Secrets of the Demon by Diana Rowland

Secrets of the Demon
Diana Rowland

Ever since book 1 of this series I’ve been loving it’s unique premise: that of a Louisiana detective with the ability to summon demons who has her work as a cop intersect with her extra-curricular activities. I’ve had Secrets of the Demon, the third of the series, on pre-order. My reviews of the first books are here:

Book 1: Mark of the Demon
Book 2: Blood of the Demon

***** If you haven’t read the first books there may be mild spoilers for them in this review. *****

The Premise: Kara Gillian is now part of a special FBI task force along with her duties as a homicide detective at the Beaulac, Louisiana, Police Department. Along with FBI special agents Ryan Kristoff and Zachary (Zach) Garner, the team investigates a threat to the lead singer of local band Ether Madhouse. The team doesn’t think the threat is real, until Lida Moran is snatched by some creature during her band’s last song. Kara knows that there was no demon, but there is some kind of magic in Lida’s abduction. Magic that she senses again during a murder investigation. As more people begin to die, Kara must find out the connection between the band and the murders, and in the meantime, her life continues to be complicated by her special association with Demon Lord Rhyzkahl and her confusing relationship with Ryan.

Read an excerpt of Secrets of the Demon here

My Thoughts: I was surprised to see that the cover art for this third book is so different from the first two, but then I remembered that this series has changed publishers. It’s not bad, I could do without the bit of bra poking out or the thing behind Kara, but in person the background is less overpowering.

This is not a series that should be read out of order, and I think that although the third book does a lot of catching the reader up to what has happened so far, it can’t really cover the subtle progression of Kara’s relationships to those around her. For that alone, I highly recommend reading books 1 and 2 before reading this one. When you read all three books you can appreciate more where things have been and where they’re going. This is especially true of the ongoing love triangle. I have to say that in the first two books when it comes to Kara’s relationship with Ryan and her relationship with Rhyzkahl, I’ve been pulling for Ryan. This is based on the fact that I didn’t trust Rhyzkahl at all. In this book however, I’m surprised to find myself wondering if Kara’s relationship with Rhyzkahl could be deeper than I thought. It doesn’t help Ryan’s case that he’s been very judgmental about Kara’s relationship with Rhyzkahl when he really has no right to be. At this point things could go either way, and I never thought I’d say this, but I think I may be happy with either, as long as Kara makes a choice she’s happy with. I’d love to see a deeper relationship with EITHER of the two men here.

As for Kara’s other relationships, she continues to develop friendships all around and she’s learning that she’s not as alone as she thought. From her Sargent, to her Aunt’s boyfriend, to her best friend Jill, Kara’s circle is growing and I’m happy to see it. I like the way that these secondary characters have developed over the books, each revealing a little something more in each progressive volume, and each unique. The banter between Kara and the others usually works too, but I have to say that there are a couple of minor missteps. Mostly this was in feeling like although Kara was supposed to be in her late twenties, she sometimes read as older, and a little behind on the times. I was thrown out of the story by the over-use of “bitch” and “chick” whenever Kara spoke to Jill (it’s not like I don’t fondly call my girl friends this, but sparingly, not every sentence), and by a random “for the win” (fine, I’m being nitpicky on that one, but still).

The investigation in this book and the otherworldly connection to it was not exactly demon-related, and Kara spends more time using her mundane police skills over her arcane knowledge to solve the case. The case is a big part of the plot but I felt more drawn to the longer running story ARC – what Kara’s relationship with Rhyzkahl means and who Ryan really is. Next to that, the murders didn’t feel as strong, and when the person behind it was revealed, it was almost an unbelievable surprise, but overall I felt pretty satisfied.

Overall: A really good continuation to the series in terms of Kara’s involvement with the demon world and with Rhyzkahl and Ryan. My interest in the murder investigation was overshadowed by my interest in Kara’s developing relationships, but I got what I wanted from the longer running story arc, so I was happy. After finishing Secrets of the Demon, I’m dying to find out what happens next. This is an urban fantasy series that has police drama, romance, sex, and friendship, but also: humor. There’s just the right dose of banter and irreverence to keep things from getting dark.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Lurv a la Mode – 5 scoops (out of 5)
Babbling about Books, and More – B+
Smexy Books – B
Wicked Lil Pixie – 5 out of 5
The Discriminating Fangirl – 4 out of 5

Blood of the Demon by Diana Rowland

Blood of the Demon
Diana Rowland

I read and reviewed Mark of the Demon last year, and I enjoyed it so when the second book in the series came out I went out and bought a copy. The series is about a Louisiana detective who can summon demons, and her private abilities in the arcane begin to have application in her job investigating murders. My review of Mark of the Demon can be found here:

The Premise: After the events of the Symbol Man murders, Kara Gillian returns to work and immediately runs into more murders with an otherworldly slant. First there is a dead cop, killed by what looks like suicide, but Kara sees that his Essence has been brutally torn from his body. Shortly thereafter, she sees the same thing in a seemingly unrelated case, in a death that looks like an accident. Kara knows that there’s some link  between the deaths but she doesn’t know what it is.

Read an excerpt of Chapter One of Blood of the Demon


My Thoughts: This book continues with the same strength that I thought the first book had, which was the attention to the details involved in a police investigation. I think that the author’s background in law enforcement lends an authenticity to the story that I don’t always see. There’s a great balance between Kara’s legwork and her having to do mundane things like paperwork or laundry. That’s not to say that there is ever a dull moment, rather that, with murders piling up and Kara’s dealings with the demon world, the routine tasks served to keep the story grounded and stop the pace from being too breakneck to enjoy the story. Having a heroine with real life tasks is refreshing!

I also liked that Kara is slowly changing her life from book to book. The big thing is that she’s made friends over the course of the two books. In Mark of the Demon, Kara was a loner out of necessity, but she finds a kindred spirit in Ryan who has some sensitivity to the arcane. On top of that, there are some people are more open to the idea of what she does than first thought. She had friends in Blood of the Demon who she could trust in difficult situations, and they weren’t just love interests or people who serve to give her important information in her investigation. Kara actually relies on them emotionally and they are a good support system when she has things to worry about.

In both books there’s a love triangle which is not really a love triangle. In one corner is FBI agent Ryan Kristoff (who Kara isn’t ashamed to tell the reader she’s interested in). Ryan and Kara have a close friendship that’s developed quickly, and Kara likes him, but there’s more to Ryan than it appears. I’m rooting for the two of them to get together but I know it’s going to take a while. In the other corner is the Demon Lord Rhyzkhal. The demon lord is pretty much the ultimate sexy badboy, and there’s obvious sexual attraction, but Kara makes it clear there’s no possibility of a romantic relationship. Rhyzkhal’s a demon after all (He has his own agenda and Kara is a tool for him, not a partner). Instead he’s more like.. a great big cause of conflict between the two law enforcement agents (and reason why this book has a higher heat factor than your usual urban fantasy). I think he’s going to be a huge mistake for Kara, and it’s interesting how this whole thing is going to play out. I feel like it could be OK, it could be a trainwreck, and I can’t wait to see which it will be (the third book is tentatively titled Secrets of the Demon and is being published by DAW rather than Bantam. There’s 5 books contracted in total so far I believe).

Oh and one other thing. When I was reading this book,  I had the weirdest feeling that I was misremembering parts of Mark of the Demon. Why? Well, I don’t really remember Kara being as self-aware in the first book as she is in this one. I don’t remember her admitting to wanting more than just friendship with Ryan.  I mean, it’s great that she is now, but it seemed out of the blue. I went to look at the first book, and I couldn’t find anything besides her thinking he was cute, but perhaps I’m still missing it. I was also surprised by her explanation of what happened between her and Rhyzkhal.  In the first book she has sex with him, and in this book she admits why.  While I thought she was rash and her choices are going to bite her in the butt, I ended up respecting her character for being honest to herself about what she was doing. And I could understand the reasons why she made those rash choices.

Overall: I’m continuing to recommend this urban fantasy series for its mix of detective mystery and magic. The heroine was someone I could connect to, there’s a love interest to root for, and the true-to-life details about police investigations are a strong suit.

Buy: Amazon | Powells

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers – 7 (Very good)
Lurv a la Mode – 4 and a half scoops (out of 5)
Scooper Speaks – positive review

Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland

Mark of the Demon
Diana Rowland
This is another one of those books where the cover caught my attention first, but the blurb made me really want to read it. Soon after I mentioning that I was eying the book, I met the author on twitter and she was nice enough to put me on the reviewer list. A cover flat came along with the ARC, and boy, the cover is gorgeous in real life (I gasped aloud when I saw it). It’s matte with shiny symbols, and the colors look otherworldly. It’s probably my favorite cover this year.

The Premise: Kara Gillian is Summoner – someone who has the ability to call demons from a parallel plane. She’s been studying and training unbeknownst to the outside world under her mentor/aunt for ten years, and has gained enough skill to work without assistance. Kara’s day job is equally important to her. She’s a detective who has just been promoted from Property Crimes to the Violent Crimes Division at the Beaulac Police Department, just as their town’s serial killer, the Symbol Man has reappeared. The Symbol Man dumped several bodies all over town before disappearing three years ago. All races, all ages.  The only connection between the victims is that they are transients (so no one seems to care they are missing), and a the same symbol is found somewhere on all their bodies. Kara knows that the symbol has arcane significance, but she has no idea what it is. Ever since she saw the body of a victim when she was a beat cop, Kara has wanted in on this case. Now she’s surprised to find she’s the lead investigator and she finally has a chance to use her hidden abilities to catch the killer.

My Thoughts: I’ve been pleased this week to be reading books that had great pacing. It starts off with a bang:

“I could hear the intruder breaking into my house.
Unfortunately, it was in the same instant that the demon appeared before me.”

Read an excerpt of Chapter 1

In Mark of the Demon, something was always going on, and the movement of the story from one scene to the next was seamless. With Kara investigating murders, interacting with demons, hiding her identity as a summoner, and dealing with men in the police department and FBI, it was only reluctantly that I put the book down. If I didn’t have other review deadlines, I’d have read this sooner, because the first page really hooked me. It’s this kind of book that had me enthusiastically informing my husband what’s going on despite him trying to sleep to concentrate something else.

The “About the Author” page says that Diana Rowland has worked in law enforcement as “a street cop, a detective, a computer forensics specialist, a crime scene investigator, and a morgue assistant”. It shows in the writing. I found the scene with the medical examiner in the morgue fascinating (I did always wonder about bone dust. Suspicions confirmed), but the author’s experience shows elsewhere as well. The way Kara handled herself with all the male testosterone in the police department amusing and admirable.

Kara’s character is somewhat isolated. With her background as a summoner she has to be, so the list of secondary characters that Kara is familiar with is extremely sparse. The only person she feels close to is her aunt, but in Mark of the Demon Kara is introduced to an FBI agent and to the Demon Lord Rhyzkhal who I think will become more significant as the series progresses. I look forward to reading how things will turn out in later books and there is plenty of room for relationship growth.

Demons are a large part of the story, and Kara summons a few types into our world. Information about their society and how summoning works is dispersed to the reader in bits and pieces as things happen, and it’s very absorbing stuff. What really fascinated me was the complex sense of honor that has such a huge part of their world. It’s only this sense of honor that enables summoners to stay alive when they bring these creatures into our world, as long as they stay within the agreed upon rules.

The mystery of whodunit took me some time to figure out. I had my suspect about one quarter of the way through the book, but that was blown out of the water several pages later. It’s only when a secondary character fills us in on some back story that I figured out who the Symbol Man was and by that time the book was mostly done. I found out earlier than Kara did, but it was believable that she wouldn’t have figured it out by then, and the killer ensured she’d look in the wrong direction.

Overall: A very satisfying police procedural with demons and summoners thrown in. Kara Gillian is very human, despite her abilities, and it’s nice to read an urban fantasy with this type of protagonist and where the case is the focus and magic is one of the tools to solve it.  Recommended.

I’ve been trying to think of another author who writes police procedurals with supernatural elements and I came up with C.E. Murphy’s Walker series. I certainly think if you are a fan of that series, you will enjoy this one.

This book will be released June 23rd, 2009.

Want to win a copy?

Bitten by books contest (ends 11:59pm PDT TODAY)
I Do Not Want to Wait, I Want the Book Now (comment answering the authors question for a chance to win. Not sure when this ends, so comment quickly)
On Twitter – @bantamspectra tweeted that if you reply to them with #spectra1000 you are entered to win one of 5 books (Mark of the Demon was just added to the list). US Only. Ends 5pm EST Wed 6/17

Other reviews:

The Book Smugglers (gave it a 7 – very good).
Lurv a la Mode (4.5 scoops. Reading her review I’ve discovered we share very similar opinions on this book)

Being giddy about Doubleblind & June releases

Just a quick post here:

I’m a big Ann Aguirre fangirl and every time I hear news about any of her new books I’m all a-tizzy. So I wanted to point out that over the weekend ocelott has put up the very first review anywhere of Doubleblind. She says:

“if you haven’t read the previous two books, here there be spoilers. If, however, you’ve glommed the first two and are waiting impatiently for Doubleblind to release, you’re safe. I give out no plot twists.”

And with that- – the Doubleblind review is here
I am looking forward to this one because I kind of have a thing for the “ambassador in a strange land/world” trope. Love it.

Mark of the Demon
Diana Rowland

There’s a whole BUNCH of new books coming out today. Sci Fi Guy posted June releases on his website and about 80% of the books there I want to read. Which is so bad when I just hauled back 40 some books from BEA. I have the sickness.

Amongst the list (coming out June 23rd) is Diana Rowland’s debut The Mark of the Demon. I’m currently reading it and it is GOOD. Also – the cover is really gorgeous – I gasped aloud when I saw the coverflat. Seriously – it has shiney patterns on it and I am mesmerized by it’s beauty.

The book I’m FOR SURE going to get this week is Ilona Andrew’s Silent Blade which just became available from Saimhain today. I’m all over it. It’s a short story and costs just $2.50. It will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine.