Sunday, November 16, 2008

Review – “The Demon King and I” by Candace Havens

The four Caruthers sisters are heiresses with privilege, wealth, beauty, and brains. But these party girls have something extra as well. As the Guardian Keys, possessors of an ancient family secret, they also hold the fate of the world in their hands—between cocktails.

Gallery owner Gillian Caruthers is a sensation in the art world—in this world, that is. In her other world she's called the Assassin, a real knockout with an affinity for snuffing out dimension-jumpers who foul up her personal space. She never expected to join forces with one. But when a plague of murderous demons plunges the earth into darkness, she has no choice but to get a little help from a being who knows his stuff.

Arath, the demon king, isn't quite the scaly thing she expected. In fact, he's kind of hot—and a bit of an enigma, if his strange past is any indication. In solving that riddle, as well as finding the cause for the sudden influx of mystical creatures on Earth; Gillian may just have to work more closely with Arath than she'd anticipated. And somewhere between the light and the darkness they might discover they have more in common than they imagined...
The Demon King and I is the first in a new paranormal series featuring the Carruthers Sisters. From the cover blurb this would seem to be a light-hearted fun para-rom-com. Unfortunately the actual reading experience fell quite short of the mark.

My enjoyment of the story was diluted by a wide range of issues that left me dissatisfied and disappointed including -
  • The characters all sound the same are lacking in distinctive personality. The sisters sound the same, supporting guys the same – very one-dimensional. Flat dialogue doesn’t help.
  • There is an uneasy mix of fantasy and science. Plasma guns and swords. Magical portals and black holes. Much of the action is nonsensical. Plasma guns mow down twenty enemies at a time yet a Guardian will still bring out a sword. Why bother? Despite the ability to teleport, Gillian takes a lengthy plane journey in the middle of a crisis because she needs to ‘be seen’ arriving in the normal manner (and appropriate time delay) to protect her secret identity. Why not have the plane fly to the destination and simply teleport into the plane 5 minutes after it arrives?
  • All the interesting action takes place off stage and is told through character infodumps. Show me, don’t tell me.
  • The central mystery of who the murders and conspirators are is revealed towards the end in a conversation not as a result of character action and plotting. The dark force threatening the universe is never sufficiently described or elaborated upon to provide the necessary sense of menace.
  • Romance novels often place barriers in the way of the main characters to effectively raise the romantic tension. Here Gillian flits about for chapters between joint scenes with Arath constantly deflating any romantic build up between them. The romantic pay off when it does happen is minimal and lacking in spark and chemistry.
  • In several scenes there is no real feeling that key characters were truly at risk so no emotional connection was possible.
  • Gillian as the central character is supposed to be an art expert, celebrity, lawyer, Guardian and more, but her behaviour is superficial at best when she should be complex.
  • Fight scenes are lacking in excitement and dynamics consisting mostly of green goo and blood.
I can’t really say who the target audience is for this type of paranormal. It lacks the cheekiness and humour of the better paranormal chicklit books and the plotting, romance and action is marginal for more adventurous readers. I previously reviewed Like a Charm and while slightly more engaging, I found it a thin read as well. If only The Demon King and I had a smidgeon of the charm of its Rogers and Hammerstein namesake.

Recognizing that my review of The Demon King and I is very likely a minority opinion, you may wish to check out some of these alternate reviews of the book.

Bitten By Books
Wild On Books


Errant Dreams Reviews

AUTHOR AND BOOK SHOWCASEOfficial Candace Havens Website

No excerpt available.

Penguin Group
Published: November 2008
ISBN #: 9780425223635
Format: Trade Pb
Pages: 303


  1. I could barely finish this book. You are correct when you said the characters were one-dimensional and there was a lot telling, no showing.

  2. Hey KB, yeah unfortunately a snappy title doesn't necessarily make for a snappy read.

  3. And also a snazzy cover, which I liked.

  4. Not really sure what to think of this one. The premise sounds interesting but I have a feeling that the things that bothered you would annoy me alot. I have thought about trying her Charmed series though.

  5. While it hurts my heart that you didn't like my book, and I realize it's pointless to explain the things you didn't like, I did want you to know one thing.

    It was meant to be fantasy-lite. To bring readers, who might not necessarily be into fantasy into that world. I hear so many people say they don't like genre books, yet they'll pick up one of mine.

    And my books are mainstream with romantic elements, so the romance is never the main focus of the story.

    I learned about crossing genres from the pro Joss Whedon, and while you might take issue with it, those are the kinds of books I like to read too.

    Take Care

  6. Hi Candace, I really appreciate that you took the time out to comment on my review and define your audience. As I mentioned in the review, that was something I couldn't pin down. As a reviewer, I bring along certain expectation and biases when I select a book and The Demon King and I didn't seem to meet them within the genre. Your explanation has clarified that. I too think Joss Whedon is brilliant and I doubt you can go wrong by his example or advice. I take no issue with your strategy or preferences and am glad that it is working for you. This review is only one person's opinion which is why I included some links to other positive reviews which I don't normally do, so that visitors to my blog can get a balanced view of the book.


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