Beyond Innocence

Beyond Seduction

Catching Midnight

Courting Midnight

Demon's Daughter

Fairyville

In the Flesh

Personal Assets

Prince of Ice

Strange Attractions

 
Demon's Fire
by Emma Holly
(Berkeley Sensation, $14, NC-17) 978-0-425-22054-2
****
If you are looking for a hot story about a non-traditional couple, you won't find much better than Emma Holly's Demon's Fire. Of course, it isn't really about a couple, not with three players involved. Still, this relationship trois, as much about love and romance as it is about eroticism and sexual experimentation.

Demon's Fire is the third novel set in Holly's alternate universe. It features characters from both novels as well as a cameo performance from Queen Tou ("Queen of All She Surveys" in Beyond the Dark). Prince Pahndir, the humanoid teaching tool from the Demon World brothel (Prince of Ice), is trying to make a life for himself as a brothel owner in Bhamjran. Also in this southern meeting ground of Yamas and humans are Beth Phillips and Charles, the precocious teen-ager and the bristling young adult from The Demon's Daughter. They are helping Lord Herrington (the Yama-gone-human from the same book) on his archeological excavation, but have plenty of time to explore other passions and interests.

As usual, Holly excels in combining sensuality with realistic characters. Charles, who as a child had to fend for himself on the street, has a hard time accepting some of his wants and needs. Pahndir and Beth's timely intervention force him to. Pahndir's determination to remake himself despite his exclusion from the highest Yama social ranks is also quite inspiring. Beth, who is sweet and strong from the start, does not develop as much as the two men, but her solidness is fitting for this novel set in a matriarchal and polyandrous society.

In the tradition of her paranormal fantasies, Holly regales her readers with outrageous details about her alternate universe and demon physiology. Fans may be amused to hear that the unusual Yama sexual organs, the royal flagellum and the kith glands, are revisited here, but not in the same detail. There is also a small cloak-and-dagger subplot, whose main purpose is to allow for a daring rescue and escape. Some of these episodes are somewhat over the top (not to mention oh so politically incorrect), and yet I can't but admire the coy self-consciousness and the tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation. "Before I was married, I was a competitive knife thrower," Pahndir says at a particularly tense moment during their flight. He then proceeds to save the day, flinging knives at their villainous (and villainess) pursuers from a moving vehicle. I should have winced at this obvious novelistic ploy, but instead I found myself laughing with rather than at it.

And then, of course, there are the sex scenes, always an excellent reason to read any Emma Holly book. In this one, they are always well-written, frequently scorching, often inventive, occasionally outlandish, but never empty filler.

Demon's Fire has its place in a trilogy, but it is not necessary to have read the others to enjoy this one. If I recommend that readers do so, it is not only because they will appreciate Pahndir all the more for knowing where he came from. More importantly, I do not want them to miss out on rare treats. Taken on its own, Demon's Fire is not as touching, as layered or as well-crafted as some other Holly creations, but it still bears the stamp of its author's imagination, skill and heart - a sure-fire guarantee for hours of steamy entertainment.

--Mary Benn


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