Mark of the Demon (Kara Gillian #1) by Diana Rowland
Why me? Why now? That’s what Beaulac, Louisiana, detective Kara Gillian was asking herself when an angelic creature named Rhyzkahl unexpectedly appeared during a routine summoning. Kara was hoping to use her occult skills to catch a serial killer, but never had she conjured anything like this unearthly beautiful and unspeakably powerful being whose very touch set off exquisite new dimensions of pleasure. But can she enlist his aid in helping her stop a killer who’s already claimed the lives and souls of thirteen people? And should she? The Symbol Man is a nightmare that the city thought had ended three years ago. Now he’s back for an encore and leaving every indication on the flesh of his victims that he, too, is well versed in demonic lore.
Kara may be the only cop on Beaulac’s small force able to stop the killer, but it is her first homicide case. Yet with Rhyzkahl haunting her dreams, and a handsome yet disapproving FBI agent dogging her waking footsteps, she may be in way over her head…
This book just made my day. It’s been on my list for years, and I even started to read it a while back and just didn’t get very engaged. Admittedly, it has a slow(ish?) start. Actually, that’s kind of a lie. Really, it got off to a fine start — I just wasn’t in a place in my life that enabled a lot of reading time, and I think Kara is a character I needed to be a little more mature (in terms of life experience, like, you know, living on my own and having a job) in order to really appreciate.
This time I got sucked right in. I love the world of converging and diverging “spheres” as an explanation for a quazi-demonic-realm, and I absolutely love the rules that Rowland put in place related to summoning. The demonic culture was really well thought-out, and, more importantly, well illustrated. So often I feel that there’s a good idea hidden in there somewhere, but it doesn’t come across in the writing. Rowland did a very nice job of making sure that wasn’t the case here—she addressed the demonic culture from a few characters’ points of view pretty seamlessly.
More importantly, she did a good job of making it clear to the reader without turning the book into an exercise in exposition. There were times that she used the easy way out (i.e.—dialog with another character), but there were plenty of instances where Rowland educated the reader pretty well utilizating Kara’s thoughts or actions (and reactions). Variety of explanation (via the classic show, not tell methods) is something I really appreciate as a reader of books that tend to be a bit heavy on the world-building (a requirement of the fantasy genre).
That’s not even what really impressed me. What I found most telling about the quality of this book was the developed plot. It wasn’t overly complicated, but it wasn’t overly predictable. It was kind of “just right.” Don’t want to give too much away, but I was pretty impressed at how the clues were all there without being right there. And Rowland didn’t take the easy way out to make all of the pieces fit in the end and get a pretty conclusion. She took the hard route and made sure she didn’t have any holes (which is one of my personal pet peeves).
Consistent and believable motivations make or break a character, especially in the more current character-driven market. Rowland got it right on for all of her characters. Kara was strong and driven, her aunt was great, and have I mentioned that I love demons? When they’re done right, they’re my favorite supernatural creates in the genre. When I first started this book way back when, I had a bit of a hang-up with the kinds of demons in this book. Now that I’ve finished this one, I love them. A lot. Particularly Rhyzkahl—he had such a great personality, and actually had some good (and consistent) motivations.
All in all, an excellent read. I’m going to go hunt down the second book fairly soon and give it a go.
Random side-note: Always be careful about your word-choice. Sometimes it’s easy, but there were a few moments where I had to pause and think about the decision for a few words. It didn’t take away from the reading experience in this case, but I did note a few weird spots.
Posted on March 24, 2014, in Urban Fantasy/Paranormal and tagged book reviews, demon lord, demons, diana rowland, fantasy, kara gillian, mark of the demon, paranormal, supernatural, urban fantasy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.