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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meljean Brook: THE GUARDIAN SERIES



Author:  Meljean Brook
Series: THE GUARDIAN SERIES
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Publisher and Titles:  Berkley: 
  “Falling for Anthony” in Hot Spell (2006)     
  Demon Angel (2007)    
  “Paradise” in Wild Thing (2007)
  Demon Moon (2007) 
  Demon Night (2008)   
  “Thicker Than Blood” in First Blood (2008)
  Demon Bound (2008) 
  Demon Forged (2009)
  “Blind Spot” in Must Love Hellhounds (2009) 
  Demon Blood (2010) 
  Demon Marked (2011)  
  "Ascension" in Angels of Darkness (10/2011)
  Guardian Demon (8/2013) (FINAL)

     This post was revised and updated on 10/9/13 to include a review of Guardian Demon, the eighth and FINAL novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by a very brief overview of the series and an in-depth review of the seventh novel:

            BOOK 8:  Guardian Demon            
     In this final episode in Brooks' terrific GUARDIAN series, she left the best for last. In this story, Michael and Andromeda ("Andy") finally work things out between them, but not without a great deal of angst and anger. The story begins in Hell, where Andy finds herself being used as bait to draw out Michael. Ever since Michael escaped from Hell's Frozen Field, he has been running around in his bestial dragon form mindlessly killing demons, but the Guardians need him to get back into his human body and help them fight against Lucifer. Sure enough, the bait works when Michael's dragon arrives in the nick of time to rescue Andy from a Hellhound's attack. Andy is grateful for the rescue, but she is terrified of Michael in this bestial form and is still enraged that he linked their psyches without her consent and then took control of her mind without her permission. In Michael's current bestial form Andy can't see anything within him that she recognizes from the years she has spent with his soul inside her. What happens next is so horrible that the reader will wonder how in the world the author will ever turn Andy and Michael into loving soul mates. But don't worry, Meljean Brook is a master story teller, and she performs miracles with this relationship.

     In the action part of the plot, Michael gets back with the Guardians as they try to deal with Lucifer's dastardly plans to open a portal and send his demonic army through to take over the Earth. Michael and the Guardians (including Andy) vow to stop Lucifer, and they have some help down in Hell, where the armies of Belial and Anaria (Michael's estranged sister) are keeping Lucifer's demons busy.

     All though the book, Micheal has a serious personal problem: he is just weeks away from dying (for reasons I won't go into here). Early in the book, only Michael and Khavi know about Michael's impending death, and he wants to keep it that way. He doesn't even tell Andy.

     During the years that Andy carried Michael's soul within her, she had the same powers and skills that he had, but now that she's just a novice Guardian again, she has lost those skills and must get some training. To Andy's disgust, Michael insists on training her himself because he insists on staying close to her so that he can protect her (and drool over her). Andy is enraged about Michael's protectiveness at first, but they soon develop a civil relationshipthen a friendly oneand then a lustful one. Michael is quite sure that Andy will never fall in love with him (he's wrong about that, of course), but he just wants to be near her as much as possible until he dies.

     So...the two parts of the plot are these: The action plot follows the Guardians' efforts to figure out Lucifer's plans before he puts them in motion and to defeat him if and when he breaks through the portal. The romance plot follows Andy as she works through a world of anger, grief, and unwanted lustful feelings to get to the point that she can tolerate Michael's presenceand then his romantic attentions. After the half-way point in the book, there are lots of steamy love scenes between the two star-crossed lovers. (The wine scene is my particular favorite.)

     The ending comes with the climactic showdown battle between Lucifer and the Guardians, led by Michael. Luckily for Andy, her Guardian gift (which I won't describe here), comes in quite handy in matters of both love and war.

     This is one of the rare times that the final novel in a series is perfectly devised. Brook brings back many characters from previous books, and many of them go through some major traumas. (Don't expect everyone to make it out alive.) The only parts of the story that lagged slightly were the drawn-out scenes involving Andy's ongoing search for clues about a series of murders that she believes is related to Lucifer's schemes. In part, Brook includes these as a means of allowing Andy and Michael to share some experiences and learn more about one another, but sometimes, it seemed that there were too many of these scenes and that they went on a bit too long. 

     Brook's character development with Michael and Andy is superb. In past books, Michael has frequently been unlikable and harsh, but in this book, we get insights into his personal history that shed light on why he did the things he did in the past. Previously, we only saw Andy when she was possessed by Michael's spirit. Here, we see her as she really isdealing with the tragedies in her life and beginning to look forward to a much happier future. If you haven't been reading this series all along, please start with this book. Your best bet is to begin back at the beginning with Demon Angel and enjoy Brook's wonderful GUARDIAN world in its entirety. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Guardian Demon.

            WORLD-BUILDING           
       Protagonists in this series are primarily Guardians (i.e., Guardian Angels), who are responsible for protecting humankind from demons. Set primarily in San Francisco, this series is best enjoyed if the reader has some knowledge of demonic mythology (e.g., myths about hellhounds, Nosferatu, Nephilim, guardian angels, and various types of demons). The mythology in book 1 is particularly complex. Each book tells the soul-mate story of one couple as they battle the bad guys and come to terms with their own relationship. In general, the soul-mate pair has so many second (and third and fourth) thoughts about their relationship that sexual tension is at peak levels throughout each book.  

     Meljean Brook is one of the strongest of the paranormal romance writers now on the market. In the GUARDIAN series, she has built an intricately designed world that consistently follows the rules set up from the beginning. Her heroes and heroines are more complex than the usual paranormal soul mates, and their romances build and shape their characters. The plot in each book fits neatly into the overall story arc of the series: the Guardians' ongoing battle against the demons and their diabolical leader, Lucifer. 

     My recommendation is to start reading this series from the beginning, but if you insist on starting in the middle, you should click HERE to go to to Brook's online Primer for some "story-so-far" clues. The Primer also includes a time line, a section that explains the characteristics of the mythos of the various supernatural characters, a biography for each character, a description of each setting and organization, and a glossary of terms. The Primer is extremely helpful, but you should be aware that it does contain lots of SPOILERS.

Here are the names of the soul-mate couples in each novella and novel:
  > “Falling for Anthony” in Hot Spell: Anthony & Emily
  > Demon AngelHugh & Lilith
  > “Paradise” in Wild Thing: Lucas & Selah
  > Demon Moon: Colin & Savi
  > Demon Night: Ethan ("Drifter") & Charlie
  > “Thicker Than Blood” in First Blood: Jack & Annie
  > Demon Bound: Jake & Alice
  > Demon Forged: Alejandro & Irena
  > “Blind Spot” in Must Love Hellhounds: Geoffrey & Maggie
  > Demon Blood: Deacon & Rosalia
  > Demon Marked: Nicholas & Ash
  > "Ascension" in Angels of Darkness: Marc ("Icarus") & Radha
  > Guardian Demon: Michael & Andromeda (Andy) 

            BOOK 7:  Demon Marked           
      The seventh book has two main plots. The first focuses on the development of a romance between a halfling demon and a human: Ash and Nicholas. As the story begins, Ash has just escaped from three years of imprisonment in a psychiatric hospital in London. She can remember events from just prior to her imprisonment through the present, but before that, everything is a blank. We get our first clues to Ash's real nature with the description of some of her extremely odd traits, which frighten the hospital staff to the point that some of them quit their jobs: eyes that sometimes turn red, clothing that disappears and reappears, and a complete lack of emotion. 

     After her escape from the hospital, Ash is determined to discover who (and what) she really is. When she breaks into the house in London that she remembers living in, she is caught by the owner, Nicholas St. Croix, who is searching for Madelyn, the demon who possessed his mother's body and ruined his life. When Nicholas shocks Ash with a Taser, she shifts into a partial demonic form (horns, red skin), so we that gives us are final clue that she is some kind of demon. Nicholas, of course, hates all demons with a passion. We met him in a previous book when he had some interactions with the Guardian, Rosalia, in a demon dungeon in Italy where he was also searching for Madelyn. As the plot proceeds, Nicholas takes Ash to America, hoping to use her as bait to attract Madelyn so that he can kill his demon-possessed mother once and for all.  

     Eventually, the Guardians enter the picture with some information about Ash. They know who she really is and the extent of the powers in the red tattoos that cover her face and chest. Up until now, you could read this book as a stand alone, but from this point on, the plot reaches back for the Michael/Taylor plot line from previous books. To sum it up, Taylor is a Guardian who is possessed by Michael, a Grigori (half-demon, half-human) who is the powerful First Guardian and who was imprisoned in the frozen field of hell in Demon Forged. This is where the second plot line kicks in: the attempt to free Michael from the frozen field. Leading the rush to rescue Michael is the Grigori, Khavi, who has the gift of foresight and "sees" the events that will lead to Michael's rescue. Unfortunately, Khavi has a tendency to manipulate events to make them fit her visions, and since her primary goal is to free Michael, she doesn't really care if others (i.e., Nicholas and Ash) get hurt in the process.  

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