Can you taste the chaos? It’s half-demon paranormal reporter Hope’s turn to headline a Women of the Otherworld book. Let’s dive into Personal Demon, by Kelley Armstrong.
Tabloid reporter Hope Adams appears to live the life of an ordinary working girl. But in addition to possessing the beauty of a Bolly-wood princess, Hope has other unique traits. For she is a half demon- a human fathered by a demon. And she’s inherited not only a gift for seeing the past but a hunter for chaos- along with a talent for finding it wherever she can. Naturally, when she’s chosen by a very dangerous group for a very dangerous mission, she jumps at the chance…
The head of the powerful Cortez Cabal- a family that makes the mob look like amateurs- has a little problem in Miami: a gang of wealthy, bored offspring of supernaturals is getting out of hand, and Hope is needed to infiltrated. As spells, astral projections, and pheromones soar across South Beach, Hope weaves her way through its elite hot spots, posing as upscale eye candy and reading the auras of the clientele- and potential marks.
From the start, I had a hard time getting into this book. The premise involves Hope going undercover in a gang of young supernatural thrill-seekers. The problem is, these characters are utterly unsympathetic. Yes, Women of the Otherworld protagonists have walked an ethical grey line before by, for instance, killing people; but the heroes have thus far been very good about limiting their crimes to justifiable self-defense (the only exception being, I believe, Elena’s aside remark that, oh yeah, she once ate some people). These supernaturals aren’t fighting for their lives against mad scientists or murder cultists like in Stolen or No Humans Involved, or engaging other supernaturals on even terms like the other novels; they’re robbing innocent humans. They aren’t even charming con men in the vein of Moist von Lipwig; they’re just assholes.
But the gang is set up from the beginning to be the villains of the book. It shouldn’t matter that the villains are unlikeable, right? Except for the fact that Hope’s undercover mission means that she has to spend the whole first half of the book working with them, hanging out with them, being friendly with them. It gets real old, real fast. Not to mention, Hope is sympathizing with them and there’s supposed to be this tension about whether she might dump Karl for Jaz. Even with the excuse that it’s her demon half causing her to be beguiled by their chaotic energy, it doesn’t do my opinion of Hope any favors. All in all, it’s just really unpleasant to slog through.
The story finally picks up about midway through, when the whole undercover angle is pretty much dropped; with murders coming one after another, it’s just a straight-up race to stop the killer before it’s too late. The pacing really accelerates here; whereas before the story seemed to be slowly dragging on without anything of consequence happening, now there’s a pulse-pounding urgency to events. On the whole, I think the latter portion of the story actually worked well.
The ending did seem a bit too on the nose, though: everyone points out how imprisoning Jaz rather than executing him is a terrible idea because he’s an utter sociopath with magical powers that make his escape likely, then shrug and say oh well, that’s a problem for another time. It’s like they all momentarily became aware that they are characters in a serial fiction universe which wants to establish a recurring antagonist, and there’s no point fighting this narrative imperative. I’d argue that Women of the Otherworld has worked fine thus far with a new villain each story, and the Jaz in particular is a boring villain that I’d be perfectly happy to never see again; but the characters have already resigned themselves to the inevitable “Jaz 2: The Revenge: This Time It’s Personal: Electric Boogaloo”, so I guess I should as well.
Half of Personal Demon is a good book. But it’s a real painful slog to reach the good parts; and on the whole, it isn’t worth it.
Final Rating: 2/5