Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have to thank my Goodreads friend, Jess R, for encouraging me to read this book. All she said was, Rhyzkahl was like an Anne Stuart hero, and I was there. And I am so glad about it.
Mark of the Demon gave me one heck of a read. Diana Rowland managed to take the concept of demon summoning and write a story that got past my personal hang-ups about that idea. I like that she made it clear that her concept of demons veers from the Christian concept, because I don't know if I could have been down with reading about a heroine who was dealing with Satanic demons. Okay, my hangup, not yours. But, anyway, that helped me to get on board this book.
Occult detective novels are like candy to me. I devour these things. Essentially, an occult detective novel is a mystery with paranormal aspects. In this case, Kara Gillian is a police homocide detective who has a hobby/calling of demon summoning. She does this because it's in her blood. Her aunt was a summoner, and she finds out that her grandmother was one too. When her aunt taught her this art, it helped her to get her life on track, and to find a sense of purpose, something she could feel confident about. It turns out her summoning skills, and her ability to sense arcane energy, will come in handy in investigating a series of very grisly murders by the Symbol Man.
I flat out loved Kara. She was insecure, foul-mouthed, socially awkward, but strong and intelligent, and very likeable. I like that she wasn't the resident sex bomb that all the men wanted. I get really tired of that over-used device in female lead urban fantasy (which causes me to search out male leads just for a break from it). She was very good at her job as a police officer, even though she didn't always have confidence in her abilities. I liked that she thought things through, and had a habit of 'faking it until you make it'. In other words, showing you had things under control, even if you are a shuddering wreck inside. I liked that because I often use that technique. I have to be honest, I saw a lot of myself in Kara. She hadn't had an easy or normal life. She wasn't good with people, and because of what she was, she hadn't had a busy social life as far as men. I liked that she was pretty good with being one of the guys, and handling that wall of chauvinism that women often face when they are working in male-dominated environments. She didn't act like a bimbo to get her way. She used the natural abilities and skills she had and didn't play up to men's flawed perceptions of women in the work environment.
The mystery was tightly-plotted and well-executed. I had some suspicions about who was behind the murders, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I was wrong. Although the arcane elements tied heavily into solving the case, Kara also used good, old-fashioned police investigative techniques just as much. Ms. Rowland managed to integrate her experience in criminal investigations into this story in an interesting and believable fashion.
The arcane elements were very interesting. I have zero personal interest in pursuing studies in the occult, but I find it fascinating to read about arcane/occult lore in fictional books. This story has some elements that felt unique and personal, crafted by the author to create her own world with its own rules. I liked that a lot about this story.
And then there's Rhyzkahl. Hello! Yummy much? Scary much? Yes to both questions. He's not a demon, by the way. He's a Demonic Lord, which are like the top of the top in demonic hierarchy. He's not scaly and gross with horns, either. He's hot. Really hot. I was thinking, sex with a demon? Not sure about that part. But, when I read about this very sexy, human-looking (well better than human looking since he's absolutely perfect), and smooth, polite (unless he's ripping you to pieces), and charming, the sex part didn't weird me out at all. It was more like, Wow! I can see the appeal with Rhyzkahl. I can also see why Kara is scared of him and wants him out of her life. But, Rhyzkahl has an interest in Kara. We find out what that is to a certain degree, but there are still questions there. Does he like her for who she is, or what she can do with her summoning skills? He seems kind of possessive of her. Is that a sexual thing or a power thing for him? The verdict is still out on that one. But I will keep reading to find out.
As for Ryan Kristoff? I grew to like him. At first, I was thinking, 'Stuffed Shirt.' But, he actually has an appeal. He's smart and he has knowledge in the occult world, and he ended up being a very good ally and partner to Kara. It will be interesting to see where their association goes.
Mark of the Demon is occult detective urban fantasy in all the best ways. The sensual/romantic aspects don't overwhelm the story, but tie in beautifully. The characters are appealing and life-like. I care about Kara. I want to keep reading about her. I want to see what her association with Rhyzkahl is going to bring into her life in the future. Ms. Rowland wrote one heck of a book here. Mark of the Demon gets my stamp of approval. Give it a read!
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