The Devil's Due, by Jenna Black (Dell Spectra, 2008)

The worst thing any exorcist can do is secretly harbor a demon inside of her. Especially an illegally summoned one. Worse still is when said demon is Lugh, exiled king of the demons, and some very powerful forces are looking to find and kill him. Morgan Kingsley has established an uneasy truce with Lugh, though she’s none too pleased nor comfortable with the arrangement, which sees him visiting her in her dreams and occasionally using her body . . . with and without her permission. She’s paid a heavy toll so far, with her life thrown into upheaval and her family torn apart, and as far as she can tell, things are just getting worse.

But a girl has to eat and pay bills, and so Morgan takes on a job. It seems that the son of a prominent Philadelphian couple has gotten himself possessed by a demon. Given that he was, until very recently, quite anti-demon, everything smacks of illegal possession. Morgan looks into things, and quickly finds herself pulled into a nasty, messy situation. Forced to increasingly rely on allies she doesn’t fully trust, pushed far beyond her comfort zones, and knowing that innocent lives are on the line, it’s everything Morgan can do not to bury this case and head for the hills. But not even she can turn her back on missing children, or the few people she calls friends. But what will it cost her this time?

I’m honestly torn when it comes to this series. Three books in, and I’ve got a pretty good feel for how it’s going. I really enjoy it, enough to pick up each new book as it comes out, and I think there’s a great premise and an intriguing storyline running throughout the series. The more we learn about the ways the mortal and demon worlds interact, the secrets of the demons, and the shadowy conspiracies that seem to be playing both sides against the middle, the more I want to see what happens next. I have to wonder who Morgan will end up with ultimately: her human boyfriend, or Lugh, both of whom have an appeal for her, both of whom have interest in her. I’m not sure which I’d prefer, and it’s that ambiguity and uncertainty, in part, that keeps me coming back for more. You can’t call it a romance, for all that there are those undertones.

I love the fact that two of the supporting characters are a rather functional, affectionate, dedicated gay couple. Sure, the one is a demon-possessed cop, the other is a mortal ex-firefighter, and they have some fairly kinky BDSM-flavored fun going on, but hey, they’re still cute together, and quite likeable. Heck, I wouldn’t mind seeing a book told from their point of view.

So what’s my problem? The main character. Morgan Kingsley herself, the point-of-view protagonist. I’ve lost number of the times I want to shake her until she gets over herself. She’s whiny, indecisive, hypocritical, self-absorbed, and downright rude to the people best suited to help her. She’s her own worst enemy, sabotaging plans with her inability to compromise or cope with the situation. Sure, she may be justified for some of it, but it’s hard to remain sympathetic to a character who just won’t budge. The more she drives away potential allies and friends, the more I hope they’ll leave her to her own devices until she gets the wake-up call she needs. And this is three books’ worth of annoyance, here. This series would be so much better if the main character matured and opened her mind a little more. All the ingredients are there: premise, setting, plotline, action, romance, and even some rather spicy moments, but the series hasn’t quite grasped its potential.

As for this particular book, The Devil’s Due? I enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun, and I’m always interested in seeing how the storyline progresses, as we’ve seen some fascinating revelations, and some disturbing implications along the way. However, it felt a little bit like it was a stepping stone towards the next in the series, as though Jenna Black is aiming at something big down the line, and this was just all part of getting there. It’s a good book, but taken on its own merits, not spectacular. It works better when viewed as part of the series as a larger story. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!

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