Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Very Unfortunate DNF Review, "Demon Moon," by Meljean Brook

This is going to be a different review from my usual. Regular readers to my blog know that I very, very rarely DNF a book.

To me, a DNF doesn't necessarily mean the book is horrifically offensive or badly written. After all, I pushed all the way through Fool Me Once and Whitney, My Love.

Nowadays, though, I've started reading differently. I read slower than I would like (I'm sure everyone with a TBR thinks they read slower than they would like), so lately when I'm with books that are tiresome, I've found myself skimming. But I've never yet brought myself to DNF (Did Not Finish) a book.

Until this one, and it was a tough call, let me tell you.

I loved the previous book in this series, Demon Angel. I thought it had excellent world-building (the idea of angelic Guardians guarding the human race from demons and vampires), fantastic characters (Lilith is one of my favourite heroines ever), and a great love story.

Demon Moon, on the other hand, had a lot of stuff. Incredibly detailed, pointless, and probably unnecessary stuff. And two characters with really complicated and detailed magical backstories and less-developed actual, uh, human problems who have to make a romance in all of that.

So our hero is Colin. I loved him from his appearances in Demon Angel and in Meljean Brook's story "Falling for Anthony" from the otherwise-terrible Hot Spell anthology. So you'd think I'd like him here. Well, he's not bad, but ... he's a vampire, only he's a special vampire because he got turned by a nosferatu (a bald, creepy proto-vampire) instead of another vampire, and he's also special because his blood was tainted by a magic sword used to kill a dragon, and he's also super duper special because for some forgotten and doubtless complicated reason he is also capable of seeing into the Chaos realm whenever he looks at a mirror. And he also, like, spent a week in Chaos. For reasons. And this screwed him up, I think. Because of reasons.

And our heroine is Savi - a human girl who was practically raised by Hugh (the hero of Demon Angel) and her grandmother after her parents were murdered, so she also knows Colin by association. And she's also a brilliant computer programmer - who's secretly working for the government. For reasons. And when the novel opens, she actually gets mysterious superpowers after she uses computer wire, spit, and a mouthful of hellhound venom to take out a nosferatu who's smuggled his way onto her airplane. Yeah.

Oh, and she and Colin apparently spent a week in Caelum (the non-denominational version of Heaven for this book, it seems, although we still have Hell), something I did not at all remember from the previous books, and it was apparently a very emotionally contentious time for the both of them because they spend pages and pages hinting and circling around what happened instead of just out and telling us. ARGH!

From the first hundred and fifty pages I read, the external plot is that the nosferatu that were trapped in Chaos by the Good Guys in the last book due to some incredibly complicated shenanigans are now trying to escape, using other incredibly complicated shenanigans - calling for Savi, Colin, Hugh, Lilith, Selah and Michael to come up with EVEN MORE COMPLICATED SHENANIGANS to save the day.

At least that's what I got out of it. In my opinion, this novel was way, way, WAY too complicated for only the second book of a series. I constantly felt like I was missing something and that I had to keep up. I couldn't get involved with the story or invested in the characters because I was too busy trying to keep all the useless, unnecessary worldbuilding facts straight (what's the difference between a vampire's bloodlust and sex-lust? I HAVE NO CLUE but apparently it's really important in the early stages of the romance). There's Earth, Caelum, Hell and the Chaos Realm. There are vampires, nosferatu, Guardians, demons, hellhounds, werewolves, and wyrmwolves. Each with their own rules and special powers and this Guardian can teleport, but this Guardian can't and this demon can but only on Sundays, etc etc. etc.

After about a hundred and fifty pages, I gave up, exhausted. I didn't want to read anymore, I didn't care about the characters at all, the romance at this stage was just so one-note (Colin wants to get into Savi's pants but he has to do it in a douchey-seductive-vampire way because he doesn't want to reveal that he has feelings and Savi really doesn't want people to bite her but Colin is sexy so she'll let him). Just ... no. When I realized that reading this book had become a chore, and that there were 300 pages left, I just gave up. Life is short.

It reminded me of Marjorie Liu and her Dirk & Steele series, and how she's managed to have such a wonderful, detailed paranormal series while avoiding these very pitfalls. I was confused by Meljean Brook's second book (even after reading the first one and the "Falling for Anthony" short story), but I started what turned out to be the eighth in Marjorie M. Liu's series (The Wild Road, which has one of the best virgin heroes of all time) and loved the hell out of it.

Even so, giving up this book was difficult - I like the author herself, it wasn't badly written, there were a lot of original concepts throughout, and I'm sure I would have found the characters and their romance more interesting if the romance had been better incorporated into a streamlined paranormal plot instead of feeling like a distraction to the all-encompassing, overelaborate paranormal plot.

That being said, readers, have you read her other books? Are they still worth reading or will skipping Demon Moon leave me even more in the dark than I already am? Is The Iron Duke any good?


  1. I did finish Demon Moon, but I've been too scared to start the next one, because I found DM so totally and confusingly complicated that I don't know if I can do it again. So it's lovely to see someone say the same thing.

    I read The Iron Duke this week and rather enjoyed it. It won't be one of my best books ever, but it was less complicated (although there was a lot to take in at first) and fairly engaging. Certainly enough that I've bought the next one.

    I still don't know if I'll be reading more Guardian books or not. I want to and I want to like them, but I just felt so stupid and confused because I couldn't keep up, especially with all the various bargains or contracts or whatever they were that people kept making.

    And yes, I too think Meljean is totally marvellous. I just remain uncertain if her books and I are a good match.

  2. I find your post interesting. This is a complaint I've heard often about this series -- the world building is over complicated. I've read the whole series so far and agree that the beginning of the series is rather confusing.

    I didn't give up and found that the series gets better as it moves along, with some books better than others. This is one of my favorite PNR series (but then I don't read much PNR these days).

    The Iron Duke? I really enjoyed that book. I enjoyed the mixture of steampunk details, action, romance and particularly how Brook manipulated and used history to build her world. You should give it a shot, it's different from her PNR series.

  3. Hi! First time writing here, I've been reading for years and love your blog!

    I just finished The iron duke and will be talking about it next week, I felt the same as you, too many plot twists and details all over the place, I ended up skimming over those parts until I stumbled on the romance parts of the story. And, this way, it was great. But Lord, it was complicated!!!

    It's a shame because it's beautifuly written and quite unusual settings in the best possible way...

  4. Oh noes! This one was my favorite of the Guardian books! Loved loved loved it to little bits. Did the complexity of it all sometimes make me go "huhn?" -- yes, but not nearly as much as "Demon Angel" which I found to be a whole lot more complex in a "huhn?" way! (I read the ending of DA 3 times before I thought I might have figured out just how the big showdown went down.) I actually found DM to be more straightforward -- funny yes? To each their own. I have enjoyed the rest of the series, but given the utter disparity of opinions...
    As for "The Iron Duke" that's my favorite of all Brook's books. Sorry you didn't like this one!

  5. No one agrees about which of Brooks' books is the most confusing! I didn't like The Iron Duke but really enjoyed Here There Be Monsters and The Blushing Bounder (novellas). I think I'll try her new one, Heart of Steel, and see if it works for me.

    Good luck!

  6. LaurieF10:24 AM

    I had the same problem, Books 1 and 2 were difficult reads for me. I didn't pick up the series for a couple of years and then I read book 3 "Demon Night". Meljean Brook herself said on her blog (which I follow) that Bk 3 might be a good place for some readers to start and she's right. I am now totally hooked on the series and can't wait for the final book coming out this year. So pick up Demon Night, IMHO you will enjoy the heck out of it. Also loved The Iron Duke.

  7. Anonymous10:56 AM

    I have one of her Demon books in my TBR pile; not sure which. I didn't finish the Iron Duke...the hero was kind of a jerk and I wasn't in the mood for it. I'll probably pick it up again at some point and see if I can get into it.

    As I recall, the worldbuilding and plot of the Iron Duke are intricate but not impossible to follow or anything.