals (such as Ethan’s past, his brother, Sammael’s role in his story, Charlie’s issues) weren’t made in dragging conversations.
Overall, I really enjoyed Demon Night–the characters are beautifully drawn, the romance is well written, and the the book turns back to issues I had dearly missed in the previous novel. Definitely a keeper, and I can’t wait to get started on Demon Bound!
Notable Quotes/Parts: I love Lilith.
“Teleportation,” Lilith said, pursing her lips. “I was sure his Gift would be making rainbows or something equally useless.”
To Ethan, regarding Jake’s newfound gift.
Additional Thoughts: Meljean Brook injects a whole lotta pop culture into her books, which is good fun. Demon Night has my favorite all-time movie, Die Hard, references in abundance. And I love this last speech from Charlie (revealing a lot about her character):
“Jane was nine when she fell in love with…with…his name starts with a ‘B’ and he was in that movie where the terrorists take over the skyscraper and he was just a lone cop against all the bad guys…I didn’t like the same what’s his name actor, though…Bruce, yes–because I liked the bad guy better. Until about a year or so ago, I was alone at home watching movies, and I see Bruce in another film and he’s looking up at this gigantic blue alien, and she’s got this synthesized coloratura soprano, and he’s about to cry because it’s so beautiful. Then the singer gets killed–which isn’t a surprise, because singers always get killed–but then Bruce suddenly turns into this big damn hero and goes after all of the bad guys. And at one point, a bad guy is holding a gun to a good guy’s head. But Bruce just walks into the room, and before the bad guy can react there’s a bullet through his head.”
Die Hard and The Fifth Element–two classics. (Plus, this is just a damn cool speech, in the middle of a twoshooter hostage showdown)
Verdict: I really, really liked Demon Night. Any fears or quibbles I might have had with Demon Moon were assuaged here, and I really cannot wait to read Demon Bound! Definitely recommended reading for any fan of well-written, incredibly smart, romantic paranormal fiction.
Rating: 7 Very Good
Reading Next: The Beast Within horror anthology