Thursday, July 24, 2008

Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong

Hope Adams is a tabloid reporter who covers the kind of supernatural stories that only the most gullible and brain-dead believe, for a paper that is the equivalent of the Weekly World News. But while she appears to be nothing less than a normal human working girl, albeit one who is Indian, she is actually a half-demon, fathered by Satan himself, and like all half-demons, she has a supernatural powers to show for it.

Unlike some half-demons, who can cast fire, ice or make their skin hard as iron, Hope's talent is to read Chaos. Chaos is generated in all humans and supernaturals, but Hope has a special talent for reading it, to the point where she ccan see past images or read the minds and/or emotions of those projecting the chaos, which mostly comes from the darker emotions. Hope also feeds on the chaos, and it can provide her with a high-like sensation.

On a cold day in Philadelphia, Hope is approached by Benecio Cortez, head of the Cortez Cabal, a group of supernaturals that looks out for other supernaturals, with a request: Hope and her ex-partner, Karl, a werewolf, owe the Cortez Cabal a favor. Hope can repay her part of it by infiltrating a gang that has set itself up in opposition to the Cortez Cabal, and going deep undercover to find out exactly what they are planning. Hope, anxious to be free of her obligation, agrees, and is sent to Miami Beach, where the gang operates.

Hope finds the gang easily, and manages to pass their entrance tests without much problems. Once in the gang, she finds herself attracted to Jasper, or "Jaz", one of the members. He exudes Chaos and a sincere appreciation for her beauty that she finds charming and intoxicating, and after a scant few missions together, she is ready to let him take their association "to the next level".

But when her ex-partner Karl shows up, she realizes how quickly she is getting addicted to the chaos she is experiencing, and how easily she could become a chaos-junkie, becoming a demon just like her father. Frightened by that realization, she pulls back, and realizes how much she misses Karl. Returning to the gang, she is startled when she thinks that the Cortez Cabal is taking them out, and turns to Karl, who extracts her from the situation. They swiftly become lovers, and then both of them must deal with the fallout.

In reality, there has been an attempted coup at the Cortez Cabal, and two of Benecio's sons are dead. Lucas, Benecio's son who rebelled against him, and Lucas' wife Paige, a witch, come to Miami beach out of concern for Hope, but must save Lucas' father and last remaining brother when the situation goes south. And when Hope is imperiled by those she thought were her friends, Karl, Lucas and Paige must join forces to get her back safely, even if it costs someone their life...

I liked this book a lot. The descriptions of the life in Miami Beach, the tension of the gang war, and the aftermath of the coup were well-written, immersing you in the story. The book is told from two perspectives, Lucas and Hope's, and each has quite a different perspective on events. The chapters are clearly labelled at the top as to who the viewpoint characters are, so you don't get lost in the tale.

Although this is a story that has a great deal of supernatural characters and world-building, it never got in the way of the story. For example, demon species names are latin, but are explained soon after the names appear, so you are never left in the dark about what they can do. And although this is not the first book in the series, you never feel like you need to track down the others to understand what is going on. Like to, of course, but not need to.

I will be reading other books in this series, but only because I find it fascinating, not for any other reason. It is a very good series, well-written and filled with intriguing kinds of creatures and people. Try it for yourself and see.

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