A guest review by Jenre
Spells gone wrong, hunters becoming the prey, anything can happen when demons leave Hell and come to play on earth. Humans and demons team up together and bring the heat in this anthology about unlikely lovers.
The Care and Feeding of Demons gives you nine urban fantasy stories that look at the explosive relationships between humans and demons. From demon hunters who hook up with the very creatures they stalk to hunters and demons pairing up to take on a bigger threat, or from a long time couple who has to deal with interspecies love to a pair of human lovers who make a deal with a very shady character, this anthology is sure to delight the little devil in all of us.
I was attracted to this book because I’m a big UF fan and thought that the premise sounded interesting. Whilst all the stories in this anthology were well written with good characterisation and structure to them, what ultimately let it down as a whole was the similarity between all of the stories. Nearly every story followed the same pattern: Demon hunter/human meets demon, they have an antagonism towards one another, lots of sex, they fall in love, the end. Many of the demons were incubi and their falling in love with the human heralded a change for them as they found meaning in that relationship. Non of this is bad, just that I did get to the stage where I was thinking ‘what again?’ when I read the stories and began wishing for more originality in the stories.
Having said that there were stories which stood out from the crowd and are worth mentioning. Reasonable Force By Meredith Shayne told the story of Daniel who as far as I can tell is a lapsed monk who hunts demons with the other ‘brothers’. He’s a bit of a loose cannon as he suffers guilt and grief over the death of his lover and fellow brother, David. He meets a demon, Karim, who proves to be a worthy foe and they often meet to spar with one another until all that aggression and pent up emotion takes a different turn altogether. I very much liked the character of Daniel and empathised greatly with his grief and how he used his aggressive behaviour to deal with that. I also liked that the relationship between Daniel and Karim wasn’t something that was wrapped up in a neat bow, but we are left with the promise of things to come – an ideal ending for such a short story, especially one packed with so much detail as this.
Screaming Demon by Kiernan Kelly was another story I greatly enjoyed. This time the demon is Azarian, who is half-human. He has little in the way of powers and is despised by the other demons for his human side, so spends quite a lot of time hiding from the demon hunters. Azarian is tracked by Demon Hunter, Mick, who tries to ‘send him back to hell’ but eventually, through pleading his case and the approach of dawn, Azarian manages to convince Mick is isn’t a threat to anyone. Mick refuses to release Azarian until he helps him track down the meaning of a mysterious stone found at the site of a demon hunt. The strength of this story lies in the character of Azarian who is the ‘little guy’ of the demon world. I felt rather bad for him that he is hated both by humans and demons and I was cheering him on at the end. Mick is the typical alpha demon hunter, but had enough about him to gain my sympathies. An overall entertaining story.
There was one story, The One Who Comes in the Night By Kate Roman, which probably would have been my absolute favourite were it not for the last 11 lines. It tells the story of Drew, a timid man who works hard to make ends meet. He is gay but has had a bad experience in the past which shook his confidence. As a result he seems unable to find to courage to meet another man so he lives for his job and is incredibly lonely. Through no fault of his own, he is in danger of losing that job and now despairs of what his future holds. That night an incubus, Blaise, visits him in his dreams and gives him, for one night, a taste of what life would be like if Drew had someone who cared about him and protected him. He pleads in his dream for Blaise to return and even though it’s against the rules, Blaise comes back. My heart ached for Drew and his situation and I felt so sorry for him and his situation. The scenes where he is with Blaise were a mix of wonderful and yet heartbreaking because there seemed to be no future with them. I rejoiced when they found a way to be with each other and then everything was spoiled in the last few lines when, instead of leaving the two men to work out their life together and the difficulties of making ends meet, Blaise is suddenly, out of the blue, gifted with powers to make everything OK and all the loose ends are magically (and improbably) tied up without any foreshadowing of these powers earlier in the story. I was so cross about this as I felt it ruined the story. What a shame.
Honourable mentions need to go to A Calling for Pleasure by JL Merrow whose incubus, Rael, had the best character and lines of the entire anthology and Payday by Sean Michael, whose darkly erotic tale of two men and their deal with a demon was a deliciously sexy read.
I said at the beginning that all the stories were written well, so there wasn’t any story that I can highlight which didn’t work, or had major flaws. This can only be a good thing in an anthology, but I did find it a disappointment to find that this anthology, which seemed to have a lot of promise in that it was an original idea for a set of stories, turned out to be so similar overall. Because of this similarity in the stories, I can’t highly recommend the anthology, but I do think that if you like stories with a UF theme, or if you fancy a set of stories mostly about incubi and their demon hunter lovers, then The Care and Feeding of Demons should appeal to you.