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REVIEW: Demon’s Fire by Emma Holly

Dear Ms. Holly:

Book CoverWhen we think of cross over genre, we readers usually are referring to the science fiction/fantasy book that appeals to both the sff reader and the romance reader. But you are probably one of the first cross over authors I ever read except I never really identified as such. You started out writing erotica that had broad appeal within the romance reader crowd. As erotic romance has become more popular, your books have largely been folded into the romance genre. Demon’s Fire, however, while a romance, seems more of an erotica book to me, but one that crosses over because of its strong romance overtones.

Demon’s Fire is the third book in the alternative Victorian England world that was started in The Demon’s Daughter and Prince of Ice . Prince Phandir was introduced in Prince of Ice as a captured Yama prince who was sold to be a sex slave at a pillow house (a house of prostitutes). The young women of the pillow house learn to service Yama’s by “practicing” on Phandir. Prince Phandir is freed of his slavery but not of his sexual dsyfunction. As a Yaman Demon Prince, Phandir can only find true release with very few others and with his beloved wife dead, he fears that will never happen. The Demon’s Daughter include the characters Beth and Charles who make up the threesome in the menage romance of Demon’s Fire.

The strength of this book is that it uses sex in every aspect: to draw the characters; to advance the plot; to build the world. What I mean by that is the sex scenes and sexual overtones are integrated into every aspect of the story. Sex is shown in its loving glory and its meaningless encounters. The duality makes for a provocative statement and plays off the underlying setting. This series is set in Victorian England, purportedly a notoriously rigid time in society. It’s wonderfully perverse then to create an alternate world that is so highly sexual as if to say that under the veneer of prim Victorian England beat an unrelentingly sexual pulse.

Another fascinating part of the book (and the series) is the strongest character is the heroine, Beth in this case. Both Charles and Phandir have sordid past sexual histories. Charles was a prostitute and Phandir, a captive sex slave. Beth is portrayed as both sexually and emotionally healthy and is the driving force for the relationship.

One of the problems I had was that Charles and Beth seemed so young in comparison to Phandir. It felt like the two of them were a couple of college students off on a study abroad trip where they came across a house of ill repute and experimented their heads off. I felt that there was an attempt to offset this comparative youth by showing Charles’ harsh upbringing and thus suggesting that he was old beyond his years (although I found him to act immature quite often). Beth was infused with the power of a goddess and her strength was found in this well, rather than her own backbone at times.

This story was weak on the paranormal aspect and while the setting was integrated quite well, I missed the Yama overtones that were so strong in the Prince of Ice, particularly the Buddha cultural overtones. Demon’s Fire is set in Bhamjran, a desert country (I kept thinking Egypt although there are desert spaces in China like the Gobi desert) and while the physical overtones of the desert were strong, there wasn’t the sense of culture that I enjoyed in the previous series.

Finally, the suspense plot which features an old foe of Phandir turned a bit comical and left me with some (in my opinion needlessly) unresolved questions.

I don’t think that a reader would have to read either Demon’s Daughter or Prince of Ice to understand and appreciate Demon’s Fire, but I won’t deny that having had read those two and the novella featuring the goddess Tou provided a good base for Demon’s Fire. Overall, I appreciated the mastery of the erotica writing but wished it had been buttressed by equally strong worldbuilding and suspense plot. B-

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in trade paperback from Amazon’s or Powells or ebook format.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

7 Comments

  1. loonigrrl
    Apr 12, 2008 @ 15:30:37

    I loved the last one in this series- Prince of Ice. As in, I think it’s my favorite Emma Holly book ever. I just got this last night. I’m hoping for good things, but I’ve got kind of mixed emotions about Phandir and, honestly, menage books usually aren’t my favorite.

  2. vanessa jaye
    Apr 12, 2008 @ 17:03:41

    I also loved the two previous entries in this series, but…. for the most part I’m not seeking out 3-somes, so I’ll probably leave this one alone and look forward to the next. :-P

  3. Rosie
    Apr 12, 2008 @ 17:21:11

    One of the problems I had was that Charles and Beth seemed so young in comparison to Phandir. It felt like the two of them were a couple of college students off on a study abroad trip where they came across a house of ill repute and experimented their heads off.

    Sometimes I read a book and ponder over how to relate my thoughts or wonder what it was that was really nagging me. DEMON’S FIRE was one of those. As soon as I read the above quote, I thought…”oh yeah…that. Thanks Jane. That was like an aching tooth.

    I just wanted to add a note about Holly’s handling of menage relationships. I think her book MENAGE is one of the best 3-some books I’ve read. While it’s a well written erotic romance it also deals in a pretty realistic way how such a relationship would affect the participants emotionally. It’s not all about le sex. That book was one of the first that I read that even came close to touching on the realistic inherent difficulties of three people in a relationship.

  4. Keishon
    Apr 12, 2008 @ 18:50:51

    I’ve read Cooking Up a Storm by Emma Holly, years ago but I haven’t had any luck in reading her crossover stuff. I’ve bought, started and stopped enough of her books to not try again anytime soon. I can’t put my finger on why her books just don’t work for me, only that they just don’t.

  5. Li
    Apr 13, 2008 @ 14:57:32

    Thanks for highlighting this release, else I would probably have missed it. I remember loving “Prince of Ice”, but “The Demon’s Daughter” has been languishing in my TBR pile. Time to dig it out, I think!

  6. Robin
    Apr 13, 2008 @ 19:38:29

    Oh, Demon’s Daughter is one of my favorite Holly books, even though I think the world building could have been much stronger. I just fell in love with the steampunk setting and the whole theme of honor as it plays out through the book. I liked the second one a bit less, but now that I know that this book is about Beth and Charles (YEA they got together!), I’m a bit more anxious to read it, even though I’m a bit worried about this:

    there wasn't the sense of culture that I enjoyed in the previous series.

    and this:

    Charles and Beth seemed so young in comparison to Phandir

    But I rarely pass up a Holly book, even if I’ve felt that her books have become more “lite” in the past few years. There was so much vividness, for example, in the details of time and place in Beyond Seduction, and I’ve been missing that lately in her work.

  7. Deanna
    Apr 17, 2008 @ 02:09:45

    I loved Prince of Ice and was quite excited when I heard about this book, but after reading the review, I’m going to give it a miss. I am not into menages.

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