Friday, May 8, 2015

A Demon Bound (Imp #1) by Debra Dunbar

Samantha has managed to live amongst the humans for forty years by masking her identity.  Being an imp, she cannot resist things like leaving gum on the floor of an expensive restaurant, dressing and behaving inappropriately and beating up her tenants when they refuse to pay their rent on time.  She has developed a great flirtation with her neighbour Wyatt and while she would like to "own" him one day, she isn't bored enough yet to lose the great friendship they have.

Things might have continued on that way for Samantha had she not killed a werewolf in defense of her hellhound pet.  Tasked with taking on a rogue angel to pay back her debt to the werewolves, Samantha finds herself in more danger than she ever has been before. Can Samantha find a way to stop one angel dedicated to the genocide of the werewolves, while dealing with another angel who is determined to bend her to his will?

As a first book, A Demon Bound wasn't a bad introduction to this series.  I would have liked to have seen more active world building but get the sense that this is something Dunbar plans to reveal slowly over the next couple of books.   It seemed weird to me that Samantha, herself a demon, who was aware of elves and angels, would be shocked at the existence of werewolves. This was explained because of the supposedly secret nature of werewolves and the limited time that demons got to spend on the earhly plane but something didn't feel quite right about that.  We know that there is an angel council and once demons had legions because of wars.  Without further information, the reader  is left to assume that the rift between the two groups is based on Christian mythology.  I really didn't have a problem with this as Dunbar didn't even come close to proselytizing in A Demon Bound. For the most part, other than the obvious self righeousness, angels read like any other supernatural creatures.  I took particularly delight each time Gregory, (an angel) called Samantha a cockroach.  I also liked that angels weren't the fluffy and warm image that we see so often.  Despite the celebrity good looks, it's clear that angels can be assholes.

I liked Samantha from the very beginning. Yes, she's absolutely evil at the start but grows over time. There were several times I found myself giggling at her antics.  I loved the way she constantly looked to cause trouble,  even if meant walking around naked to upset the puritanical werewolf Candy.  The more Candy balked about Samantha's naked ways, the more Samantha became outrageous.  Samantha wasn't always a smart protagonist in that she seemed to constantly antagonize Gregory (a very powerful angel). In that sense she seemed to have a bit of Kellie Independence going on but I found myself rooting for her every step of the way.

As much as Samantha was absolutely prone to trouble, she evolved throughout the book.  We got to see that she could be creative as well as destructive.  At the start of A Demon Bound, humans were only good to serve as entertainment, or to help her run her slum lord properties.  As the book went on however, Samantha began to evolve.  It began with caring about what happened to Wyatt and progressed to even caring about Gregory, the angel who swore to see her dead.

Though Samantha is just an imp - low on the demon power order, she still manages to pack a wallop.  It's not Samantha's fire power that is her strongest  asset though.  Samantha is very smart and learns how to flout the rules just enough to go unnoticed while still finding pleasure in her bad girl ways. I love that she is unabashedly sexual, though she isn't a succubus. Dunbar even manages to include an issue surrounding consent when Samantha decides she wants to own Wyatt.  When Wyatt resists, Samantha stops, apologises and promises to never do it again.  She is even contrite about her actions.

Samantha is a bisexual protagonist.  For much of the book, Samantha was clearly directing her sexual energy at Wyatt but it was made clear that she had had sex with women in the past and was clearly up for it should the opportunity arise again in the future.  For Samantha, bisexuality was clearly just a part of who she was and she even expresses confusion with the supposedly heterosexual werewolves.  It's a rare thing to have a protagonist who is bisexual in more than name only.

In terms of POC, Dunbar could have done better. The only person of colour of note was Samantha's property manager Michelle, who was described as  "beautiful in an exotic, angular kind of way."  Why couldn't Michelle just have been beautiful? I'm not sure if Dunbar realises that calling a WOC exotic, even if meant in a positive way, is still extremely coded and heavily problematic. Michelle spends much of her time on the peripheral of the story, though we are told repeatedly how indispensable she is to Samantha.  I hope that this will change in future books.

As you can see, I don't have a hell of a lot negative to say about A Demon Bound.  It could have used a line editor in a few places but that is not something that really hampered my enjoyment of the story.  The concept in and of itself wasn't really original but I enjoyed Dunbar's take on the battle between angels and demons.  As a protagonist, Samantha was fun and I cannot wait to see what mess she gets herself into next.