Bitchin' Blog Posts
Title: The Demon's Daughter
Author: Emma Holly
Publication Info: Berkley Publishing Group 2004
Genre: Historical: Other
I have to give this book an F because I am so damn bored by it I don’t even want to finish it. I’m on page 135 out of 311 and I couldn’t give less of a shit about these characters. So this will have to be a half-finished review because I can’t be bothered to give a damn.
I think it speaks volumes that I am in my 2nd trimester and flush with hormones that should have responded merrily to this book, but instead were left with a feeling of, “Who in the what now?” Even my hormones were confused.
The Demon’s Daughter is set in a parallel universe to Victorian England. By “Victorian” I mean that Victoria is the queen, but there are demons living alongside the humans, everyone is aware of this fact, and life proceeds as one might expect, with, as expected in Victorian society, a very strict and curious balance of power. Seems there are outcast demons who are crapful and take advantage of the human’s energy so as to fuel and better themselves, and certainly there are humans who are willing to pay for the privilege of a demon’s protection. Very similar to a vampire/voluntary donor relationship.
Then there are the daimyo demons, who are upper crust, and look down on the low class demon outcasts. Add to that the strata of rank at work in the Victorian human society, and you have one very confused Sarah. The only thing I could get straight about this universe is that there were more than the normal social levels of peers and undesirables to be dealt with.
I have not had much experience with Holly’s efforts at world building, but I have read several fantasy books and series wherein an entire universe was created that I could access and explore easily. But I could not for the life of me figure out some of the key elements of tension in this book.
First, there’s Adrian Phillips, a policeman who has been physically “enhanced” by the demons, who put implants in his wrists to give him a short period of superhuman strength with which to fight the demons. His decision to accept these implants put him on some kind of universal shit-list, since the demons look down on him as a mere human, and the humans think he sold his own humanity for his ambition. I think he wanted a fair fight, but what do I know? He’s uninteresting to me because he bemoans his exiled status, but then never really wants human contact anyway, diagreeing with the social restrictions standing between him and the heroine, yet never really indicating that at any time prior he gave much of a shit about what people thought of him anyway. He got those implants, he’s dismissed as less-than-human (or more-than-human) and he doesn’t much care, so why should social acceptabilty give him pause? No clue.
His partner in this confusing erotic romance is Roxanne McAllister, daughter of a departed and rather promiscuous opera singer. Roxanne has peculair strength and a gifted talent with painting. They meet because Adrian gets in a fight, gets the crap kicked out of him, and collapses in her backyard unconscious. She brings him into her home - literally lifts him basket-catch-style from the ground and walks into her house with him - to have him stitched up and nursed back to health.
Roxanne, she’s a seriously annoying paragon of virtue. She takes in stray children, finds jobs for them (and of course they are also miraculously talented individuals as well!) and accepts easily that her lover, the man to whom she is effortlessly attracted, has demon technology strapped to his wrist tendons. Further, she finds out that her father is a very prominent upper-class Demon, and an ambassador to the city they live in. She’s conflicted about this information about herself, but she confesses her half-demon status to her new bouncing partner, and he’s like, “Well, ok, shall we go back to bed?”
Now, half-demon status is something that no one thinks is biologically possible, and given the fact that demons feast on the energy of humans, particularly humans in orgasm, one might think he would have more concern over her ability to drain him to the point of needing a few day’s sleep. Certainly she is a little cautious and afraid of how she might inadvertently use him for his energy. Adrian? He’s all, “Please, ma’am, may I have some more of that splendid boinking?”
There are several sources of tension that I’m not going to read any further to see how they are resolved. She’s unacceptable as a mate for him, as her class level is a detriment to his social standing and even his supervisor tells him not to be seen with her. He’s a half-human demon-altered mega cop who is shunned my most human society, though evidence of this shunning is hard to find in the beginning. Seems he just doesn’t like people and wants to hunt down additional criminals in his time off. So what’s the problem? Shouldn’t being an outcast serve him in that endeavor?
Meanwhile, she’s half demon, but rather uncurious about whether that means she can bench press her house, or whether she’s just the same as she ever was, except that she knows who her father is.
But what gets me is how poorly the sexual elements and the tension fit together. It’s so jarring, like the paranormal plot starts up and then Holly grabbed the crowbar to wedge some hot-n-heavy erotic moments in there. To me, they didn’t seem to fit and were too abrupt to be truly erotic. They seemed more like paint-by-numbers elements: “It has been 20 pages and now we must fuck like bunnies on cialis. Let us begin!”
Moreover, Roxanne is a virgin, yet she displays an astonishing amount of sexual knowledge and technique. How did she acquire such a sexual repitoire? She paints erotic portraits, and her mother was a ho, but what does she know about blow jobs? How does she know the perfect manner for giving a hand job? Is this a latent strand of ho-knowledge suddenly becoming wantonly active?
Further, the pacing is so confusing to me: drama drama, world building details guaranteed to confuse the hell out of me, drama drama, hello, let us make the beast with two backs! Let us do it like the madness!
Then, what’s worse, they separate for a time, and then, for some undeveloped reason he takes her to dinner, whereupon he tells her he can’t be seen with her. Her reaction: she’s going to order something deliciously expensive on his tab (I’m down with that) and… change the subject entirely to get him all turned on so he can’t resist her. She punctuates her effort by sticking her foot in his crotch and threatening to go under the table and hoover down his traitorous wang.
Sadly, a good number of the Amazon reviewers are unable to see past the erotica elements to evaluate the plot, so I couldn’t point to anyone else who agreed with me here. Anyone who posted a bad review said it was porn and porn is bad, so of course I give their opinion about as much weight as a cold fart. But the good reviews went on about the fantasy of this world of demons existing alongside humans and I could not get into it.
To be brutally honest, it reminded me of the movie “Underworld,” which Hubby and I call “Underwear.” Vampires hunting demons? Whoo! Hot interspecies love between undead death hunter and hot sexy man-wolf? Whoo! Actual movie? BLEU DONKEY KOCK. Oh, it was awful. It had such potential and was beyond boring. And the sexual tension between the protagonists was so underdeveloped and flat that when the time came for them to get their kissy kiss face on, the entire audience groaned. A hundred people collectively groaned, having realized that this movie sucked.
The Demon’s Daughter had the same amount of erotic tension between the protagonists - that is, none that I could discern. Further, the areas of exploration that I thought were obvious - what does it mean that she’s a demon’s daughter? What can she do with that? And what does it mean for him whether people think poorly of him for his implants and think worse of him for being seen with her? - were left in favor of plot developments I couldn’t bring myself to care about. There are all these alleged forces working against two people who already live on the fringe of acceptable society, and yet he cares desperately about his own reputation enough to insult her to her face about whether he can be seen with her, even while he himself is desperate to be with her. This man is not worthy of her, super human strength or not.
She’s a remarkable balance of fragility and strength, and I was intrigued by her character, but I was so bothered by the scene where he announces his inability to be associated with the likes of her that I closed the book.
And this, dear reader, is where I stopped reading. So this will be where my review ends as well.