Title: The Demon Lord of California (Infinity 8 #1)
Author: Jeanne Marcella
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: March 18, 2019
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Page Count: 242 Pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 1 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 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 rich and cleverly developed story with strong characterisation and scenic description. As a tale, it launches without preamble and the reader is drip-fed background and context as the plot unfolds. This is the critical area of weakness in what otherwise would be a very good read. The problem is that the characters and their history are the rationale for the story and explain the personalities of the central characters. Without this background knowledge, the reader is left floundering through most, if not the entire book. For a lighter, less well-developed story this approach can work and allow the reader to grow in their understanding as their empathy for the characters develop. However, in this book, the two central characters are a demon lord and a god, both of whom are based firmly in the mortal world. Other planets and planes of existence are hinted at as well and yet it always feels as though the reader is missing a whole preceding book that would contextualise what is going in.
With a lack of context, the reader is left to fall back on the central characters, their growing association and how they interact with those around them in the hope that all will be revealed in due course. Fortuitously the author provides interesting characters that differ significantly from many in the genre. Similarly, secondary characters are well fleshed out in most cases. There are exceptional characters that appear to be influential and yet are shadowy. The reader is likely to respond to their actions and lack of definition in a dynamic way, never quite sure of their motives towards the central characters. Mortal humans are without exception poorly defined even when one is allowed to interact directly with the central characters behind their masks. Description of the environment is rich and interesting and provides an effective counterbalance to the vagueness of the characters.
The plot itself is described but lacks critical information to allow the reader to be confident of what is going on. That makes the story quite purposeless. It is more like the reader drops into an on-going situation and has to make sense of it before the end.
The central characters are richly described and interesting and their growing association is delicate and endearing. The reader should not expect sex between these characters even though it clearly happens around them. They are not naïve but their natures seem to hold them back from effective commitment. Nevertheless, the reader is left with little doubt that intimacy between them will happen at some point.
There is a steady pace to the story and this is sufficient to allow the rich descriptions to be absorbed rather than raced over. There are points of tension that assist in keeping the story moving.
By the end of the book, the assumption would be that the background would make sense and that there would be clear leaders into the next book that offer new challenges. This is not the case here. Many of the questions about the characters and their backgrounds remain unclear and the rationale for subsequent plot lines is presented without much explanation. As such, if the reader can cope with this lack of information, there is an anticipation of what is to come.