Review: Demon Angel by Meljean Brook
For two thousand years, Lilith wrought vengeance upon the evil and the damned, gathering souls for her father’s armies Below and proving her fealty to her Underworld liege. Bound by a bargain with the devil and forbidden to feel pleasure, she draws upon her dark powers and serpentine grace to lead men into temptation. That is, until she faces her greatest temptation—Heaven’s own Sir Hugh Castleford…
Once a knight and now a Guardian, Hugh spent centuries battling demons—and the cursed, blood-drinking nosferatu. His purpose has always been to thwart the demon Lilith, even as he battles his treacherous hunger for her. But when a deadly alliance unleashes a threat to both humans and Guardians in modern-day San Francisco, angel and demon must fight together against unholy evil—and against a desire that has been too long denied…
Who will be the first to succumb?
The Guardian Series Book Two
Bound tightly within its gorgeous cover, the words upon the pages of DEMON ANGEL spans eight hundred years and tells the tale of how layers upon layers of deception and the twisted spin of lies can, against all odds, shape an unbreakable bond of eternal love.
As a demon halfling, Lilith was forbidden her humanity. Born as the creation and daughter of the Morningstar, Lilith served Lucifer at first with utter glee and devotion, reveling in her role of collecting the damned for the armies Below. But with the simultaneous change in her role from collection to temptation and the kindness of one young knight, Lilith's existence would rely upon the stolen and coerced kisses of that very same knight turned Guardian at her behest. For the one man to show her kindness, Lilith will risk Punishment within the bowels of Hell, even possible death, just to keep him.
With the glimpsed evidence of Lilith's humanity, Hugh embarks upon the role of Guardian with not only the burden of protecting mankind from the demons of Hell and the nosferatu upon Earth, but he also vows to save Lilith. Yet as the centuries slip by and the unveiling of Lilith's saving continues to elude him, Hugh's soul slowly turns to ice. Lilith's determination to serve Lucifer baffles Hugh while hardening his heart to her. Unleashing his Gift of truth upon her only makes Lilith's willing servitude more unbearable. But Lilith isn't the only corruption that festers within Hugh for his role as well has turned into a mockery with the modernization of the world. While a Guardian can protect humans from demons and nosferatu, they cannot prevent their Free Will. If humans are intent to harm and maim one another, Hugh cannot interfere, the Rules prevent it. Tired of witnessing destruction with his hands tied behind his back, Hugh makes his decision. He's known all along what can save Lilith, his only hope had been a different outcome than the one available. With one last kiss, Hugh slices Lilith's heart in two and Falls.
Sixteen years later, Hugh is once again human and unbeknownest to him, Lilith is still alive.
Despite the fact that Hugh knows that Lilith's death was necessary to give her freedom, he's still yet to fully recover from his grief. He loved her even though Lilith's demon nature would have prevented her from the same emotion. Slowly, Hugh has pieced together an acceptable existence but his soul has become restless and he feels that doom lingers upon the horizon. It's because of this that Hugh isn't necessarily surprised to find Lilith alive. What's surprising is the coincidence of their meeting and the fact that Lilith is...different.
Although saved by Hugh, Lilith only experienced two hours of freedom after two thousand years of serving Lucifer before he revives her to life with a bargain: A life for her life and the life he demands she take is Hugh's.
A new world has developed for demons. The corruption of the federal and governmental bureaus offer a smorgasbord of opportunities to infiltrate the inner workings of mankind like never before. Lucifer's demons now possess congressmen and senate seats, controlling positions within the FBI, and other powerful outlets. Lilith, aka Agent Lily Milton, works for the San Francisco FBI under Agent Smith, aka the Demon Beelzebub, and justice is not what they seek.
When Hugh learns that his assumption of Lilith as a demon was wrong, that she was in fact human and a halfling, he's more than devastated. For eight hundred years he denied his passion for her thinking that her emotions would only be that of a demon's. Although he's a mere human now, Hugh is once again determined to save Lilith despite her bargain. If he must sacrifice his life for hers then so be it. But soon it's not just about saving Lilith. Hugh's college students are being abducted and found later with gruesome symbols carved into their bodies and their blood drained. There is also a large concentration of nosferatu in the San Francisco area and no Guardians or demons slaying them. When the FBI come knocking at his door with questions, Hugh is soon pegged as the prime suspect in the students' abductions and slayings.
In the midst of avoiding the FBI, stopping the nosferatu, protecting the college students, and trying to outwit Lucifer, Hugh and Lilith's repressed lust comes bursting to the forefront. Already wrought with sexual tension, when these two come together it's positively combustible. Stripping away her demon form and illusions, Hugh burrows deeply within the woman that Lilith has hidden for two thousand years. He rips forth her humanity in such a way that she'll never again be able to hide who and what she truly is: Human. With that being done, of course Lucifer calls in his bargain that Lilith is to take Hugh's life, but Lilith has another plan that's absurd in the extreme. But perhaps a little absurdity is shocking enough to break the bonds of her bargain, save the abducted college students and maybe even close the Gates from Hell to Earth for five hundred years.
I don't believe that any review can convey the sheer epic quality that is DEMON ANGEL. The passage of unimaginable time is depicted clearly with the incredible growth of the novel's characters. Even Hugh's love for Lilith has been shaped by eight hundred years. How does one even describe the evolution of a love that complex? Yet Brook pulls it off and the complexities and the rampant emotions of Hugh and Lilith are captivating.
Lilith's personality resembles the emotionally closed off bad boy heroes that we hussies love so much in romance. First, she's freakin' bad ass! The woman is a serious hardcore superhero in an anti superhero sort of way. She's a woman who cuts herself off from any relationship with a rapier wit and excessive cruelty knowing that one day she may be asked to lead them into temptation. Gentleness is not a highly prized attribute of hers but with Hugh, she is someone that no one else is allowed to see. Even after she's made tentative friends, she cares naught but for Hugh.
The romance in DEMON ANGEL ranged from brutally tragic to fearsome and combustible. Both Hugh and Lilith are adrenalin junkies and their lust for one another is ramped sky high with each brush with death but they're also able to slow it down and luxuriate in each other's embrace. What Brook did with DEMON ANGEL is unlike anything that I've read before or since. Her world is amazingly intense and complex yet its also broken up with laugh out loud moments and passionate love affairs.
There is only one aspect of DEMON ANGEL that dragged down the experience a bit. In some instances the happenings are just too complex and Brook looses the flow of the novel from time to time. Occasionally I had to stop and re-read sections to better understand the characters and their motivations. Truthfully, I think that the themes she tackled in DEMON ANGEL were just, for lack of a better word, huge. Good verses evil is never easy to write for the concept is not black and white but rather it's a spectrum of countless shades of gray. Even knowing that though, one can see and appreciate the talent that Brook has and it shines brightly with DEMON ANGEL.
Go Behind the Story!
Lost? Unable to Read the Series in Order? Check out The Guardian Series Primer!
Question for Meljean: Will we ever learn the origin of the symbols? So far we've been led to believe that the symbols are or have been used and I suppose created Above for the angels taught Michael how to use them to transform humans to Guardians. But as Michael would say, appearances are almost always deceiving. Will we learn where or how Lucifer learned of the symbols and why with the exception of Michael, he is the only one to know of them?
The symbols are of angelic origin, and we will be learning a little bit more about them in the books to come (particularly about how Anaria came to use them, and what they mean to the Doyen when a Guardian is transformed). Lucifer knew of them from the time he was one of the archangels, and when the other demons swore fealty to him, he also used his power to alter their memories. As angels, they would all have known of the symbols -- but as demons, Lucifer didn't want anyone to have the same power that he did, so he stripped them of that knowledge.
Lilith is another exception, but that isn't because they were taught to her -- she learned what they meant because the ones on her body continually changed according to whatever power Lucifer wanted her to have (or to take away from her.)