Recently, I started following PJ Fox on WordPress after I commented on a post she wrote about 50 Shades of Grey. I decided to download The Demon of Darkling Reach because Fox is such an eloquent writer in her blog posts and I was curious to read her novels. To be honest, books containing demons, vampires or indeed, any other supernatural beings are not usually to my tastes, but I was surprised at how I fell in love with this book so quickly.
The Demon of Darkling Reach is about a young woman called Isla, a strong, pragmatic Earl’s daughter, who steps in to save her younger sister Rowena from a marriage of convenience, so that Rowena will be free to marry her childhood sweetheart, Rudolph. She reluctantly puts herself forward to marry the dark and mysterious Duke Tristan Mountbatten, who has been betrothed to Rowena to save the Earl’s manor from destitution. Tristan, however, is not quite like any other man Isla has ever been in contact with, especially with rumours circulating that he may have murdered his two previous wives, amongst others. Initially frightened of him but determined to save her sister from a life of unhappiness, she finds herself more and more drawn to the enigmatic Duke despite having certain fears confirmed and finding out that Tristan is far from an ideal future husband.
Fox has written a fascinating, intelligent narrative. While reminiscent of classic gothic novels, Fox applies a modern twist. There is not quite as much descriptive narrative as you may find in the classics, but there is enough to emulate the essence of these novels, with some more modern attributes, such as swearing and much more overt sexual scenes than you would find in, say, Wuthering Heights or Northanger Abbey. Fox challenges the pre-conceived ideas of the improprieties of society, whether it be through religious or political beliefs. She even challenges the influence of outside sources, much like today’s media influence on society, in the shape of the importance of a book on relationships that Rowena swears by and quotes often, called The Chivalrous Heart.
The characterisation in this novel is nothing short of brilliant. Isla is a strong and likeable main protagonist. She desires love with substance, although she is a realist when she considers that this kind of love is a rarity and most marriages are borne out of convenience or financial gain for the groom or bride’s father. She has no interest in the false image of love that her fickle sister, Rowena, desires. Rudolph is depicted as suitably ridiculous, yet a seemingly perfect match for Rowena. Tristan is horrifying and alluring at the same time. In fact, at times it is easy to forget that Tristan is a demon. If it wasn’t for the fact that he has “claws”, I’d find him somewhat attractive myself! Isla’s mysterious witch friend, Cariad, whilst being an enigma herself, provides the reader with a vehicle to gain answers to questions about Tristan in her own mystically cryptic way.
The reader is also provided with an education by Fox on mediaeval practices, as well as highlighting that the same personal issues transcend the ages. To love and be loved is an innate human desire. Money talks. Knowledge is power. Religion and politics has an impact on all of society whether it is accepted or rejected. I also had to look up a number of words that Fox uses in the dictionary too whilst I was reading this. Whilst this may have irritated some readers, I was fascinated to learn new words that are not used regularly now but would most likely have been common-place in mediaeval times.
The Demon of Darkling Reach is a wonderfully intellectual and fascinating novel, not only because of the educational elements but for the intricate plot and engaging characters. I absolutely loved this book and if it wasn’t for the fact that September is a blog-tour-crazy month, I’d be reading the sequel, The White Queen, immediately. As it is, it will have to sit in my Kindle library, constantly tempting me to abandon all the other books I need to read and encouraging me to once again be ensconced in Isla and Tristan’s unconventional, yet strangely beautiful relationship. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I am really looking forward to the first space in my blog tour diary to read the next instalment.