Wednesday, March 26

Review: Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong

Today, I’m reviewing the newest book in one of my favorite series, the Women of the Otherworld, by Kelley Armstrong. Joining me is Li from Book Daze. I have to say, I’m getting really good at recruiting partners for buddy reviews :P Of course, if you’d like to volunteer yourself, don’t be shy and let me know :)

Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong
published by Random House/Bantam Spectra in March 2008 (Hardcover)

Half-demon tabloid reporter Hope Adams has a secret. Like full demons, she loves chaos. She thrives on it. She needs it.

Most of the time, Hope feeds the hunger by helping the interracial council. But it's never enough. So when Benicio Cortez offers her a job infiltrating a gang of young supernaturals, she thinks she's found the perfect solution. Instead, she finds a tinderbox of greed, desire and ambition. And when it ignites, a world is going to explode.

Genre: fantasy/paranormal, horror
Series: Women of the Otherworld, book #8

The Story: Hope Adams is a half-demon that thrives on chaos and was introduced in Chaotic, a novella part of the anthology Dates from Hell. In Chaotic, she and Karl Marsten indebted themselves to Benicio Cortez.

Two years later, Benicio calls in the payment and asks Hope to infiltrate a street gang that is causing some havoc in Miami, the Cabal Cortez’s headquarters. However, nothing is as it seems… and soon, Lucas Cortez and his wife Paige are called in to help figure out the case. Everything then escalated when 2 of Lucas’ brothers are found dead and an attempt is made on Benicio.

Li: So what did you think of Personal Demon? I'll be honest, it didn't live up to my expectations - then again, I had pretty high expectations after No Humans Involved...

Nath: Honesty is what we want here at Breezing Through. Therefore, I’ll be honest too… Ever since I found out that Hope was going to be the narrator for this installment, all that interested me was how Hope and Karl were going to get together… and so, that’s what I focused on. As for the rest of the story, it didn’t catch my attention and I skimmed through most of it. You’re right though, it didn’t compare to No Humans Involved… but then, all series have ups and down.

Li: I couldn't remember much about Hope and Karl, to be honest. I did read the short story in which they both appeared, but had no preconceptions about their relationship - or who Hope would end up with!

Nath: You forget that both Hope and Karl have appeared in No Humans Involved. That’s why I was looking forward so much for their relationship. On the other hand, I wasn’t thrilled that Hope was the narrator because, let’s face it, shedoesn’t have much “power.” She’s attracted to chaos and she has some kind of empathic abilities towards violence, but that’s pretty much it. If you compared Hope’s ability to Jaime’s, who finds hers boring, than Hope is even more boring ^_^; I also thought that it limited the action in this book.

In addition, Hope and Karl are acquaintances of Lucas and Paige, but not good friends. So again, it takes off the fun in their interactions. You won’t find any teasing or funny banters between the 2 couples… Instead, there’s more doubts and mistrust, which really annoys me.

Also, why was Lucas chosen as the narrator? I understand that it involves his family... but last time I looked, Lucas wasn't a woman :P LOL

Li: I liked Hope as a narrator... but wasn't sold on having Lucas as one. And this is coming from someone who really likes Lucas. I somehow think it would have worked better if we had Karl's perspective instead of Lucas - that would have been good. Hmmm... but then it would have made the storyline about the inner workings of the Cabal really difficult. Because Karl isn't part of the Cabal. And the same goes for Paige - so I think that's why Lucas was chosen.

Nath: I agree. Perhaps it would have been better to have Karl.

Li: I thought it was a good thing when Kelley Armstrong announced the change in narrator. I thought it would keep the series fresh by giving it a new perspective (note that I didn't mind when Ms Armstrong switched from Elena to Paige either - I know there were some grumbles but I liked Paige!).

I read somewhere that there wouldn't be much focus on the existing characters, so I was actually prepared for a brand-new Otherworld book - and was surprised that there was so much Lucas and Paige :-)

Also, the set-up felt a bit too complicated to me as well. Too much explanation and backstory in the beginning, I thought. I was reading the first few chapters and was getting confused - not sure if it was just me? Maybe it ties in with what you said about her world being rather complex and her having to explain how the Cabal / Council / etc all works.

Nath: Although Hope was a "new" narrator, she and Karl have both appeared in the novella and No Humans Involved. So they are not "new" characters and you can't expect the series to take a new direction. I'm actually not sure if I want the series to take a new direction...

As for being confused, I think you’re not the only one. Ms Armstrong world-building is very complex and there are a lot of supernatural beings who don’t all interact with each other. So every time, we re-visited what was told to us in previous books and we’re introduced new stuff. I guess what I mean is that it’s hard for Ms Armstrong to make her world all cohesive and give all the information to the readers in one shot and that’s why there’s so much confusion. It’s unfortunate about the confusion though because I really enjoy her world and I wouldn’t want it to be different.

Li: What did you think of the solution to the mystery? Because I really didn't like it. I thought it was a disappointing ending because it felt as though it came out of nowhere. I mean, you would only have perhaps guessed it if you had read the previous book in the series (and I can't remember which one it is now), and for new readers, it would probably be a huh? Which is a shame, because IMO, this was a new narrator and so potentially a book that someone new to the series could start with.

Nath: I don’t agree with you. We can't forget that this is a series with recurring characters that play more or less big roles in each books. All the books have been connected to each other so far, no matter how subtly (and personally, I like it that way) and they build up on each other. I don’t think that any were meant to be stand-alone book. I know some series do where books stand-alone, like the FBI SCU series by Kay Hooper and Study trilogy by Maria V. Snyder or the War Chronicles trilogy by Elizabeth Vaughan (for Snyder and Vaughan, their next trilogy will be set in the same world, but with different/new main characters)… but not the Women of the Otherworld. It’s just how the books were written and so, I don’t think that even with a new narrator, what you were hoping will happen… unless the author wants the series to take a whole new direction. Of course, I could be wrong.

As for the plot, I thought it was a bit weak and the premises, not very interesting ^_^; I skimmed through it and what I read didn’t make me go back and read what happened. I remember reading somewhere that Ms Armstrong thought that she needed a second narrator in addition to Hope because she didn’t think that Hope could support a whole novel. If that was the case, then I’d rather she chose someone who could… because the end result is that I felt that Personal Demon was too divided. There was too much distinction between Hope and Karl’s relationship storyline and the plot involving the Cabals, which means that the transition and flow of this book was only so-so. As a result, I enjoyed Hope and Karl’s relationship and it’s resolution, but not so the Cabal plot.

In the end, what's good about the Cabal storyline is that it's really shaking things up for the future... for all the Cabal organization and Lucas and for sure, there’ll be repercussion on the supernatural council. Lucas is seriously going to have to watch his back now… All this could be a really interesting lead-up for Savannah’s book, if she ever gets to be a narrator.

Li: What you say about the events in this book shaking things up for the future - totally agree. It makes life a lot more interesting for Lucas and Paige.

The other thing - and I can't remember if you've read Exit Strategy - but this felt a bit like that book in terms of err... chillingness. Is that a word? There were a lot of murders in this one. Definitely scarier than No Humans Involved - wouldn't recommend it as a bedtime book!

Nath: As for the chilling factor, well the series has always been a "violent" with a lot of deaths. I guess they've just become a bit more. By the way, this series is shelved under Horror in my bookstore, so I was prepared, LOL :)

So what grade would you give it? I think I'm giving it a B for Hope and Karl, B- overall.

Li: B- for me too, mainly because I thought the plot was too complicated and the ending came out of nowhere for me – a bit of a disappointment after No Humans Involved!

Nath: You know what? I kind of wonder if this book was a bit weak because she was busy writing her new YA trilogy - Darkest Powers - coming out this summer. Well, I guess it doesn't matter much since I’m really looking forward for it - a young necromancer coming into powers, and the next installment of Women of the Otherworld - Living with the Dead which comes out in November 2008. If we're lucky, Living with the Dead will offer us freshness and definitively the new perspective you were looking for in Personal Demon, as this time, the narrator is going to be a human... I can't wait to see how Robyn Peltier is going to handle being projected into the otherworld :P

Li: Yes, agree – despite not enjoying this one as much as I hoped I would, I’m still looking forward to her next!

Nath: For more information, here is the author's website. Also, take a look at the sidebar, as the polls series no.3 is all about this series, the Women of the Otherworld!


Jill D. said...

Hi Ladies, Nice review! I have only read books one and two of this series. I really liked Elena and Clay. For some reason, I am not sure that I will like having someone else narrate. I see that Li likes Paige so I may have to give it a try.

nath said...

Hello Jill :D

I'm glad you enjoy the review :D I have to say, Dime Store Magic is a bit hard to get through, but Industrial Magic is awesome. I hope you enjoy the next few books :D Also, if you voted, please do again, as I changed the polls :P

Anonymous said...

I actually started the series with Paige's book "Dime Store Magic" and then realised it was actually the 3rd, and went back to read all about Elena and Clay...

So that may have influenced how I perceived Paige - I know peeps who have started with Elena's books and her perception of Paige took longer to be convinced! :-)

LesleyW said...

I have to say I enjoyed Personal Demon a lot, and maybe this was because I thought I wouldn't. Hope never really interested me as a character, so I think I was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually enjoyed the story.

I liked the relationship between Hope and Karl, but I also liked the opportunity to see things from Lucas's viewpoint.One of the most interesting things I found was how obvious it is that Lucas would be able to run the Cabal well. If that's the way Kelley Armstrong is going to run with it. You can almost feel the tentacles of this institution closing around him.

nath said...

Li - I agree with you... I started off with Bitten and I thought it was great. I didn't mind Paige narrating... but Dime Store Magic wasn't a great book in my opinion.

Lesley - I guess it's all a matter of expectations. I'm glad though that you enjoyed Personal Demon as much as you did.

I like Karl and Hope's relationship... and I wonder, reading their story... if Jeremy also had that need to mate :P I also like knowing why Karl is so stand-off-ish of the Pack.

I don't think Lucas abilities to run the organization was ever in cause. Even if Lucas could, I doubt he'd ever be ruthless enough to keep the Cortez on top of the Cabals...

Anonymous said...

Lesley - I always thought Lucas would inherit the Cabal, but the way she's made that so unambiguous in this book surprised me a bit!

Nath - I don't know... Lucas may change the rules and make it so that it's not ruthlessness that counts... While we're speculating on the future, what are the chances Lucas will throw the doors of the Cabal open to non-sorcerers (with Paige urging him on, obviously) and increase its influence that way?

nath said...

Li - Not really about the unambiguity of Lucas inheriting the Cabal... after all, it's been clear for a long time that Lucas' Benicio's favorite son. Having a huge office for Lucas, even though he wasn't even working at the company, that's a pretty big clue...

Sure, Lucas may change the rules... but that would only be when he's established. The thing about the Cabals is that it's not one clan... it's several clans forming an organization... that'll be more tricky. Me thinks that as soon as Lucas become head of the Cortez, you'll have all the other Cabal clans trying to take him out or weaken him some ways so the Cortez won't be as powerful. Of course, you have Carlos and Lucas' nephews... so in the end, you might not need the other Cabals.

Devon said...

I thought it was quite clear in Industrial Magic that Lucas was Benicio's heir.

Nice review! Very thorough. I'm really looking forward to this one.