Embracing the Demon
In Embracing the Demon, readers are introduced to Dale Highland, a woman on the run from her past as well as those who would see her dead. It’s a fast-paced novel that brims with action, but parts of the plot proved difficult for me to follow, and I came away from the book with an overall feeling of frustration.
For as long as she can remember, Dale Highland has hated demons. The fact that she’s half demon herself is something she’d rather forget since that part of her heritage has caused her nothing but grief. Unfortunately for Dale, there are those in the supernatural world who aren’t content to let her ignore them. Dale has a very important part to play in the future of both angels and demons alike, and several very important beings are determined to convince her to work with them. And then, there’s the Zeta Coalition, a militant group who wants to rid the world of all supernatural beings, starting with Dale herself.
When a strange and deadly illness begins to ravage both the angelic and demon populations, Dale finds her services in even greater demand. She is approached by John Goodwin, the only man she has ever loved and the only person with the ability to completely destroy her. John is convinced that Dale holds the key to curing this illness. At first, she scoffs at his assertions, and does everything in her power to get out of working with him, but as the death toll rises, Dale comes to understand that she alone possesses the knowledge that just might save her people.
Embracing the Demon is supposed to be a standalone urban fantasy novel, but it honestly reads like the middle installment in a series. It was pretty much impossible for me to understand how the world worked. I couldn’t, for example, figure out the rules under which magic operates. There are also a load of references to past events that aren’t explained very well at all, and I was confused more often than not.
Dale is pretty much what you’d expect from an urban fantasy heroine. She’s incredibly tough and she refuses to take crap from anyone. She’s a skilled fighter, but she’s sometimes too quick to jump into the middle of things without thinking it through first. She seems incapable of admitting when she’s wrong, and she happens to be wrong quite a bit. It sometimes felt like Ms. Woodward was trying to create a character like Kate Daniels, but Kate is far more nuanced than Dale.
John and Dale have good chemistry, but the complicated nature of their history made it hard for me to believe in a relationship between them. Dale appears to have good reasons for being wary of John, but what actually caused the initial rift between them is unclear. The author alludes to some great wrong John perpetrated against her in the past, but she’s pretty stingy with details, and I ended up feeling pretty ambivalent about them as a couple.
The novel contains quite a few action scenes, which might appeal to some readers, but I found some of them to be kind of overdone. I would have preferred less action and more attention to things like world-building and character development. The constant fighting detracts from the story and I was tempted to skip over some of it. There’s nothing wrong with a few good fight scenes, but I don’t want them to overwhelm the entire book, and that’s sadly what happened here.
Embracing the Demon is a book with a lot of potential that it wasn’t fully able to live up to. It seems like it might have been better as part of a series, but as a stand alone, it simply didn’t work well for me.