Author: Paula Altenburg (aka Taylor Keating)
Series: DEMON OUTLAWS
Plot Type: Post-Apocalyptic Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—3; Humor—1
Publisher and Titles: Entangled Publishing
The Demon's Daughter (3/2013)
Black Widow Demon (11/2013)
I have finally gotten around to reading Altenburg's series, so this post includes a brief overview of the world-building followed by reviews of the first two novels. The third book (currently being advertised as an e-novel) is due in May.
Women have essentially no rights in this world, and they are frequently sold as slaves or are unwilling participants in the "entertainment" industry, if you get my drift. "Women, owned by men in this world and used as they pleased, were one of three things—wives, daughters, or whores." (The Demon Creed, chapter 1)
Characters have one-word names that pertain to their some aspect of their lives. For males, this might be their occupation (e.g., Hunter, Blade, Armor, Gauntlet), a cultural connection (e.g., Justice), an important event from their past (e.g., Siege), or the way they live their lives (e.g., Roam, Runner). Women seem to be named for their physical characteristics or for plants or trees (e.g., Raven—for her dark eyes and hair; Willow; Laurel). Some names are impossible to figure out—for example, Crevice.
NOVEL 2: Black Widow Demon
The book's hero is Blade, best friend of the hero of book 1. Blade has turned his back on his former life in Freetown and is making his way to the Goldseeker Mountains: "Deep within these mountains was a boundary that the goddesses had created to keep demons confined to the desert regions. He would test that boundary and see what, if anything lay beyond—if any of the Old World remained or if it had been completely decimated during the Demon Occupation more than 300 years earlier." (p. 2) Blade is determined to open a new chapter in his life: "The past was behind him. He was looking ahead. He was no longer a saloonkeeper, an assassin, or a cripple. He was a far cry from the helpless, abused boy he'd once been long ago. He would be none of those things again." (p. 2)
When Blade reaches the settlement of Goldrush, he witnesses a Godseeker named Justice attempting to burn his step-daughter at the stake—accusing her of being a demon spawn who tried to tempt him sexually. Justice hates all immortals, both demons and goddesses. He especially hated the goddess who kept him as her sexual "pet," and that hatred has grown to include all women. Raven is definitely a spawn, but she hasn't tried to tempt anyone. She is a beautiful young woman who attracts unwelcome male attention, and her step-father has tried, but failed, to seduce her. In self-defense, Raven stabbed Justice in the thigh. Now he is determined to prove to the citizens of his town that she is a spawn by showing that fire won't harm her. Then he plans to take custody of her and do with her whatever he wants. Raven is determined that will never happen.
Blade is drawn immediately to Raven (in one of those paranormal romance soul-mate moments), and he immediately begins concocting a plan to free her. Raven, though, suddenly breaks away from her constraints and escapes into the mountains. Blade follows her to be sure that she is O.K., and in gratitude for his help, Raven gives him a demonic amulet that belonged to her late mother (who was murdered by Justice). They agree to travel together until Raven can find a safe refuge. The rest of the story follows the couple as they run, hide, and fight their way to their eventual HEA, with Justice always on their trail. As they travel on their dangerous journey, Blade and Raven try to understand one another, but instead find themselves alternating between passionate sexual episodes immediately followed by lengthy periods of doubt and misunderstanding—in other words, a typical paranormal romance.
One of Raven's demonic talents is the ability to "read" the minds of others to ascertain their desires, intentions, fears, and memories, and during the early chapters, Raven is able to read most of Blade's memories and thoughts: "Fractured memories came through to her now, whispers of things of which he didn't speak….Raven knew that while he did not blame her for being half demon, or even seem to hold it against her, he would never forget it. It tangled at the edge of his consciousness with the other memories she knew haunted him." (chapter 9) Raven is able to divine exactly what Blade is looking for in life and is able to read all of his memories about his earlier life, right down to the smallest details, like "seeing" the name of his former lover, Ruby, the woman in Freetown to whom he gave his saloon when he left town. Later, though, Raven is frequently (and implausibly) unable to read Blade's emotions. Sometimes she can, but other times (when the author needs to create a heartrending emotional scene), she can't. At one point, late in the story, Raven agonizes: "He wanted more, but she did not know what it was, only that it was something she could not give him." (p. 252) At another point, she muses, "She could not tell what he thought or how he felt…" (p. 297) The instability of Raven's mind-reading with Blade occurs suddenly and without explanation—creating a huge flaw in the plotting.
Raven also has the ability (or curse) to go into the Demons' boundary (which is different from the goddesses' boundary) at times of high stress, and if she is touching Blade at the time, he goes along with her. There, they have several confrontations with Raven's father, who wants to use Raven for his own nefarious purposes. Raven has one other powerful demonic talent: she can burst into flame.
Mortal enemies are not the only dangers that Blade and Raven face. Wild animals called Wolvens (a cross between wolves and mountain lions) roam the mountains. Then there are other spawn, some who have developed into creatures with evil demonic tendencies.
We also meet Creed, Raven's childhood protector, who is training for a career as a Godseeker assassin. The Godseekers' training headquarters is the Temple of Immortal Right, located deep in the Godseeker Mountains near the goddesses' boundary. Creed plays a key role in the lovers' escape, and he is slated to be the hero of the third novel.
This book sets up the series for more spawns as heroes/heroines. As one Spawn explains: "All my life I thought I was alone in the world. Then three months ago [when the demons were banished], everything changed. I began picking up the presence of others like me, so I set out to find them. Most seem to blend in well enough with their communities and don't have any unusual abilities. They might not even know what they are. But some of us don't blend in at all. I thought there might be safety in numbers so I've been approaching a few who have obvious talents….I discovered that some of them don't need protection. Or want it. And that others are banding together, but not always for safety." (p. 99)