Demon Underground Series Review: Fang Me

The vampires want it. The demons want it too. And someone is willing to kill Val for it.

Val and Fang have to find the powerful Encyclopedia Magicka before either of San Antonio’s warring underworld factions locate it, or the consequences will be deadly for the entire city. As usual, Val’s vampire enemies (they still call her The Slayer), want her dead, and even some of her fellow demons may be less than trustworthy, since they’d like to grab the legendary book of spells before she does. Val has a personal claim to the Encyclopedia–her demon father left it to her when he died–but someone stole it recently. And that can’t be good.

Battling vamps and dodging demons, Val struggles to unravel the mystery and find the thief. At the same time, she’s fighting her attraction to sweet, sexy Shade, her favorite shadow demon. Rumor has it that Val will lose her part-demon, vampire-fighting powers if she gives herself to him.

With a crowd of vamps and demons out to trick her or kill her, it’s not a good time for her to risk her job as the city’s best vampire hunter by falling in love. The stakes are high and aimed right at her heart. But Lola, Val’s hungry little lust demon, doesn’t like being denied. Will Lola finally get her way?

What’s a part-lust-demon-teen supposed to do? Whatever it takes.
Oh Demon Underground. One point five steps forward in storytelling, and at least ten more in the case for homophobia. I don’t even know what to call that. I mean, barring the obvious, it’s not like things got worse in this last installment than they were in any others, and it was better in some – well, one aspect. Still, any good in this book is nowhere near enough to make up for the pivotal bad, and the blandness of the series as a whole.

Yeah, we’re going to go with bullets again, because there’s not much to say and I’m saving the effort of writing transitions for more interesting books. So here we go!

Cool:


  • The payoff – the books so far have all been pretty run-of-the-mill in subject matter, and plot resolutions have been lackluster at best. A standoff here, a fist fight there, both easily solved by Val’s super-succubus powers. While both of those things did happen in this book, the actual boss fight in Fang Me was pretty cool. It’s appropriately mystical and exotic and action-packed, what with Shade transporting in super-powerful mage demons from another dimension under duress, and Val using her succubus magic in a whole new way to fight them back. That final fight included more creative and interesting elements than the last three books put together (+1 step), and I still say that Shade and all of the alternate dimension shit is the best part of this series.

  • Still not that much Dan. Yay!

  • Val’s badassedness – I suppose I’ve been so busy bitching about other things in the last three reviews that I haven’t really given Val much credit for being a pretty active heroine. As annoying as she often is, Val doesn’t let anyone boss her around or control where she goes and what she does, and out-powered or not, she is always involved in the action. That may seem like a weird thing to praise, but really, a heroine’s activeness in the conflicts can be hit or miss, even in “badass something-hunter” books, and I’m one of those people who wants the protagonist swinging fists in the fray, whether they should be there or not *glares at Mercy books*.

Not Cool


  • The same shit I’ve been bitching about through the entire series – not even twenty pages in and Blue completely stops the action so that Val can spend an entire page recapping and explaining in detail every single pro and con related to the quandary having Virgin Powers put her in. As if we didn’t remember/couldn’t have figured out why not being able to have sex with your boyfriend without losing your superspecial abilities sucks on our own. Thanks again for the vote of confidence, Blue.

    • On the other hand, there was an instance in which one character was forced to recount an event that occurred while Val wasn’t present (similar to Shade’s expository wrap-up in Trust Me) that Blue actually took time to show, rather than explain. That’s where the +.5 step comes from.

  • The plot – while the payoff may have been interesting and fun to read about, the whole thing was fueled by a blatant MacGuffin. The search for the books was long and winding, and Blue had to go to such great lengths to get around her own road blocks that Val’s investigation felt much longer and more pointless than it actually was. The true solution was so obvious that Blue spent half the book finding ways to stall its reveal, but once we got through with the set-up and close enough to the conclusion that these indicators could start popping up, the whole thing got painfully predictable.

    • Probably the biggest giveaway was Val’s continual skepticism, though, and the other character’s complete and total lack thereof. Because only Val is allowed to be halfway intelligent. Oh, and also, we have to discuss this “unwarranted” suspicion multiple times just in case we don’t get that it is an IMPORTANT THING.

  • Fang has not only not died, but we’re actually discussing his doggy sex life now. Creepy.

  • Canon: Val is so badass that other characters hero worship her now, and the only indication we get of this is the time that is taken out of our plot for Fang to tell Val this, then describe the exact heroic image they have of her in their minds. LOL SHOWING, WHAT’S THAT?

  • Confirmed homophobia? YOU BE THE JUDGE.

    Re: why Shade is so fond of the NOT-SUSPICIOUS-AT-ALL new character (emphasis mine):

    “I don’t know – he’s a friend. I just like the guy. He understands me, what it’s like to be a shadow demon. He knows a lot about other things, too.”

    “Like what?”

    “Guy things.”

    I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what that meant. “Really? He owns hair salons, for heaven’s sake.”

    “That doesn’t make him any less of man. He’s not gay, you know.”
    That exchange, at the tail end of Fang Me, is so fucked up in so many different ways, I can’t believe Blue was never called out on it. I mean, I’ve tried to work out the least offensive possible way this statement could be interpreted, but Christ… This comes after our heroine (who seems to have a stereotyping issue in general), refers to the character in question several times (with disdain) as “the metrosexual”, which she also seems to equate with bisexuality.

    And okay, say Val is still being painted as “unduly suspicious” – even though she turns out to be right about him in the end – and that her complaints are supposed to be irrational and harsh. Fine. But that last statement comes from Shade, our voice-of-reason character, who, taken at his word, would seem to believe that being gay makes you less of a man. The fuck? At best, he seems to think that a gay man wouldn’t be knowledgeable about the things Val would consider “guy stuff”. Either way, it’s fucked up. Between this and the very pointed male-on-female world rules I mentioned in the Bite Me review, and the lack of any other non-heterosexual character in the rather large cast, I’m inclined to lean towards intentional exclusion on Blue’s part.

    IDEK what to say about this shit anymore. I’M TRYING TO LIKE YOU SHADE, WTF?

  • It’s still not fuckin’ funny.

I Still DK


  • Val’s Virgin Powers – so she actually loses them in this installment, but miraculously by the end of the book has gained a new, completely different set of abilities. So…I guess that’s like Blue saying you can have your sex and eat it, too? Er, or, like, when one set of legs open, another set of books will latch on to you and make you their Keeper, bestowing on you powerful, ancient magick? Or that Val is the protagonist, dammit, so we’re going to keep her relevant to this series, no matter what?

    IDK I would probably praise this in any other book but here, not gonna lie, I just don’t care.
All in all, I’m really glad to be through with this series. I’m burnt out, I’m done, I want to read a book by an author who can write with some finesse and complexity and depth. Demon Underground was an exercise in tedium and forgettability for me, and I will likely have completely erased it from my mind by the time book four comes out next year. One can only hope.

two stars


 

2 Responses

  1. Gwen Lightburn

    May 31, 2011 1:39 am, Reply

    “Virgin powers” is a sick idea. My mother tried to pound that kind of idea into me when I was a pre-teen (before she gave up and took me to the gyn for birth control pills).

    The main reason I started on my journey through this genre was the repugnant way in which girls’ sexuality is treated. Commonly: it’s a death sentence; it’s something to be controlled by men; it’s a black mark on an otherwise acceptable life-resume; it’s unnatural.

    “Virgin powers” are right up there with the proselytizing bullshit of the ancient Greek fears of cervix contamination.

    RANT: I always love the fallacious logic of sexuality in these things, too. Virginity is better than sex, even though the latter is natural. Is it because control over the means of orgasm is precious? And what about non-penetrative sex? (“It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is…”) Homosexuality is funny/cute/misunderstood because–well, I don’t know why. Why are the gay characters always such…characters? The ONLY acceptable gay relationship treatment I’ve read thus far is Niall/Irial in WL. No one uses the word “gay,” no one has a problem with it, no one tries to change anything about them, no one tries to understand them.

    Yes. So. I’ll not be reading this series. I’ve had enough House of Night-ish flashbacks from simply reading your reviews on these ones.

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