Title: The Demon Lord of California (Infinity 8 Book 1)
Author: Jeanne Marcella
Release Date: March 3, 2019
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Page Count: 242
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 0 flame out of 5
Rating: 2.10 stars out of 5
Stripped of his psychic powers, Calico Winghorse barely made it to 19th century Earth via his interdimensional portal. As a mixed-blood phoenix concealing himself in human form, he opens a bakery in the San Francisco Bay Area and quietly licks his wounds. But the unique method of his escape has drawn the unwanted attention of Infinity Corporation.
Representing this angelic-run company is Agustín Chávez de la Cruz, the Demon Lord of California. Even though Agustín is the corporation’s heir, he finds himself demoted from his daily duties for a new assignment: take absolute control of the portal.
As Agustín formulates a more gracious avenue of acquiring Calico’s gateway, the demanding head of IC interferes, further complicating matters. From this unexpected interlude, Calico and Agustín realize they both wish to establish more than a mere business arrangement. So negotiations stumble along, all the while Calico ensures that the good people of the city are getting their fill of baked goods.
Yet due to Calico’s injuries, the portal remains vulnerable to the darker forces that want it at any cost. Agustín will have to push both his angelic heritage, and his own psychic powers to the very limits to mend someone who not only bears celestial blood, but who is also the god of space and time.
This is a complicated book, an awkward book, with barely any human beings in it. Granted, this being a fantasy novel, the main characters are not human. But it still makes for an odd read. The novel is set in San Francisco, in 1900. On one hand, we have Agustín Chávez de la Cruz, aristocratic Demon Lord of California, half angel and half… well, demon—that’s more or less all the details we get. Towards the end of the book we learn that he isn’t half-half as a manner of speaking; when he reveals his true form, his body goes really all angelic on one side, with wing and halo and everything, and all demon-y on the other side, with scale-covered wing and horn and everything. On the other hand, we have Calico Winghorse, an even more complicated being, part werewolf, part phoenix, part I-have-forgotten-what, but as a whole a god (the god of time and space), whose powers unfortunately have been somehow clipped by his great-grandfather (who strangely enough has also taught him how to use his powers in the first place). Oh, and Calico comes from another world too, a world he has fled via his self-made interdimensional portal. And Calico is one of three triplets (but his brothers Frazil and Maars are no gods).
Agustín works for Infinity Corporation, an organization run by the full-fledged angel Harper and whose main purpose it is to keep humanity safe from the unspecified Amaranth Empire, which as luck would have it is situated exactly on the same world Calico and his brothers have fled (without that giving us or the characters any more clues about it). Now Mr. Harper wants Calico’s portal. He wants it very much, so much in fact that he asks Agustín to convince Calico to join the Corporation but won’t shy away from using violence and other means that don’t strike one as very angelic, if I may say so. Yes, Mr. Harper is a helluva ruthless angel. By happenstance, he’s also Agustín’s father, and he turns out to be the grand-daddy of another ominous character, Mr. Triptych, who pops up in the story from time to time without you ever knowing what his agenda might be. We see Agustín meeting Calico, both being immediately thunderstruck by each other, then struggling throughout the book with several minor and major upheavals as the plot unravels.
It is a really intricately complicated storyline, as you might have guessed. Too complicated. There are many things the author hints at almost with a wink as if she supposed you knew what she meant. More than once I checked and re-checked if this wasn’t the umpteenth instalment of a series; but no, this is book #1, so I felt sometimes too dumb to get it. That other world Calico comes from? His whole great-grandfather business? The odd relationship between authoritarian Harper and cowering Demon Lord Agustín? Guesswork, if one cares enough to play that game. But what with all the inconsistencies of the book, I didn’t. Because yes, I found the whole novel unconvincing. Not an unpleasant read, don’t get me wrong. The author knows how to write, there are no typos, she gets her Oxford commas right, and so on. But I just didn’t get “into” the book.
For one, the plot was way too twisted for me. Then, this is supposed to be a fantasy novel, but what with all the powers our characters wield, we almost never get to see them unleashed, or not in any convincing fashion. The characters are wooden at the best of times, their speeches stilted. Well, we’re in 1900, one could object; but stiltedness doesn’t make for the historical touch the author apparently aims for. There are anachronisms like someone deciding to add something to their to-do list (a word that first appeared in the middle of the 1920s), or the sheer amount of motorcars being used. Agustín alone owns ten of them, while the entire USA only counted approximately 8,000 back then. The romance one is supposed to find in this book is non-existent; the two guys fall in love with each other, but it’s an out-of-the-blue event followed by so much gushing and blushing and cries for a chaperone that the steamiest exchange you get is both of them holding hands. Throughout the book I had the weird feeling Agustín and Calico would be more believable characters if one or both were female. Anway, the book paces slowly toward a quite interesting climax where you get some of the answers you might have been seeking. I gather more clues and answers will be given in the follow-ups, but sorry, I’m not altogether sure I’ll care to read them.
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