Review of The Demon King and I & Dragons Prefer Blonds, by Candace Havens

The Demon King and II picked up a used copy of Candace HavensThe Demon King and I and Dragon’s Prefer Blonds.

Description from Goodreads:
The Caruthers sisters are heiresses with privilege, wealth, beauty, and brains. But these party girls have something extra. As the Guardian Keys, possessors of an ancient family secret, they hold the fate of the world in their hands.

Gillian, the eldest, is a sensation in the art world? this world, that is. In her other world she’s the Assassin, a knockout who snuffs out dimension-jumpers who foul up her personal space. She never expected to join forces with one. But when a plague of murderous demons plunges the earth in darkness, she has no choice but to get a little help from a being who knows his stuff.

Honestly, I wasn’t all that impressed with this one. It felt extremely rushed and lacked any kind of bulk or substance. At times I felt like I was reading the author’s outline rather than a fully fleshed out story. The plot jumped from random event to random event, Gilliam made unfollowable leaps of logic, and the dialogue felt really stiff.

There were also an awful lot of descriptions of how awesome Gillian and her family were supposed to be, but precious little showing us that same awesomeness. Example, while having a contrived tender moment with Mr. Demon King he and Gilly are called back to his castle where he locks her in her room. We get to see her storm around a bit and get angry about being locked up and then be told, ‘oh yeah, we were under attack.’ (Um, why wasn’t the warrior Guardian in that defensive battle again?)

She is then returned home, where said attack is reported and we, the reader, get to see her and her sisters decide which dress to wear to the ball. Leaving aside the whole, ‘oh shit, the universe is seriously endangered and maybe we aught to blow off the charity public appearances’ I’d be much more interested in seeing the outcome of a pitched demon battle than whether Gillian or her sisters chooses to wear a pink Carmen Marc Valvo or a coffee-colorer Zac Posen. But the latter seemed to be much more important, since it and other such scenes were the only ones that seemed to be related real-time.

This sort of issue reared its ugly head again and again. Even the final conclusion was spent telling the reader what had been discovered in the last days of the investigation instead of showing us the investigation. If I wanted a memo on the highlights of the events I would have chosen something bullet-pointed instead of a novel. The reader is given far, far more firsthand information about what characters are wearing, or driving, or what event they are attending than the actual fight scenes, romance, or mystery solving.

Further, I’m not certain how I’m supposed to really feel the tension of the universe almost being overrun by evil when it’s of so little importance to the characters in question that they don’t even bother to rearrange their social schedules. Yes, I did gather the fact that the Caruthers sisters lead this double life, but their (and the book’s) strong focus on fashion and celebrity meant that nothing else felt important–least of which the supposed universe-wide war that was being waged.

Add to that the fact that I felt like the actual plot point that tied everything back to Gillian made little sense. There really isn’t a way for me to address this without spoilers, but it was shaky at best. I saw no reason any aggression should have been directed at a single Guardian. I do see what the author was probably trying to infer, but it really didn’t come across.

I also thought there were some inconsistencies. Arath, for example, didn’t know who Jesus was or what seat belts were, but recognised Fall Out Boy, DVDs and Dancing with the Stars. What? Really?

Lastly, another side-effect of the bullet-point like plotting was that, with the exception of the fact that you know it’s coming by virtue of what type of book it is, the romantic element amped up out of nowhere. I can’t even call it insta-love because until the very end, where a perfunctory and very brief sex scene was shoe-horned in, there wasn’t any love expressed. Sure Gilly told herself she was in love with this man she had spoken to a mere handful of times, but that’s it. There was no sexual tension, no flirting, almost no whispered sweet nothings–she was just suddenly in love. Go ahead and check that bullet off, will ya?

Now all this isn’t to say I hated the book. I like the idea of the strong female warriors. And since Gilly didn’t do a lot of actual fighting she didn’t pull any of the horrid heroine cliché moves, like falling and twisting an ankle so the hunky hero has to carry her home. All right, he carried her home. But at least it was after a fair, if rushed and unprovoked, rare fight scene.

Dragons Prefer BlondsDescription from Goodreads:
Alex Caruthers is a sassy socialite who knows when it’s time to turn in her dancing shoes and kick some serious dragon booty. But when Ginjin-the dragon warrior who’s tried to kill her numerous times- chooses her as his mate, Alex finds herself in a situation that’s too hot to handle.

For help she turns to Jake, head of Caruthers security-and a total hottie in a suit-and asks him to pose as her boyfriend. Their relationship might be fake, but Alex can’t deny that one touch from Jake makes her burn hotter than any dragon could.

I almost didn’t bother with this  second Caruthers Sisters book since I was so disappointed with The Demon King and I. But in the end I’m glad I did. Dragons Prefer Blonds was much better. Possibly simply because much of the premise was established in book one so more of the story could be dedicated to Alex and her adventures and less to describing the family’s basic awesomeness.

I still felt like there was some shaky plotting going on. Bailey was said to have invented so much that I was left wondering if previous Guardian Keys fought with stone axes and pointy sticks. Despite it being stated numerous times that there were other Guardians, and even two of them showcased here, it felt like the Caruthers fought all alone. No one else ever seemed to be called to council meetings and such–things like that.

I also liked Alex. She was a bloodthirsty heroine and I could appreciate that. She did pull a couple stupid female stunts…turning around so fast she tripped over her own feet and fell into the rock hard chest of her heart throb, etc. I mean really, who does that? That stuff always annoys me. But I liked how willing to storm into battle she was and that she chose the human over the paranormal hotly. That’s unusual, though it does bring the title into question.

I also thought that, while not absent, the family’s social life wasn’t played so heavily here. So I was more able to concentrate on the good versus evil aspect of the story. Though, it did feel unfinished in the end. Sure they killed the presumed leader of the kidnapping ring, but that seemed a drop in the pond compared to the evil at work on the whole. I guess that’s what the rest of the series is for. The problem is that, while the reader is told how horrible it is, we don’t see much of it.

Final say: not as bad a book one, not topping my most-loved list, but not a bomb either. It’s a fun enough bit of fluff.

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