Book Review

The Demon’s Daughter by Emma Holly


Title: The Demon's Daughter
Author: Emma Holly
Publication Info: Berkley Publishing Group 2004
ISBN: 0425199185
Genre: Historical: Other

I have to give this book an F because I am so damn bored by it I don’t even want to finish it. I’m on page 135 out of 311 and I couldn’t give less of a shit about these characters. So this will have to be a half-finished review because I can’t be bothered to give a damn.

I think it speaks volumes that I am in my 2nd trimester and flush with hormones that should have responded merrily to this book, but instead were left with a feeling of, “Who in the what now?” Even my hormones were confused.

The Demon’s Daughter is set in a parallel universe to Victorian England. By “Victorian” I mean that Victoria is the queen, but there are demons living alongside the humans, everyone is aware of this fact, and life proceeds as one might expect, with, as expected in Victorian society, a very strict and curious balance of power. Seems there are outcast demons who are crapful and take advantage of the human’s energy so as to fuel and better themselves, and certainly there are humans who are willing to pay for the privilege of a demon’s protection. Very similar to a vampire/voluntary donor relationship.

Then there are the daimyo demons, who are upper crust, and look down on the low class demon outcasts. Add to that the strata of rank at work in the Victorian human society, and you have one very confused Sarah. The only thing I could get straight about this universe is that there were more than the normal social levels of peers and undesirables to be dealt with.

I have not had much experience with Holly’s efforts at world building, but I have read several fantasy books and series wherein an entire universe was created that I could access and explore easily. But I could not for the life of me figure out some of the key elements of tension in this book.

First, there’s Adrian Phillips, a policeman who has been physically “enhanced” by the demons, who put implants in his wrists to give him a short period of superhuman strength with which to fight the demons. His decision to accept these implants put him on some kind of universal shit-list, since the demons look down on him as a mere human, and the humans think he sold his own humanity for his ambition. I think he wanted a fair fight, but what do I know? He’s uninteresting to me because he bemoans his exiled status, but then never really wants human contact anyway, diagreeing with the social restrictions standing between him and the heroine, yet never really indicating that at any time prior he gave much of a shit about what people thought of him anyway. He got those implants, he’s dismissed as less-than-human (or more-than-human) and he doesn’t much care, so why should social acceptabilty give him pause? No clue.

His partner in this confusing erotic romance is Roxanne McAllister, daughter of a departed and rather promiscuous opera singer. Roxanne has peculair strength and a gifted talent with painting. They meet because Adrian gets in a fight, gets the crap kicked out of him, and collapses in her backyard unconscious. She brings him into her home – literally lifts him basket-catch-style from the ground and walks into her house with him –  to have him stitched up and nursed back to health.

Roxanne, she’s a seriously annoying paragon of virtue. She takes in stray children, finds jobs for them (and of course they are also miraculously talented individuals as well!) and accepts easily that her lover, the man to whom she is effortlessly attracted, has demon technology strapped to his wrist tendons. Further, she finds out that her father is a very prominent upper-class Demon, and an ambassador to the city they live in. She’s conflicted about this information about herself, but she confesses her half-demon status to her new bouncing partner, and he’s like, “Well, ok, shall we go back to bed?”

Now, half-demon status is something that no one thinks is biologically possible, and given the fact that demons feast on the energy of humans, particularly humans in orgasm, one might think he would have more concern over her ability to drain him to the point of needing a few day’s sleep. Certainly she is a little cautious and afraid of how she might inadvertently use him for his energy. Adrian? He’s all, “Please, ma’am, may I have some more of that splendid boinking?”

There are several sources of tension that I’m not going to read any further to see how they are resolved. She’s unacceptable as a mate for him, as her class level is a detriment to his social standing and even his supervisor tells him not to be seen with her. He’s a half-human demon-altered mega cop who is shunned my most human society, though evidence of this shunning is hard to find in the beginning. Seems he just doesn’t like people and wants to hunt down additional criminals in his time off. So what’s the problem? Shouldn’t being an outcast serve him in that endeavor?

Meanwhile, she’s half demon, but rather uncurious about whether that means she can bench press her house, or whether she’s just the same as she ever was, except that she knows who her father is.

But what gets me is how poorly the sexual elements and the tension fit together. It’s so jarring, like the paranormal plot starts up and then Holly grabbed the crowbar to wedge some hot-n-heavy erotic moments in there. To me, they didn’t seem to fit and were too abrupt to be truly erotic. They seemed more like paint-by-numbers elements: “It has been 20 pages and now we must fuck like bunnies on cialis. Let us begin!”

Moreover, Roxanne is a virgin, yet she displays an astonishing amount of sexual knowledge and technique. How did she acquire such a sexual repitoire? She paints erotic portraits, and her mother was a ho, but what does she know about blow jobs? How does she know the perfect manner for giving a hand job? Is this a latent strand of ho-knowledge suddenly becoming wantonly active?

Further, the pacing is so confusing to me: drama drama, world building details guaranteed to confuse the hell out of me, drama drama, hello, let us make the beast with two backs! Let us do it like the madness!

Then, what’s worse, they separate for a time, and then, for some undeveloped reason he takes her to dinner, whereupon he tells her he can’t be seen with her. Her reaction: she’s going to order something deliciously expensive on his tab (I’m down with that) and… change the subject entirely to get him all turned on so he can’t resist her. She punctuates her effort by sticking her foot in his crotch and threatening to go under the table and hoover down his traitorous wang.

Sadly, a good number of the Amazon reviewers are unable to see past the erotica elements to evaluate the plot, so I couldn’t point to anyone else who agreed with me here. Anyone who posted a bad review said it was porn and porn is bad, so of course I give their opinion about as much weight as a cold fart. But the good reviews went on about the fantasy of this world of demons existing alongside humans and I could not get into it.

To be brutally honest, it reminded me of the movie “Underworld,” which Hubby and I call “Underwear.” Vampires hunting demons? Whoo! Hot interspecies love between undead death hunter and hot sexy man-wolf? Whoo! Actual movie? BLEU DONKEY KOCK. Oh, it was awful. It had such potential and was beyond boring. And the sexual tension between the protagonists was so underdeveloped and flat that when the time came for them to get their kissy kiss face on, the entire audience groaned. A hundred people collectively groaned, having realized that this movie sucked.

The Demon’s Daughter had the same amount of erotic tension between the protagonists – that is, none that I could discern. Further, the areas of exploration that I thought were obvious – what does it mean that she’s a demon’s daughter? What can she do with that? And what does it mean for him whether people think poorly of him for his implants and think worse of him for being seen with her? – were left in favor of plot developments I couldn’t bring myself to care about. There are all these alleged forces working against two people who already live on the fringe of acceptable society, and yet he cares desperately about his own reputation enough to insult her to her face about whether he can be seen with her, even while he himself is desperate to be with her. This man is not worthy of her, super human strength or not.

She’s a remarkable balance of fragility and strength, and I was intrigued by her character, but I was so bothered by the scene where he announces his inability to be associated with the likes of her that I closed the book.

And this, dear reader, is where I stopped reading. So this will be where my review ends as well.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    emdee says:

    This was the first Emma Holly book I read.  I managed to get through the whole thing but I still didn’t understand what was going on most of the time.  It’s a pretty good indicator that something is wrong when I begin skimming a book instead of reading it. This book is a muddled mess and almost put me off reading any more Holly.  But reading this site and others convinced me to give her a second chance and I bought Menage.  And I wasn’t sorry about that.  Read every word too, some more than once…

  2. 2
    June says:

    Totally agree with everything you said, Sarah.  I did manage to finish the book, but it was really tough going.  The world she was trying to set up seemed interesting in theory, but never really gelled.  I can see the premise working as a straight-up sci fi/fantasy book without the romantic element. 

    That said, I’ve read other books where the plot didn’t really work but the chemistry of the couple pulled me through anyway.  No chemistry here, and I just basically never liked Adrian.

  3. 3
    Sarah says:

    Emdee, it is so funny you should say that, because I started Menage right before I decided I couldn’t deal with the plot of The Demon’s Daughter. And Menage is much better.

    And June, I hear you – I didn’t like Adrian either, and couldn’t be bothered to care about him. But the way he treated Roxanne, who I did like? Oh, not cool, dude. Take your implants somewhere else.

  4. 4
    HelenKay says:

    Yowza.  That sounds terrible.  I’ll stick with her contemporary stuff, which I don’t always love but at least I understand.

  5. 5
    AngieW says:

    Sarah, as further proof that you and I have similar reading tastes, I didn’t finish this one either. Hated it, hated it, hated it. And I don’t say that very often. It was the first book by Emma Holly I’d ever read. Or not read as the case happens to be!

  6. 6
    Danielle says:

    So, to recap: “He’s a demon-altered super cop who is shunned by most human society. She’s a half-demon erotic painter who knows the perfect manner for giving a hand job. Together they

    fight crime

    boink like bunnies!”

    That about cover it?

  7. 7
    Meljean says:

    This was one of my favorite paranormal romances last year :D

    I loved the world-building—it did take me a while to understand what was going on, but I’m never sure if that is me or just the way in which it is presented. And I can see where some of the elements you mention here might not work for a lot of people, but somehow they just clicked with me. I absolutely loved Adrian’s character, and thought his class dilemma and the demon/human castes fascinating.

    The ending did confuse me on the first reading—I wasn’t absolutely certain how the heroine defeated the baddie at the end, but I think I finally got it on the reread. So it wasn’t a perfect book for me, but I really, really loved it in a lot of different ways.

  8. 8
    Sarah says:

    I think this book might be a coriander of romance. Some people love them some coriander. Some people think it tastes like soap and is the nastiest thing ever.

  9. 9
    Candy says:

    OK, now I’m really fascinated.

    Meljean and I tend to have similar tastes, and Sarah and I agree about the awesomeness of books only half the time.

    I’ll have to check this book out. When, I have no idea. But I’ll definitely have to give it a shot.

  10. 10
    Maili says:

    It did take me a couple of tries, but the story finally sucked me in and kept me reading to the end.  It’s flawed and it does drag at times,  but for its type, it’s bloody good.

    Romance-wise, it’s a bit patchy, but overall, I enjoyed TDD – certainly a lot more than CATCHING MIDNIGHT and BEYOND INNOCENCE [which pissed me off, and still does]. I found Emma Holly’s imagination and world-building intriguing and quite exciting. How often do we have something like this in historical romance?

    Although it didn’t give me the emotional satisfaction, I do consider it a keeper. So it’s filed under “Flawed But Original Historical Romances”. I think it’ll have a small cult following in a decade’s time. You’ll see. :D

  11. 11
    Jorie says:

    Well, I’m still on page 76 and I suspect always will be.  Just kinda got bored and was not impressed with the confused world.  Or Adrian who didn’t make sense to me.  But, I know others enjoyed TDD despite the worldbuilding problems.

  12. 12
    Dawn B. says:

    Hrmm.. I really liked Catching Midnight and was consdering The Demon’s Daughter.

    I loved Menage, and finding out that Holly also wrote paranormal/fantasy (I’m a SF/F person with a recently discovered romance interest) just made my day.  Catching Midnight was okay, not as much world building as I liked, but (for me) made up in the Romance area by not having a sexually pure heroine.

  13. 13
    Alyssa says:

    I haven’t read this book, though I do have one of Holly’s books in my TBR pile. Maybe it’s Catching Midnight? I’m not sure. I found a like-new copy at a UBS and figured I’d give it a try.

    I’m just impressed at how long a review you wrote for a book you didn’t finish.

  14. 14
    CindyS says:

    I was thinking along the same lines as Alyssa.  Not only that, but you are able to filter down her world-building so that I understand it.  I have this in the TBR pile along with many of her other books (can’t remember the titles) so if I ever pick it up, I’ll have a running knowledge of what may be about to take place.  Although, the whole ‘don’t want to be seen with ya’ thing shoulda been done different.  Hey, if she gets him all hot and bothered and then gets up and leaves, I’m in.  Other than that, not too impressed.  Who wants to be with someone who doesn’t want to be seen with you.


  15. 15
    June says:

    Candy, you’re welcome to my copy if I still have it!

  16. 16
    Aoife says:

    This was the first and only Holly I ever (partially) read, and it put me off her in a big way because all the other reviews I read thought it was wonderful, and I just…didn’t…GET IT.  Not only did I think Adrian was an ass, but the world-building was so muddled that I got the impression that Holly hadn’t really bothered to think things out.  If some of her other books are good, I’d be interested in giving her another try, but TDD was a big snooze.

  17. 17
    Sarah says:

    You know I thought to myself as I was reading this book, “How am I going to make a review out of ‘She’s neat, he’s a boor, and I don’t care to finish this book?’” I suppose I had more to say than I thought I did – especially to justify the low grade.

    I think I do the same for high grades – Oh! This book made me squee and cry and weep with joy! And I better come up with some conclusive reasons for this before I lose all credibility!

    I also love how Candy and I agree on some things and are polar opposites in taste in other departments. Makes for good reviews and larger reading lists – and I will bet $5 that she reads this book and posts a review along the lines of “Sarah is nuts and this book Rawwwks!” Heh.

  18. 18
    charlotte says:

    I was depressed when I first saw the book. Because Holly beat me at it. It was a matter of time I guess.

    Some 15 years ago, I created a world a bit similar to that.  I even finished writing the first book of the series. To try to publish it now, would make me look like a copy-cat.

    But the more I read, I knew I could do it better than that. Now I just have to get off my creative butt, dusty up the ol manuscript and prove it… ;)

  19. 19
    fiveandfour says:

    Sarah – I completely agree with your assessment of this book.  I still don’t know how it was that I was able to finish it.  I must have been excessively bored or particuarly brain dead, or maybe just hoping it would redeem itself.  But it never did.  Aaargh, how I hate that. 

    I think if this were the first Emma Holly book I’d ever read there would be no praise in the world strong enough for all of her other works to induce me to try her again. 

    It’s scary, when you think on it, how easily a normally good author can completely lose out on a potentially loyal fan: all it takes is one bad book and a bit of bad timing.

    Anyway, I’m now eager to hear Candy’s opinion.  My money is on her disliking it.  Shall we take bets on how many pages she can read before throwing in the towel?  Any actuaries out there who can set up a betting table for the group?

  20. 20
    Maili says:

    Since you suggested the idea, you get to set it up. :D

    I’m willing to bet a fiver that Candy won’t like it.

  21. 21
    fiveandfour says:

    Hoo boy, I’ve done it now, haven’t I?  OK, I’ll get some advice and go for it.

    In other news, the cute sandals I bought the other day that were sooooo comfortable when I tried them out in the store are bugging the crap out me me today.  Now I’m caught between vanity (they look so good, I just need to suck it up and develop a tolerance to the irritation) and acting with common sense (if they’re that bad, take the damn things off).  No point to all this except I felt it just HAD to be said :).

  22. 22
    Candy says:

    All right, motherfuckers! The heat is on! I’ll drop by Borders on the way home today and pick up a copy of The Demon’s Daughter. We’ll see if this will break my month-long “completely unable to finish any book I pick up” streak.

    Go ahead and place the bets.

  23. 23
    white raven says:

    Based on some of Sarah’s points in her review, and Candy’s comments about her personal dislikes in other book reviews, I’m betting she’ll hate it.  Next?

  24. 24
    Candy says:

    I’m headed to Borders in minutes. According to their on-line inventory, they have it in stock.

    This doesn’t necessarily MEAN anything, which I learned the hard way. But I’ll be heading over there and hopefully starting on the book this weekend.

  25. 25
    CindyS says:

    Just to be contrary I say Candy’s gonna love it.  She won’t think it’s the best of Holly but, she’ll admit she would read Holly’s grocery list because she is such a slut for all things written by Holly.  Yep.

    CindyS (aka Anne Stuart slutsky)

  26. 26

    I must break with the pack and say I liked it. Steampunk is one of my favorite sci-fi subgenres, so I was already jumping in with both feet.

    I had no trouble with understanding the world-building. In fact, I remember being disappointed that I didn’t get to learn more about the demon’s society.

    The one thing that bothered me about the book, and about so many other books in this genre, is that the heroine was a virgin. Gak! Who needs em? I am not the founder of the Deflower the Virgins Literary Action Committee for nothing.

  27. 27
    Robin says:

    “I must break with the pack and say I liked it. Steampunk is one of my favorite sci-fi subgenres, so I was already jumping in with both feet.

    I had no trouble with understanding the world-building. In fact, I remember being disappointed that I didn’t get to learn more about the demon’s society.”

    Any more recommendations for Steampunk?  I didn’t realize that’s what this book was until Maili described the sub-g on AAR.  I also really liked this one, and felt the same way you did about wanting more detail on the demon culture.  In fact, I would have liked it if Holly did a more thorough job in linking all the “fragments” at the beginning of each chapter to the textual details because that’s where I felt the disconnect most strongly between the eroticism of the story and the world-building.

    The first time I read the book I thought it felt rushed and over-sexualized relative to the sci-fi aspects, which I wanted developed in more detail.  I also wanted that emotional intimacy Holly delivers so well in some of her other books.  But I felt both leads were likeable, and I enjoyed the way she used Max and Charles and the whole surrogate family aspect of the story.  I understood Adrian’s ambivalence toward a relationship with Roxy and actually felt he sorted it out with less angst and cruelty to her than many Romance authors seem to heap on their characters as a way to build tension.  And no matter what, Holly seems to have a real affection for her characters that comes out in her writing, IMO.  The one thing that always strikes me about the way she writes her Romantic leads is the tenderness they seem to share, especially sexually, which I’ve actually found to be surprisingly un-ubiquitous in erotic Romance.

    I didn’t like DD as much as Catching Midnight or Beyond Seduction, but I did like it more than Hunting Midnight and Beyond Innocence.  I have, though, felt her last few books and short stories seem to have a rushed quality to them, and I hope that doesn’t continue.  I’d really like to see Charles and Beth’s story next.

  28. 28
    Cece says:

    I admire anyone that can worldbuild!  I’m too lazy LOL but I haven’t read it and I haven’t even bought it.  though i will admit I did love her erotic regencies!

  29. 29

    Robin said: Any more recommendations for Steampunk?

    No, which makes me sad. Steampunk works in the movies, a la the one with all the Victorian weird heros who become a group to fight Q. Amanda Quick kind of did it in The Paid Companion. But alas, nothing else. :(

  30. 30
    JC says:

    I have to echo that I didn’t really get into this book- I actually started reading it in the library, got to page 30 and put it down.  I’ve read others of Emma Holly’s and I’ve enjoyed them, and some I haven’t enjoyed.  But this isn’t one of her better ones.

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