I really liked this book and it caught me wholly by surprise. When 'Demon's Mark' arrived, it came with 'Branded,' which is the prequel of the series written by Nora Ash. I'd never read any of her work, so as I made my way through the first book, it was very short and about 90% sex/10% content.. though for once I didn't mind.. as even those scenes were incredibly steamy. BUT.. BUT.. even though it felt like the equivalent of pop music for my bookshelf, I eagerly kept reading.
When I got to the main title, everything changed for the better. It's much more substance oriented and still has plenty of great sex scenes. Granted, there are potentially triggers here for sensitive readers, but that's not me. And though I have a few small criticisms, they're not worth skipping 'Demon's Mark.'
Yes, there are several instances of repetitive phrasing, the earmark of a still young/developing writer and a tendency to skip over what could be really good character building traumas (by fast-forwarding through days or giving characters quick ways out of situations with frequent plays of deus ex machina once the story was really moving).
In fact, Ash could really benefit from letting these things play out a bit more. The book would be more robust, allowing readers to worry their way through alongside the characters, because she's great at getting our involvement. It's much more moving on a visceral level, when we experience their suffering, rather than when we're just told it happened.
Though Selma isn't my favorite lead ever, there are only a few instances where she annoys me, and that's actually not all that common for me.
And Kain.. dear.. lovely.. beautiful Kain..
What this writer excels at.. is her male lead. If none of the other components I look for in a story had been here, I would have kept reading just for him. He's got the tragic backstory, the instincts/societal standards vs honor/personal moral compass (we're talking nearly constant inner conflict with him), and "by the stars".. he is charismatic as can be.
Do yourself a favor.. if you're looking for a quick read that can still reach something in you.. pick this title up. I'm eagerly anticipating book 3.. and hoping it might center around his brother..
"Fair is foul, foul is fair" - an infamous phrase and recurring theme, not just in this novel, but originally from Shakespeare's Macbeth. And make no mistake, despite the fact this novel isn't presented as such, it IS a modern retelling of the classic - from the coven's prophecy.. to the new King and his escalation in violence to keep his secrets.. it's all there. The author even maintains most of the original character names, if somewhat modified for modern use.
Unfortunately for Hannah Capin, it's a lofty ambition to begin with, recreating one of Shakespeare's great tragedies, and while she's competent at stringing together the puzzle pieces of a story, she's no storyteller. At least, she doesn't show any real ability here. If the synopsis had been more honest about what it was, that also may have earned it more leniency. I might have enjoyed the way she reapplied certain aspects of the original work, such as the Inverness location, but going into a story expecting something fresh.. made me draw those contrasts much more strongly.
My biggest issue with this novel, is really the narrative point-of-view approach the author uses to tell the story. It's often the weakest way to tell a story anyway. Authors intend to utilize it to immerse readers in their stories, but instead I feel.. it often alienates me. And our protagonist's 'voice' reads like rambling, with little direction and less control.. despite all her claims of the opposite. The words seem to pour out in a constant rush, more like a spill than a careful pouring of information.
As far as the characters are concerned, the bulk of them are as designed.. thoroughly unlikable. However, I felt that also extended to our main character, Jade, and her friends. In fact, the only character I did like, was our new King. Our Mack(beth), and watching him fall to ruin was just unpleasant. Turning away from the original text in this case, might have been the only thing that would have won me over.
Overall, the book was a disappointment. There was potential there, but the author just failed to bring it to fruition.