3 out of 4 stars
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Demon Heart, by David Crane, presents a world where there are demons and gods watching over Japan. They are trying to ensure the balance of good and evil. Naoko Kitamura learns her ancestors include Yoshiko Nagase, a demon, and Shiro Kitamura, a samurai. Her mother teaches her that the females in their bloodline are all human-demon hybrids who must learn to control the balance of good and evil within themselves. Naoko must balance her work as a police officer, her personal life and her life’s purpose to protect Japan. Will she maintain the balance of good and evil? Will she be able to protect those she loves? Will she be able to protect Japan?
This book covers a lot, and at times it feels like it is trying to do too much. There are demons, demon-human hybrids, those who can harness magic, criminal organizations, political groups, radical activists, corrupt businesses and secret intelligence organizations. There are several fight scenes and an abundance of gore. This is a book for those looking for an action-packed story.
With all these plotlines intersecting, the personal aspects of Naoko’s life take a back seat. Many characters are introduced as Naoko’s friends or lovers. Most of these characters are not developed. Instead, they are only referred to in passing until they become a catalyst for other plot lines. This is especially true for her best friend, Fumiko Noguchi, and her first love, John Harper. Her romantic relationships with John and Tadashi Kozumi, are blurbs in the story. These blurbs allow for Naoko to explore her sexuality. Without developing these characters, it was hard to care what happened to them. I wouldn’t recommend this book to those who like strong character development.
My favorite aspect of this novel was each chapter included an epigraph, in the form of a Japanese proverb. These proverbs not only were insightful, but reflected the chapter that followed. In the chapter of Naoko’s sexual awakening and first real experience with death, the epigraph reads, “A naked man has nothing to lose”(p30). The additions of the Japanese proverbs helped to highlight the importance of tradition and wisdom in Naoko’s life.
My least favorite aspect was the repetitiveness of several story elements. Naoko was supposed to keep her demon abilities hidden, but she often does not hide who she is when attacking her enemies. The first time one of her friends is used as bait it was reasonable because I thought Naoko would begin to protect her identity more. Instead, the opposite was true, and we find her loved ones as constant sources of bait throughout the novel. Another repetitive aspect of the story, after an event Naoko often debriefs with Katana and then again with the CIA. This makes an action-packed event become drawn out.
The writing itself has its ups and downs. Some parts are beautifully, or grotesquely, detailed. These are my favorite parts because they show Crane’s true writing ability. While there is profanity in this story, it is used in fitting situations and is not there merely for shock value. The downs are mostly spelling and grammar errors that take the reader away from the story. This would be greatly improved by having the story professionally edited.
Rating Demon Heart is difficult. I enjoyed some parts and struggled through others. I thought of people I could recommend this to and thought of others who should avoid this book altogether. The deciding factor for my rating was determined at the end of the novel. The story wraps up all loose ends by the end of the book, but still leaves the possibility of a sequel. I appreciate that the author did this. Those who loved the book can continue in the series, and those who enjoyed it for a change can finish this book with some degree of closure. For this reason, I am giving Demon Heart 3 out of 4 stars.
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