Former friends reconnect when a demon war threatens their loved ones in Mary Maddox’s horror novel Daemon Blood.
Lu, a telepathic demon seer, lives in Utah with her young son. When her son’s father, the demon Talion, informs her of a thwarted attack on her former best friend, Lisa, Lu begins to think that more is going on than Talion has revealed.
Lu’s telepathic abilities are a source of strength for Talion, and his enemies believe this makes him too powerful. They will not stop until Lu is incapacitated or Talion is defeated. To cement his alliances, Talion sends Lu to California to train another seer in telepathic meditation. Talion’s protection comes at a price: Lisa, who had been living a quiet life while recovering from addiction and PTSD before the attack, is dragged back to Utah to watch over Lu and Talion’s son. Then a demon war breaks out on the earthly plane, in which humans are used as unwitting foot soldiers.
This series entry does not assume knowledge of previous elements of the tale: its multiple, concurrent plot lines are supported by bits of relevant information that wend into its exposition. Lisa’s history takes the fore in the opening chapters, as her attacker is connected with her past trauma. Lu’s connected history is mentioned early on, but is explored more in later chapters that better fit into her arc. This blending adds to the fullness of Lisa and Lu’s characterizations, as it becomes apparent that they are still haunted by previous events in physical and emotional ways.
Lu narrates with immediacy, whether she is walking on the beach or being forced to inflict violence upon herself. Lisa’s narration is more removed, though it also centers her pain and pleasure. And over the course of the novel, it’s Lisa who changes in the most dramatic ways, though her present is still dominated by the events that lead to her scars. Trying to live away from demon notice brings her little peace, and she is conflicted about returning to Utah and engaging Talion. Her distress is palpable in every scene that includes her, though she still becomes more sure of herself as the novel progresses. At the same time, Lu’s role as a seer, and as Talion’s personal property, results in a rebellious streak in her. Her acts of resistance indicate her underlying strength, but are tempered by her unspoken resignation, too: she is unable to even dream of a different life.
Physical imagery dominates the prose, in which blood, sex, and violence share the same weight, if there’s more violence present than sex. The gore of demonic warfare is juxtaposed with winter wonderlands, frozen lakes, and bustling beaches and boardwalks, the latter of which fade in and out of the frame as the demons use humans to fight their battles. The darker aspects of human depravity are often too much in focus, but this is still a story in which love for a child brings brightness to the world.
Entertaining and with nonstop action, Daemon Blood is a thrilling fantasy novel about power and sacrifice.
Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5
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