Demon Bound is the first novel I’ve read by Meljean Brook and I must admit that I probably shouldn’t have jumped into this series mid-steam. However, this book can be read as a stand-alone, although I believe the experience would have been richer had I read the three previous books in the series.
While still a human, Alice Grey made a promise to a demon in order to save someone she loved. For the last century, she’s lived with the agony of her bargain to bring to the demon, Teqon: To bring him the heart of Michael, the strongest of all the Guardians. Now it’s time to pay the piper and Alice knows her bargain is impossible to escape, even as she desperately seeks a way out by studying the ancient history of the Guardians in mysterious temples that appear and disappear with little notice.
Jake Hawkins is a novice Guardian with a love for all things ancient and a gift for teleportation that he hasn’t quite figured out how to control. To study in the Guardian Achieves, he must deal with the archivist Alice, otherwise known to all the novices as the Black Widow. To say she gives him the creeps is putting it mildly. When his gift puts him with Alice accidentally and they successfully defeat a group of demons, he tries to find a way to get over his “fear” of her so he can study. As he gets to know her, she grows on him and he begins to learn her secrets.
Both characters experience much personal growth through the course of the novel. Alice, knowing she’s doomed unless she kills their leader, has always kept herself distant from other Guardians. She’s accepted the fact that she’s eccentric and that others avoid her, while learning to take care of her own needs emotionally and physically with little dependence on others. In comparison, Jake, whoose nickname is Puppy, is young, eager, inexperienced, and lacks a filter between his brain and mouth, creating some tense but humorous situations. With an accidental trip to Hell, the dynamics of the relationship change, allowing Jake to become more dependable and Alice to lean more on others.
While I liked both characters, I found Jake far more sympathetic. He’s brash and immature, but does what he believes is right. I also found the fact that he’s constantly pulled back to the family he left behind endearing. While the author makes it painstakingly clear why Alice is the way she is, I found her oddness irritating. It prevented me from feeling any true connection with her as a heroine. In addition, I never felt the sexual click between the two characters and couldn’t understand why he would be attracted to her.
The creation of the Guardians themselves, how they live, and the worlds they travel to is simply incredible storytelling. While this installment in the series can stand alone, I truly believe those who have read all of the stories will have a greater appreciation of the whole. As I read, I often felt as though I was missing something by not knowing the back stories of the other characters involved.
I’ve heard great things about Meljean Brook and her writing and I’m happy to say that Demon Bound is a worthwhile read. However, before I advance more into the series, I know I must read the earlier installments.