Gem and her brother Del are half-demons – which is a difficult in the world after the demon invasion. Humans want to destroy or imprison them. Full demons want to enslave them. Gem and Del have made terrible decisions to keep the safe.
And now Del has disappeared – and Gem is faced with another set of terrible choices and thin hopes to save her brother – but her demonic master is the only one who seems to know what is happening even though she knows she cannot trust him and he has his own sinister agenda
This is a semi-dystopian world where the population is recovering from the aftermath of a (possibly brief) demonic invasion. It doesn’t seem to be too different from out world – but there are demonic zones and creatures lurking around
This leaves the demons still on Earth both as creatures to be feared and also creatures that are targeted by humanity from what I can see. While the demons themselves have complex powers, their own culture and their own history
This is one of the few occasions where I actually say I need more world building info! It’s common for initial books in a series to dump too much information in. But this world is big, it has history, we have the demons before the veil, the veil collapsing, this apparently leaving demonic places on earth. We have the elements, we have courts and demon kings and queens and princes, we have lesser demons. We have the half-demons, we have the Institute. A lot of this has history and world building implications which isn’t just good for my nosy, world-building loving self, but it would also really help understand what is going on, understand these characters, understand them and how they relate to the world. I neeeeeed more
I mean I can follow the plot, I can extrapolate, but I feel I’m having to extrapolate a lot. I actually had times when I’d love for one of the characters to confirm what I’ve extrapolated. I actually found myself wishing for an info-dump. Just one person sitting down and giving me a really convoluted “as you know” would be nice. And I can’t believe I just said that. It says a lot about how much I want to see more about this world – this awesome world.
As for Gem, the main character… I have conflicting thoughts. On the one hand, I don’t like her. I don’t like her decision making process. I don’t particularly rate her thought processes, the situation she is in or her place within it – including how she navigates it and thinks about it. I don’t think she worked particularly well with Torrent either – she seemed to either follow his lead for much of the book or make very very very very bad decisions.
At the same time, I understand much of her character (except her whole killing machine past thing which still could use a lot more development). I understand (kind of) her desperate attachment to her brother (but oooh wanted to see more of him, their relationship and his powers and why she was so concerned about them) has led her to believe things she knows are not true. I know her vulnerability has caused her to cling to the abusive Allard in the hope he will protect her, shield her and bring her brother back. I understand her desperation causes her to make bad decisions based on the slimmest possible chances of it work out
I can understand this all intellectually. But this is all I’ve seen at Gem and she’s not at her best or most endearing here – especially since, while all understandable, this all revolves around her moving in a largely male world and being controlled and bused by a man. Unfortunately, her decisions drive much of this plot as she follows around Allard‘s orders with Torrent before finally planning to plot her escape.
There’s only one completely non-demonic character and she is Latina – she only appears briefly, but is a cop who is dedicated, caring and fair. But she is a very minor part. We have some of the demons who do appear as darker skinned (though most are not) – but it’s also clear that they can look like what they want, that human experience is just a suit. I mean, it’s nice that we do have, for want of a better word, human skin suits of different races – it’s nice that there’s not the assumption that every demon assuming human form is going to look White (though the majority are).
I think that Allard, Gem’s master/enslaver may be gay or bisexual. Maybe. His sexual interest in Torrent may be genuine attraction and Gem occasionally thinks so – but equally it could be a dominance move on his part. He forces Torrent to endure his touch – and maybe even rapes him (it’s implied but not outright stated) – to make Torrent submit, to make Torrent obey him. Torrent repeatedly says to Gem that they need to manipulate Allard by giving him what he wants – which is complete submission and obedience. This sexual molestation appears to be part of it – Allard doing it to prove he is boss and Torrent enduring it out of fear of Allard and to try to convince him to trust Torrent as an obedient slave
Neither really points to Allard (or Torrent for that matter) being gay or bisexual. Of course, I’d be happier that way. If my choice is “book with no LGBTQ people” or “book with a gay rapist villain” I’m going to go for erasure.
I’m left feeling that this book was decent – but that this book could have been much better with a few changes. More development of the world, more development of these character’s pasts, more development of the protagonist without this context especially since the very core of her motivation is defined by that relationship. I think all of this would have added more meat and context to the plot, especially the emerging meta plot. It’s still good – but I can feel the book it could have been because the underlying core is original, fascinating and really begs for more.