Among the Guardians, Alice Grey is known as the Black Widow—a woman trapped in a web spun by the demon Teqon. To save her soul, she agreed to deliver to Teqon the heart of the oldest and most powerful Guardian of all, or else be damned for eternity. After more than a hundred years, Teqon is calling in his debt.
Jake Hawkins is a novice Guardian whose gift of teleportation could be invaluable to Alice in determining her next move. But in aligning himself with her he never expected to fall in love. Now, their passionate flight to escape Alice’s damnable bargain is threatening both their souls. For they’re about to discover a hellish secret about the Guardians something that will change their universe forever.
I'm a huge fan girl of Meljean Brook. My love and respect for her has grown exponentially with each published novel/novella. And while 'Demon Bound' was not my favorite romantic pairing, I'm still in total awe of her world building and characters.
For starters, I would not recommend this book to anyone as an introduction to the Guardian Series. I'm afraid that if you never ventured into this world before that you may be utterly lost. First timers should either a) buy Ms. Brook's entire back list now because you should have done it a lllooonnnngggg time ago or b) check out Brook's website and visit the Guardian primer. Here Brook details everything from whose who, places of importance, glossary, timeline, and general plots of each subsequent book to 'Demon Bound'. The primer is also beneficial to readers who have visited Brook's world but need a little recap to get back into the major subplots or to freshen up on all the characters.
Also, Brook provides great excerpts on her website. She even has a four chapter posting for 'Demon Moon' which is my absolute favorite in the series. I love you Colin!
Anyhoo, back to the 'Demon Bound' review.
'Demon Bound' is the seventh novel in the Guardian Series and is as unique as every other series installment. At the beginning of the novel, Jake Hawkins, a former Vietnam Veteran and current Novice Guardian, is still trying to develope his Gift of teleportation. Suffice it to say, things in the Gift department aren't going well. As a 60 year old Guardian, Jake normally would have had another 40 years to perfect his skills before being noted as a full-fledged Guardian and called to duty. Yet due to the Ascension, whereby thousands of Guardians chose to move on to their respective places in Heaven or Hell, have left the remaining forty or so Guardians to protect mankind, thus requiring Jake's help. Currently, in order for Jake to teleport to a new destination, he first must be scared witless before his Gift will even work. This "technique" is unreliable at best.
After terrifying himself with images of blood and gore in the hopes of teleporting to the archives in Caelum (the Guardian's home), where he's desperate to not run into the Black Widow, keeper of the archives. With that thought in mind, where does Jake teleport to? Tunisia and the most amazing temple cut of pure granite along side the face of a cliff.
No mortal could have made it. The sheer angle of the cliff alone would have made it impossible. Inside are empty sunken pools resembling Roman bathes. In one dome of the temple a huge life like statue of a woman with Guardian wings, towers over what was once a kneeling statue that was taken from it's position. There is evidence of this based on the woman's outstretched palm with it's fingers snapped off at the ends. It's likely she was touching the head on the statue that had once been kneeling before her. Yet how this statue was taken is beyond Jake, for the woman in stone before him is positively gigantic with his 6'2" frame barely reaching the top of her foot. The statue kneeling would have been proportionate and thereby huge as well. It is here that Jake finds the Black Widow, A.K.A. Alice Gray. Jake's thoughts of her at the time of his previous attempt at teleportation had led him directly to her.
Alice Gray is a 120 year old Guardian and keeper of the archives in Caelum. Her Gift gives her the power to communicate and draw upon the heightened awareness of spiders, thus her nickname of The Black Widow. Before Alice's transformation, she unwittingly entered into a Bargain with the Demon Teqon. Either bring the heart of Michael (Doyen and leader of all Guardians) to him, or spend eternity frozen in Hell.
For the last 120 years, Alice has sought endlessly for a way to get out of her Bargain and the only way she can do this is either have Teqon simply release her, which is never going to happen, or she must find him something that he wants more than Michael's heart. Alice believes that the temples and the female Guardian statue is the key.
It is the shared curiosity of the temples combined with their passion for archeology that draw Jake and Alice together. Although Jake was initially scared and creeped out over Alice spider Gift, he begins to learn who she truly is and with this knowledge he begins to fall in love. Jake makes the brave decision of helping Alice find a way out of her Bargain and for this Michael promotes him to a full-fledged Guardian.
As the two scavenge the world for the mysterious temples that disclose the Guardian's history, Jake and Alice begin to learn a bit more than they bargained for. The history and creation of the Nephilim is revealed and wow, what a revelation it was! Michael's past is somewhat disclosed especially his creation which was a shocker to say the least. The origin of the prophecy and Belial's rise to power that was first discussed in 'Demon Night', is revealed. We are also introduced to new Guardian's and have even been granted a glimpse into the future and what it holds in store for Jake and Alice.
Alice was an intriguing character. I don't believe I've ever read a heroine quite like her, although I can pretty much say that about all of Brook's heroines. Each one is different not only to the Guardian Series but to the Paranormal Romance genre as well. I never would have guessed that a woman that can draw upon the instincts of spiders to be heroine material but Brook pulls it off with ease. Alice, because of her Bargain to murder the leader everyone loves, is a self-prescribed loner. She guards herself from feeling...anything for anyone because her fate is to rest for eternity in the frozen wastelands of Hell. Even if she fulfills her Bargain, to take the heart of Michael would make her murderer. So really her choices are the Pit and an eternity of torture, or her face will become part of a frozen landscape in Hell while her body is consumed, regrown, only to be consumed again by the monsters of Chaos. I don't blame Alice one bit for being closed off and emotionally unavailable. Who wouldn't be with that type of fate hovering in the back of your mind.
Her Gift also secludes her from others. The fact that it took her years to overcome her own fears of spiders is a testament to how others feel. Plus, because Michael is aware of the Bargain, even he has kept his distance from her. It's no wonder that Alice feels considerable shame for having entered into the Bargain to begin with. Never mind that at the time she was mortal and knew nothing of Michael or what he represented, let alone that Teqon was a Demon from Hell. One can't help admiring her strength amidst all the tragedy that has befallen her. But there is one Guardian who may just be naive and cocksure enough to go after Alice's heart and that's Jake.
Jake provides considerable comic relief for our buttoned-up heroine. His youth and enthusiasm is infectious while his mind is nimble and strong. Alice can't help but be intrigued by his obvious smarts and I think this in combination with his shear persistence is what captivates her first. Of course his gorgeous body quickly follows. And while initially Jake is a very immature boy, his relationship with Alice soon evolves him quickly into a man of considerable strength and dependability. Looking back, I believe that amongst all of Brook's heroes, Jake truly made the most sacrifices for his heroine. Wow, did he ever.
There was only one thing that dragged this book down for me, and unfortunately a biggie and that being the lack of sexual chemistry, IMHO. Yes, Jake made incredible sacrifices for Alice and they were a true testament of his love for her. But I missed the sexual tension that Brook has delivered to pure satisfaction in the past. This lack is perhaps due to Alice's nature of not only embodying the creepy and inhuman characteristics of arachnids but also from her past and what ultimately caused her transformation to Guardian. Jake in turn still seemed too young for her, in my reading experience. The burden that Alice had carried for more than a century just seemed to put her in a league way out of Jake's reach.
Despite the above mentioned, I've still been struck dumb by Brook and her amazing world and wow, what a crazy and intricate plot. The woman is amazing. I had absolutely no idea how Alice was going to get out of her Bargain. It truly seemed utterly hopeless there for a while and man what a fabulous and shocking ending. I loved the action and all the new and exciting surprises that were delivered to us. I can't even explain how in love I am with this series.
So far I've yet to see even a hint of who the next Guardian Series installment will feature but I'm definitely looking forward to continuing the ride with this amazing author.