Latest book: “Eye of the Daemon” by Camille Bacon-Smith
OK, this book was totally cheating, as I’ve not only read it before, it’s been sitting on my shelf for years now. But I was having interlibrary loan issues, and needed something to read in the interim. Plus, a lot of this “book-a-thon 2007” is about exploring themes in fantasy novels that interest me, and revisiting a book I’ve already read for its themes fits that bill.
Suffice it to say, this book really pushes my buttons.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “story kinks” as the term is understood in the fanfic community–why we are drawn to the particular stories we are, whether as writers or readers. “Kink” here is understood in a broader sense than merely sexual, any story element that draws you in with such an inexorable power that you find yourself writing or reading stories with that element over and over whether you realize it or not. Among my many “kinks”–(1) parent/child relationships, particularly when the two finally meet after the child is an (near) adult, (2) aliens-among-us, (3) the experience of being part-human, part-alien (where by “alien” I don’t necessarily mean extra-terrestrial, but anything not commonly associated with the natural inhabitants of Earth we see in our daily lives), (4) supernatural families, especially special gifts/experiences being passed down through the generations, (5) a young person only discovering belatedly that they are half-alien or of some sort of supernatural origin, which finally makes sense of the weird/bad experiences they’ve had in their lives, (6) strong women characters who are not merely bit-parts or recurring (may be less of a kink than a prerequisite), (7) characters of invitation, (8) stories of the supernatural that take place in the real world, (9) secret identities/secret sub-cultures, (10) ordinary people becoming champions/messiahs, which may or may not include destiny/prophecy/previous foreknowledge of this as an element.
Evan Davis is the half-human progeny of a demon, Badad, who only had sex with Evan’s human mother because he was forced to after he was summoned from the demon realm (known as “the second sphere”) and bound by a jealous suitor of Evan’s mother, who wanted to destroy her life and that of whomever she had dumped the jealous suitor for. Anyway, poor Evan grows up not knowing why he has these horrible nightmares of being dragged to this scary place that turns out to be the second sphere, and which he is actually visiting during these “nightmares”. His mother is completely unaware that the guy who seduced and impregnated her was a demon.
Evan eventually discovers this cult club in the East Village of New York City where he becomes entrapped by this other demon, Omage, who knows he is half-demon and uses him as a play-thing promising that he will help Evan find his real father. Which he does. One night at the club, Omage summons Badad, under the assumption Badad will do what all demons do when they discover they have half-human offspring–kill it. Badad doesn’t though. He finds himself strangely drawn to this half-human son of his, and rather than kill him, as he is obligated to do by the demon host he is part of, he opts to remain in a limbo of being partially bound to the Earth for length of his son’s human life.
For some reason I don’t think is ever explained, another of his demon host, a female, Lirion, is also partially bound to the Earth for this time period, something she detests, but she is fascinated by Evan and becomes his lover and so stays her hand from killing him just to win her freedom back.
The story goes on into this convoluted plotline about these bad guys (humans) trying to use Evan’s half-human status to take over the second sphere, and I have to admit I don’t understand most of it, even after reading this novel, like, five times. Bacon-Smith just doesn’t do a good job with exposition, and half the time, you’re left wondering about why something happened, or why a character made a comment that they made, because it’s sort of assumed you understand what is going on, and you don’t.
Despite that, I adore this book. It hits so many of my kinks with its tormented, identity-searching, half-demon Evan, his family ties to his father and the volatile, head-strong Lirion (his “father’s cousin”). Then the three of them open a detective agency together where they specialize in finding lost or stolen art works, and so “hide in plain sight” in the ordinary world. There’s even a sequel where they have another “case” for their detective agency, and Bacon-Smith sets herself up nicely for a series which never gets beyond two books. I’m really bummed by that.
A Wizard of Earthsea”, Ursula Le Guin
“Proven Guilty”, Jim Butcher
“Dreamchild”, Hilary Hemingway and Jeffry P. Lindsay
“Guilty Pleasures”, Laurell K. Hamilton
“The War for the Oaks,” Emma Bull
“Shifter,” by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
“Neverwhere,” by Neil Gaiman
“The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
“Eye of the Daemon” by Camille Bacon-Smith