by Evey Brett, fantasy (2011)
Carina Press, $3.99, ISBN 978-1-4268-9109-0
Demon's Dance is set in an alternate Earth with incubi - you know, woo-woo studs who can turn into the man of your dreams and ravish you while stealing your life force. In this setting, we have Wardens who get rid of bad incubi while raising half-incubi and even sexually servicing these incubi to protect these cambions or half-demons from succumbing to their darker side. I know that sounds bad, but when you think of it, these sex-starved horny toads probably won't find many opportunities at the local supermarket if they hump everything in the poultry section every time their demonic side takes over. The Wardens are doing a good deed.
So we have Tristan, our cambion hero. Unfortunately for our young lad, his Warden is an abusive one who pimps him out for money and films all the resulting torture and rough sex for profit. When the Chief Warden finally catches on and steps in to stop Laurence, the resulting drama culminates with Tristan deciding that he wants out of the whole Warden-and-me business and runs for his life. He soon finds romance with the human photographer Cory Levanston, who adores Tristan both on- and off-camera, but you know how it is with stories like this one. Cory isn't exactly honest about who he is to Tristan.
I initially have doubts about this story, since the early parts of the story seem like a cheesy set-up for sex scenes like those "plots" in pornographic films, but to my pleasant surprise, the story turns out to be pretty entertaining. The cambions such as Tristan can be very sympathetic characters, as they are born with all kinds of psychological issues that can leave them damaged inside despite the best intentions of the kinder Wardens. Tristan's damage psyche leads to some intense and poignant moments of healing. His relationship with Cory is, on paper, doomed from the beginning, and the author conveys the healing of Tristan's damage well enough that the happy ending, which one can argue to be a bit of a deus ex machina, is alright with me. I just want the poor kid to be happy. Also, the narrative is engaging - it is hard for me to put down this story. The pacing can be shaky at places, but nonetheless, there is never a dull moment in this story.
Still, this story has some flaws. Characterization is rather lacking, however, and the characters' romance doesn't have enough build-up to be believable. What the characters do after they've hooked up make for some interesting reading, but a part of me isn't completely convinced that these two have true love. But it doesn't matter, I feel, at the end of the day because I personally find this story a better gay psychological thriller of sorts than a romance. The happily for now ending, therefore, is good enough for me. Just like the rest of the story.
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