Desert Isle Keeper
Demon Forged is the eighth in this paranormal Guardian series but this is the first I have read of them. Despite this, I fell neatly enough into the world, though I know some things went over my head or were past my understanding. Perhaps there were even some in-jokes I missed.
I write this review to those who have never read any Guardian book so it’s not just about the romance but the entire “story” (in short form). Before I get into it, I’ll say that I am a “sort-of-not-quite” fan of paranormal or fantasy romance. I don’t like to read action or fight scenes and these are often par for the course in these types of stories. However, what I do like is the emotion that drives these fights and the passionate aftermath between couples. I also like high tension relationships and larger-than-life, amazing characters, and both these elements can often be found in paranormal romance. With particular respect to this novel, having the romance couple be Guardians who live for centuries, speak loads of languages, have wings, can speed-read, have cool Gifts and must protect humans is like, shorthand for Amazing.
In a very simplistic summary, I would say that the world which exists in these novels is one of several planes inclusive of but not limited to Earth and Hell; and one where beings such as demons, vampires, nosferatu, nephilim, grigori, guardians and humans exist. But only the humans are ignorant to the fact that others walk among them. As I am not well-read in paranormal reads, romantic or otherwise, I don’t know if the beings unknown to me have been taken from a communal genre pot or if they are the creations of the authorial mind. Regardless, I understood what I needed to about each creature sufficiently enough for the smooth running of the story and in other things, I skimmed.
This is not a reflection on the readability of Demon Forged but on me. I am the type of reader who, for example, does not attempt to solve mysteries or riddles given within the story. The characters will figure it all out without me and I’d rather just passively go along for the ride. But if you like to solve things along with the characters and if you like to know what means what and to whom at every point, there is certainly a lot detailed information to sink your teeth into. In addition, this information is delivered through several, seamless methods – conversations between some characters, the actions taken by others, and only very, very rarely via the omniscient narrator.
For example, I understood that Guardians are humans who died saving the life of another and that Michael, the Doyen or Head Honcho Guardian offers them a position as Guardian at the time of their selfless death. If they accept, they’re offered long lives and the aforementioned cool Gifts but must live their life protecting humans against demons and other tricky creatures. For much of Demon Forged, I had thought that Michael was the archangel Michael, only to learn in a passing conversation that he was named after the archangel. Little bits and pieces of information, presented like that, almost in an offhand manner, impressed me because it could be so easy to get into info-dump territory with a world so fully formed.
From the information that I did manage to ingest, there was much food for thought. I found it depressing that Guardians who had lived for centuries, still found themselves in physical fights against demons and nephilim or whomever. I wondered which creatures in this world were the beings of higher thought, who preferred intellectual as opposed to physical war. I also wondered why humans didn’t know of the existence of all these other creatures. It put humans as ‘different’ and a special type of ‘other’ in need of protection and I wondered why that was. I wondered especially at it since Irena the heroine of Demon Forged does not have religion as her hero counterpart Olek does (he’s Catholic). I wondered who or what she thought made the Rules that Guardians must follow, who or what had given them their gifts, who or what pronounced that humans were to be their wards. I suppose the answer to these questions either came before this book or will come after but it’s something I wondered about and look forward to reaching a greater level of understanding.
But on to the romance. Irena is sixteen centuries old and the fiercest Guardian fighter. Six hundred years ago she trained Olek and the chemistry between them was powerful but they did nothing about it while she was teacher and he student. Just as they appeared about to turn a corner into a fully-fledged relationship, Irena struck a deal with a demon to save Olek’s life and after that occasion, neither of them could look past both pride and shame to continue what they had started. Four hundred years pass, the past two hundred of which they act like polite acquaintances until something happens to bring them together in a fight against an assortment of demons, nephilim and nosferatu. I won’t go into those details in the review because I don’t have the author’s skill at imparting information in a pleasing form and I’d likely just dump it on you.
Suffice to say, in my opinion, the world of which the humans know nothing, is more barbaric than the human world itself. These creatures are super strong, super fast, super big, but I didn’t see any evidence that they were super smart (though I think it is inferred). If humans gained this super strength, I think the playing field would be level. Irena wonders at one point whether Guardians are still human or if the passage of time and their responsibility to protect humans changed them into distinct beings. For my part, the emotions the Guardians portray are all very human-like. They grieve, they joke, they laugh, they smile, they fall in love, they fall in lust, and there are those who disobey. Nobody is perfect, not even the Guardians – this appears quite human to me.
But I’ve gone off the romance again. Irena and Olek love each other but they haven’t spoken of what happened four hundred years ago. However, pushed together by current events, their desire and love begins to outweigh their pride and shame. What I loved about this romance is that there were ample examples of their compatibility outside of sex. In contemporaries, I can’t stand the “one week and we’re in love” plot but here they have centuries of knowledge of each other’s true character, centuries spent living and working together, sparring and debating. How could I doubt the love? This was the best part of the romance for me, followed directly by the antagonistic nature to their relationship at the beginning which was a very light mask for their love for one another. Coming in third is their fights – verbal and physical – which are foreplay and make for intense reads. Tied for third is that they get to protect each other and even save each other’s lives and have passionate, possessive kisses afterward – which is my romance-loving Achilles heel. Every time an author drops a “you’re mine” line into a romance, I don’t care whether it’s sneaky shorthand for “this is true love”; I fall for it!
Whenever I really like a book, I give pathetic reviews because I stop reading with a critical eye and just read, and enjoy the experience. I’m finding it hard to break down into parts the reasons why I liked Demon Forged. Perhaps above all, it is because despite the action and the back-story and the other romance story lines interwoven throughout, the story remained about Irena and Olek. I couldn’t call this book anything else but a romance, despite the additional – and integral – trappings. Without their path to Happily Ever After, I would have put down the book early on.
I’ve never read of a world such as Meljean Brook has created and I plan to read her backlist to see if the questions I asked have already been answered and to learn more about the couplings I would have read about here. It’s always great when you find a new author and are able to read through their past work in quick succession. Perhaps my experience reading Demon Forged would have been an even more positive one if I had started from Book One and worked my way down, but I never felt frustrated coming into the series late. I believe this book is a standalone but I will say again that it is my reading style to skim over back-story, so my experience may differ from yours. In any case, it’s well-worth checking it out.