Review: DEMON MARKED by Meljean Brook
Nicholas St. Croix is familiar with the evil of demons. After his father’s death, a demon took over his mother’s body and raised him. Six years ago, his “mother” was responsible for the disappearance of the woman he loved, and Nicholas swore he’d find her—even if he had to go to Hell and back. Except she finds him first—and with one tormented kiss, he knows she too is a demon. Now he is determined to take his revenge…Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Ash is a half-demon with no memory of her past or how she got to Hell. All she knows is that Nicholas St. Croix holds the key to her identity. And though he’s clearly drawn to her, Nicholas makes no secret of his distrust of her. Yet one kiss at a time, he breaks down her defenses as they battle an array of demons and Guardians. But is Ash’s greatest enemy the man at her side?
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Review Format: Mass Market Paperback
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Single Title/Series: DEMON MARKED is book 7 in the Guardian Series. Intricately detailed and vast in scope, this is a series where one should seriously consider starting at the beginning. While Ash, the heroine, is extremely new to the world and you can experience this journey with her as a new-to-the-series reader, the plot arcs and secondary characters will have much more meaning if you start with book one. Also, seriously this series is kick ass and I promise you're in for a good time. No money wasted here with this author.
Cover Thoughts: Alright, I'll speak the truth. This cover wasn't a favorite of mine. But that was then and this is my reigning thought now: LOVE IT! There's a scene in the book where the hero describes the look, dress and mannerisms of the heroine and the Berkley Art Department nailed it! Honestly I feel like I'm looking at Ash. The only aspect not spot on is her demon markings which I seriously doubt could ever be replicated based on the book's description, so I'm still good.
Origins: I purchased this book for my own reading enjoyment.
Awakening in a psychiatric hospital from a three year catatonic haze, Ash has no memory of the past or who she is except for fleeting nightmares of ice and terror. Escaping with what little information she could find in her patient files, Ash heads to London, to Nicholas St. Croix and the possibility of discovering who and what she is for she's decidedly not human but something...other. While this otherness would undoubtedly cause fear in any normal person, little affects Ash. The blistering cold winter weather in London, while uncomfortable, doesn't slow her down. She needs no nourishment and no sleep. And while people and their thoughts fascinate her, Ash can't manage to produce any emotion of her own. That is until something, someone or some action sparks a moment of familiarity, not exactly a memory, but rather a sense of déjà vu. Upon finding Nicholas, Ash doesn't sense the familiarity she seeks until he captures her mouth in a ravenous kiss.
Concluding what must be a demon wearing the guise of his long dead girlfriend, Rachel Boyle, Nicholas St. Croix feels a rushing gush of hatred and malevolent glee as the opportunity to finally slay the demon that ruined his life now stands before him, snared in his trap. Wanting answers and expecting the demon executing Rachel's mannerisms with perfect ease to lie just as easily, Nicholas enters into a bargain that completely benefits his cause. The demon will tell him everything she knows, never lie, and if she's not the one he seeks, then she'll help him find her; her being Madelyn, his mother. In exchange, Nicholas will help the demon discover who she is. Momentarily leaden with disappointment when the demon confirms under the bargain that she's not Madelyn, Nicholas does however discover that his demon is the perfect bait and he'll use her to draw Madelyn in then slay her just as he'll slay Madelyn. Until then, he'll continue to believe that everything the demon says is a lie or some manipulative effort to discover his weaknesses and divert him from his goal of revenge.
Ash can easily discern Nicholas's distrust but that's about it. The first human she's come across that can completely shield their emotions from her, Ash finds herself forced to analyse other aspects of Nicholas's behavior in order to figure out what he's thinking. An amusing game to be sure but it also draws her focus to his body arousing her mentally and physically. She wants him badly and she tells him as much only to meet his vocal refusal but his body says differently. However, sex falls to the back burner when Ash has a telling run-in with another demon. Equipped with no fighting skills and no ability to fly, Ash is tossed around like a rag doll and nearly killed begging the question: what is Ash?
Nicholas, experiencing a rush of unfamiliar protective instincts, re-organizes his priorities. Determined to train Ash to the best of his capable abilities, they hide out at Nicholas's hunting cabin in rural middle America. It's there that Nicholas discovers, and more importantly, that he believes Ash is the exception to the rule. But just when he accepts that he's fallen in love with a demon, the Guardians descend upon their hideaway and flay open the tenuous trust between him and Ash while unveiling a plot that will send her straight back to Hell. For years, Nicholas has derived relentless propulsion from his obsessive need for revenge against the demon that crushed his father, killed his mother, and verbally stripped him of his innocence. Now, having found Ash, having reawakened his heart to life and love, Nicholas will turn all that obsessive, single-minded focus on saving her from a fate he'd sooner die from himself rather than endure.
Embodying an empty but malleable shell of a soul, Ash, a halfling demon, molds herself from her immediate experiences, her mind like a sponge soaking up everything she comes into contact with. Despite her early inability to convey emotion of her own, there's a gentle caring and hollow sadness to her that quickly and effectively captures your heart. You believe in Ash and you want her to have her Happily Ever After for you know instinctively that she deserves it.
Truthfully, Ash's hollowness is the perfect shield to Nicholas's scathing and unveiled opinion of her. Any other woman would shrink beneath the coldness of his unrelenting gaze and blade of a tongue. But while most are immediately rebuffed, Ash has the patience to look beyond Nicholas's ruthlessly composed exterior, hunting effectively for cracks that lead to his true self. She thinks like the demon she is to unravel the mystery that is Nicholas but she talks and touches him with all her growing humanity. Seriously, the guy stood no chance.
Nearly stone cold to the depths of his marrow, Nicholas St. Croix isn't the easiest hero to fall in love with. His distrust for all but himself shines lethally from his icy blue eyes and coats every word that slips bitterly off his tongue. While Nicholas doesn't think himself damaged, it's clear to the reader that he is and fundamentally so. But when Nicholas falls, he falls exceptionally hard. Suddenly wielding a fierce brand of love, Nicholas becomes an unstoppable, self-sacrificing force that launches him straight to Herodom!
A beguiling character to be sure and one that effectively draws you in like a moth to a flame, Nicholas is a hero I won't be forgetting any time soon. With his entire motivation stemming from revenge, Nicholas eschews life to pursue a demon who couldn't care less if he lives or dies. All that he is and all that he does culminates from this deep-seeded and greedy drive. But this revenge of his defines him in such a unique way. While it could for all intents and purposes, debilitate him in the end, Nicholas has the means and the intelligence to recognize the real meaning in life and that meaning is Ash. But seriously, to meet the guy in reality would be terrifying but oh to be the center of that intense focus. Wow.
My Final Thoughts:
A tight, well plotted, and fantastic addition to the Guardian series, DEMON MARKED ushers fans into the red zone of Michael's long awaited story with a gutsy romance and a most terrifying trip to Hell.
Meljean Brook, fearless as ever, tackles two incredibly difficult characters, breaking them open oh so very slowly, page by page, to unveil an interesting and incredibly unique hero/heroine pairing. An alternate name suggestion for DEMON MARKED is Demon Awakened for both Nicholas and Ash go through an awakening; a rebirth. Nicholas, dead to all but what directly influences his means of revenge, awakens gloriously when he finally accepts his love for Ash. Similarly, Ash is numb, an emotionless being stripped of all that she once was seeking now the answer to her unknown identity. It's Nicholas that awakens her heart. He forces her to re-experience the emotions brutally taken from her and helps her reshape and claim herself as Ash. Standing back and absorbing the novel as a whole, the character growth is fierce and merciless but stunningly beautiful.
In addition, DEMON MARKED offers a new unfettered view of the Guardian world. It offers a new test on what makes a character worthy of this dangerous but rewarding world while also re-examining the Rules that govern it with such cutting brutality. For a steady number of installments, characters have known and understood the land upon which they fight but Ash and Nicholas, theirs is one of new learning. Perhaps a revisit of the building blocks is necessary to go on but whatever its reason, the closer look at the basic elements - basic but no less important - was welcomed by this reader. I had forgotten the power of these simple yet deeply layered rules.
Finally, I must draw attention to the rather excellent pacing of this book. These are no easy reads by any stretch and each one is packed to the brim with important and specific information heralding a clear indication that considerable time is spent on their creation and subsequent choreography. It's clear that Meljean Brook has honed her craft and wields now it with incredible daring. I will always look forward to what she delivers for it will undoubtedly be a new addicting flavor for this particularly ravenous appetite.
Topping a very short list of unparalleled paranormal romance authors, Meljean Brook has built a stunning work of collective art with her Guardian Series and has only managed to strengthen it that much more with DEMON MARKED. A novel forged from the icy numbness of its hero and heroine and ultimately shaped by their inevitable and spectacular melting destiny, DEMON MARKED is an absolute must read. Enjoy!
Untitled Book 8 (Michael's Book) - Releasing Late 2012