If there was ever a time a fantasy reader wanted to dip their toes into the romance waters, it would be this book by debut author Meljean Brook. Don't let the cover put you off because behind the clinch embrace is a detailed urban fantasy with a good bit of action.
In Brook's fantasy construct, there are two groups who battle for human souls. Lucifer and his minions and a higher being and the Guardians. There is a reworking of the Judeo Christian theology here. Lucifer is the ruler of hell but is constantly being challenged by Belial. The Guardians are angelic beings who protect humans from demons but can choose to ascend to be with the higher being or fall and live out an extended human life. There is one immutable rule that neither the demons nor the Guardians must break and that is one cannot interfere with a human's free will. Against this backdrop are two protagonists: Lilith, the daughter of Lucifer, and Hugh Castleford, a 12th C knight who was converted from human to Guardian.
Lilith, the daughter of Lucifer, has spent her centuries long life getting men to kill themselves at her suggestion. Hugh Castleford is a knight from the 12th Century who has spent his life in service to his liege lord. Lucifer sees the purity of Hugh's soul and believes that nothing would be more delicious that to obtain it for Hell. Lilith is dispatched to do her evil best.
This book is told in two parts. The first part is how Hugh becomes a Guardian after falling prey to Lilith's designs. Lilith is also intrigued by Hugh's soul that at the time of his death is so moved by his goodness that she begs Michael, an angel, to transform Hugh to an angel. Thus begins over 800 years of battling between Hugh and Lilith. They love, lust and battle until Hugh becomes disillusioned and chooses to Fall. Before Falling, however, he believes he must perform an act of courage that he had been too weak to do and that is to kill Lilith and release her from her servitude to Lucifer.
The second part of the book is set in modern day San Francisco where the battle for human souls continues to rage. Lilith has been placed by Lucifer in the FBI. Hugh is a professor. Lilith is brought back into Hugh's sphere when he becomes the chief suspect in killings of his students. The gate to Hell and Chaos appear to be open and Lilith and Hugh must join together to defeat Lucifer and close the gate to Hell. Lilith must tell her boldest lies and Hugh must not succumb.
The worldbuilding in this book is slow but strong. There is no infodumping. The world is revealed through dialogue and narrative naturally occurring throughout the story. It is a challenge and a reward for the reader. Brook never tells you anything but requires the reader to pay attention to the words said and not said in order to gain an understanding of the fantasy construct. The problems with this book is that it is dialogue intensive and that if you do not read carefully enough, key components go missing. This story could have been tighter and had better pacing, but for urban fantasy lovers, this is a good read. B+
Demon Angel by Meljean Brook
Published by: Berkley (January 2, 2007)
ISBN 10: 0-425-21347-1
ISBN 13: 978-0-425-21347-6
Genre: Romance, Supernatural