My latest Book Club assignment has been to review a novel by one of the authors of the Nerd Girl Books Tour. Beth Woodward’s The Demon Within: A Dale Highland Novel is available right this minute in both paperback and e-book formats. I’m a simple man, our associate editor Matt sends me books, and I read them, but I’m excited to see what Meg Eden and company have to offer on this blog tour. So let’s see what we have here…
*Opens file in Kindle App*
*Sees cover image*
Yikes. I can clearly see that we are not dealing with PIXAR-esque demons here. Luckily, I just stocked up on my supplies of holy water, wooden stakes, and silver-plated clubs (you know, just in case). Jeff Bezos really will sell you anything online.
The narrative of The Demon Within follows a young woman living on the run. Unlike most 20-somethings, she isn’t running from crippling student loans, or a wave of social media creeps; she’s running to escape justice for the half-dozen or so murders she’s committed. Her newest fake identity, the one we experience throughout the story, has her going by the name of “Dale.” She’s found her way to New York City, an ideal place to lie low among the 8.5 million other residents. Here, she tries to build a new life where she *hopefully* won’t kill again.
After weeks of assimilating into this new role, Dale is invited to a nearby warehouse party with her roommate. It’s the kind of activity normal 22 year olds in NYC would do, so she reluctantly agrees in order to keep the charade going. At this party she stumbles into, quite literally, a man named John Goodwin. He is a California 10 with a bit of charm too, and Dale feels an immediate jolt of electricity upon touching him. Not quite the butterflies in the stomach, this is more of the kind where you can’t tell if it’s painful or exhilarating. He later introduces Dale to an entirely new reality, one where angels and demons walk the Earth among the unsuspecting humans. A world where she has a pivotal role to play in the ages-old conflict between those two races. That’s because (as John informs her), that our dear protagonist is a half-demon.
The story on the whole, is extremely compelling and engaging. Throughout the world-building stages of the book, I was very curious as to just how Woodward would frame these angels, demons, their conflict, and how all of it might fit within religious canon. Once I was immersed, the dramatic tension built masterfully, and I could not put my reader down. This is not just a standard line used in book reviews; I literally stayed up until 3 AM on a work night to finish reading it.
With all of that said, I do have some strong feelings about the ending itself. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t slightly disappointed with how the story resolved after its climax. I do not wish to spoil the book, or influence your own reading of it, so I’ll be brief with my synopsis and omit details. The ending of this incredible story just felt a little forced. With a singular alteration of events, I think we would be talking about The Demon Within in a similar way we do other literary classics. But don’t just take my word for it, for I am nothing more than a snivelling critic, and not an author. I sincerely invite others to read and discuss their feelings on the subject. However, I don’t want to end this review on a downer: I greatly enjoyed this book, and I want that to be made clear.
Without giving too much away, I would say that I particularly appreciated the deft handling of religion within the story. Obviously, angels and demons are very real (and important) aspects of living religious traditions. Followers of these traditions are going to come into this book with ideas of what those terms mean, and their relationship with God. For all but one line of dialogue though, God is not even brought up in the story at all. Yes, several of the angels have biblical names, but this hands-off approach to God and Jesus really serves this particular narrative well. Woodward isn’t attacking religion, she is merely using a well-known framework as a starting point for building her own world. I would liken it to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series in that regard.
I cannot recommend The Demon Within enough. Get it with a friend, read it separately, and then talk about it. There’s so much depth to this story, a review like this can hardly do it justice. Heck, my twitter is linked, tell me why you think I’m wrong about the ending. Critics gotta be open to criticism too, right?
Special thanks to Meg Eden and Beth Woodward for providing a copy of The Demon Within to TehBen.com for review, and for allowing us to be a part of the Nerd Girl Books tour. All thoughts and opinions are exclusively of TehBen.com
Author’s Twitter: @beththewoodward
Purchase Link: Amazon
Meg Eden’s Nerd Girl Books and @NGB_Books
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