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REVIEW: Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong

REVIEW SUMMARY: Personal Demon is an urban fantasy novel that continues Armstrong’s intriguing examination of human nature’s darker side.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Tabloid reporter and half chaos demon Hope Adams settles a debt with the omni-powerful Cortez Cabal and confronts her tumultuous relationship with enigmatic werewolf Karl Marsten.

PROS: This novel has a compelling internal conflict for main character Hope Adams as well as between Adams and ex-lover and former lone-werewolf Karl Marsten.
CONS: This story could have been tighter and possessed a quicker pace if it were about 200 pages shorter, closer to 300 pages total instead of 500.
BOTTOM LINE: Personal Demon is a well-written story that integrates the complex world-building and strong female characters common in the rest of the Otherworld series.

Having enjoyed six other installments in Armstrong’s Otherworld series, I was excited to read Personal Demon. I especially like Armstrong’s strong female characters and appreciate the spectrum of female protagonists she has employed in her stories — everything from woman werewolves and vampires to ghosts and witches. As a half chaos demon who is referred to once as “Lucifer’s daughter,” Personal Demon’s main character Hope Adams is a solid addition to that cast.

While I liked the plot, I thought it suffered a bit from slow pacing, a problem that could have been addressed by shortening the book. Hope Adams, who refers to herself as a “gun-toting, chaos demon spy girl,” settles a debt with the Cortez sorcerer cabal by infiltrating a supernatural youth gang. From the back cover copy I expected Hope’s point of view to carry the story, but she shares the spotlight with Cortez Cabal-fighter and heir Lucas Cortez. Lucas is always compelling, but his point of view takes over the book. I enjoyed having a clear-cut view into how the conflicts with Lucas’ father and the Cabal come to head in this novel, but Hope’s story suffered for it. The pace and the stakes for Hope pick up at the end of the story, but I would have liked less page time spent on Lucas and more on Hope’s conflicts.

As a chaos demon, it seems that Hope would have spent at least a short impetuous time in her young life embracing that Loki side of her nature, if only to then realize the error of it. Hope isn’t really allowed to make real mistakes and we see that contrast when Karl, who while he can certainly identify with her struggle, admits that most werewolves have killed a few people in their lifetime before they learned to control their animal sides. Without giving away too many details, I can divulge that we’re given one real glimpse into Hope’s demonic potential, but Karl restrains Hope before she can do serious damage. In one other instance Hope reigns in her demon side herself, but she never really learns what she’s capable of because she’s never gives in to it. I like that Hope rescued herself in this way, but given her particular demon nature Hope’s young adult struggles might have been more outwardly focused than inward. Karl wants to protect Hope from this side of herself and while that’s part of his canine nature, it’s also paternalistic.

Karl Marsten has been part of Armstrong’s series since the very first book, and I’ve enjoyed how his character has evolved. I hope we haven’t seen the last of Hope Adams because, though she was a little short shifted in this novel, her internal conflict is a compelling one and we could easily have only seen the beginning of the character’s struggles with her own Personal Demon.

3 Comments on REVIEW: Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong

  1. Great review!

    Regarding Hope not getting her demonic self on, I wonder if there is a fear that heroines who engage in violent/morally questionable acts are viewed as less sympathetic. Personally, I enjoy that kind of anti-heroine or a character arc dealing with such issues but I may be in the minority. Based on your review, it seems as though Hope was held back somewhat, and I wonder if it’s for that reason.

  2. You might be onto something there. Karl Marsten is portrayed as being redeemable, and he’s done some pretty horrible things in past books. That’s partly why his character arc is so interesting. We rarely see a heroine with such an arc, but I’d sure like to read about one.

  3. I’m almost done with Catherine Asaro’s ALPHA and so far it has just the character arc you might be interested in reading about, Lisa. Alpha, the heroine, is such a badass–not just in her past but during the story itself. (I recommend reading SUNRISE ALLEY first, though, as Alpha makes an appearance there). She does some violent things but her growth is amazing to see. Great dialogue in this book, too.

    *We interrupt this comment so Heather can swoon as she is in lurrvv with Alpha.*

    I don’t know why we don’t see this kind of character arc more often, at least in romance/SFR, although maybe authors worry readers will have difficulty identifying with anti-heroines. I’ve only read very few UF but I thought that arc we’re describing would be common for that genre–is that not the case?



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