Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: Demon Marked (The Guardians, #7) by Meljean Brook

In this stunning and sexy addition to the world of the Guardians, a man seeks revenge against the half-demon he once loved...

Nicholas St. Croix is familiar with the evil of demons. After his father's death, he was raised by the demon who had taken over his mother's body. Six years ago, his "mother" was responsible for the disappearance of the woman he loved, and Nicholas swore he'd find her--even if he had to go to Hell and back. Except she finds him first--and with one tormented kiss, he knows that she, too, is a demon. Now he is determined to take his revenge.

Ash is a half-demon with no memory of her past or how she got to Hell. All she knows is that Nicholas St. Croix holds the key to her identity. And though he's clearly drawn to her, Nicholas makes no secret of his distrust of her. Yet one kiss at a time, he breaks down her defenses as they battle an array of demons and Guardians. But is Ash's greatest enemy the man at her side?
The Guardian series is a favorite paranormal series and Meljean Brook a favorite writer. I look forward to all her new releases and Demon Marked is no exception. Demon Marked is book number 7 in this series, so if you haven't read the previous books expect a few spoilers.

Nicholas St. Croix was introduced in the last installment Demon Blood as a human whose life became hell on earth after a demon took his mother's place and basically raised him. By the time she was done, Nick's father had committed suicide and Nick's lover Rachel had sacrificed her life to save Nick's. He lives only for revenge and in the hopes that Rachel had been turned into a Guardian because of her selfless sacrifice. When we meet Nick again, the only thing that has changed is that he has become even more ruthless and coldly focused in his search for revenge.

Ash wakes up in a mental institution with no memory of where or who she is. Eventually, after six months of not speaking, she remembers part of her name and slowly begins to exhibit strange behavior and powers that scare nurses, the psychiatrist and other patients. The one thing that's evident is that Ash is very different, exhibits no emotions and has a totally flat affect. Memories flicker on and off and when the psychiatrist won't help, she leaves the institution and ends up at Nick St. Croix's house. The two meet and although she looks like Rachel, both Nick and Ash know that's not who she is. They strike a bargain, Nick will use Ash to lure the demon who killed his mother, and Ash will use Nick to figure out her identity.

At the beginning of the story Nicholas and Ash were quite cold and it took me a while to warm up to both of them. Ash in many ways seemed lifeless and almost robotic, and Nicholas's obsession with revenge made him into a detached and ice cold man with little to no feelings but cold rage. I shouldn't have worried though, Meljean Brook certainly thawed them out nicely. Soon, there were enough human moments between them and surprisingly amusing dialogue to make Demon Marked worthy of this series.

Ash's character warmed up slowly and believably, and Nicholas' thawing personality changed with enough doubt intermixed with his growing feelings for Ash, that it was believable as love and passion grew between them. Although the fiery passion in this book is not as hot as in Demon Forged, as always, Brook revs up the sexual tension and there's a great payoff when the characters finally give in to passion.

The overall story arc worked out well for me with one exception. I found the outcome of Nicholas's revenge against the demon predictable. However, the way the story line is twisted to work in Michael's situation is rather well done. It's quite nice to see characters from the series make appearances as secondary characters, without them taking too much of the focus away from the central characters. It's always great when Lillith and Hugh make an appearance. However, Khavi is still a mystery, isn't she? I still believe that her methods are highly questionable.

I also have many questions as to what the Guardians are doing and how they compromise their principals to achieve their goals. In this particular story the sacrifice of good souls for the one. Thinking back to Lillith and Hugh's story (Demon Angel) at the very beginning of the series, it seems as if somehow the Guardians have been derailed from their true purpose and in many ways they've become as manipulative as the demons, even as it is understood that their whole structure needs change to survive. But how far are they willing to go? It says a lot about Meljean Brook that such gray areas have been building up slowly and are up for debate and about to climax at this point in this paranormal romance series.

I am especially looking forward to Michael's story, as by addressing the very nature of that character's duality the above questions should be answered. However, how Meljean Brook goes about doing so? Well... talk about high expectations!

Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: The Guardian Series
Publisher/Release Date: Penguin/September 6, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B

Visit Meljean Brook here.

Series to Date:
The Guardians, Novella .5 (Hotspell Anthology)
Demon Angel, Book 1
Paradise, Novella 1.5 (Wild Thing Anthology)
Demon Moon, Book 2
Demon Night, Book 3
The Guardians, Novella 3.5 (First Blood Anthology)
Demon Bound, Book 4
Demon Forged, Book 5
Blind Spot, Novella 5.5 (Must Love Hellhounds)
Demon Blood, Book 6
Demon Marked, Book 7
The Guardians 7.5, Novella (The Angels of Darkness) Releasing October 4, 2011

7 comments:

  1. Hey Hils, I didn't read your review as I've got some catching up to do, but I have to do that asap before Michael's book! I started reading this series back in 2007, I think! Glad to see all the books have been strong. :)

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  2. Ummm, like Christine I am a bit behind with this series, but I did read your review as I have a lot of catching up to do :) Great review and I think I need to borrow Demon Night from the library ASAP! I have, however, suggested this series to my best friend and she loves it!

    Although...I'm not sure if I've read Paradise - will check :)

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  3. Christine, yes! I can definitely say that this is a PNR series that never lost its steam. All good, great, and excellent reads. I hope you can catch up before the series ends!

    Orannia, this book stands well on its own. There's really not much to spoil... It's funny because I didn't review Demon Night, but it was a favorite book for me in this series. I've read everything except for the novella in the First Blood Anthology, #3.5. I have to find that one. *g*
    Paradise is a stand alone novella, it doesn't affect the series or world building. :)

    Enjoy!

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  4. Interesting topic you're bringing up Hils :) Well you know, I think that LOL it makes a difference now that Lilith's at the helm LOL. No just kidding.

    the thing is that they are at war, right? You always have to look at the big picture out there. Every soul is important, but sometimes, sacrifice is necessary. Isn't that how they became Guardians in the first place, sacrificing themselves?

    Also, as you say, things have changed. If you're hoping to win, you cannot be too nice. It's kind of a sad reality, but it's true. They're already at disadvantages, so if they have to manipulate, they do.

    I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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  5. Nath, in many ways I think that Lillith does have something to do with the way they do things in a different way -- she influences Hugh. But even Lillith is not willing to go as far as Khavi.

    As I said there's an understanding that things need to change, but no... from what I understood "human" and other good souls were not to be sacrificed or manipulated so that Guardians could reach their goals. That's not the way they work -- that's the way demons work.

    I just think that compromising their beliefs is corrupting them (and to a certain extent, I don't know if they're aware -- or if they are they're not paying attention to consequences). They will never win the war if they lose themselves in the battle. Never. I am enjoying the grey areas in the series though... and I certainly enjoyed the book. :)

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  6. I kind of get what you're saying, but I feel that it's not everyone who are willing to go as far as Lilith and Khavi... and Khavi is special. First, I wouldn't say she's a true Guardian... and she can see the future. Some acts that others wouldn't take because they don't know what would be the extent of the outcome, she can because she has an inkling.

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  7. Nath, I think that's what's great about this series -- that we're all wondering and discussing all of this. I can't wait to see what happens with Khavi... and Michael in the next book, and how Meljean Brook reconciles the whole thing. It's going to be interesting. :)

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