The Demon’s Librarian – Lilith Saintcrow (Netgalley)

Okay, so I chose The Demon’s Librarian on Netgalley expecting a quick, hopefully light and fun read, and probably filled with sex and violence, probably with a Mary Sue heroine. Honestly, my expectations for the sex and violence were stronger than those for the light and fun – and honestly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was so much fun, and such a quick and enjoyable read – and while yes, it was violent (“He’d broken the floor, he’d hit it so hard”), I was surprised that while there was a huge amount of chemistry and sexual tension, of actual sex scenes there were none.

The book is far from perfect. There are mistakes, in formatting and whatnot, which will hopefully be/hopefully was dealt with before final publication. But where in a lot of cases that can overwhelm the writing, here the writing more than held its own and made reading more than worthwhile. “The shipwrecked, rollicking oaken monstrosity of the bar itself” – nice.

And Chess (short for Francesca, and I love that) is no Mary Sue. Is she special, smart and lovely and physically intimidating and the whole package? Yep. But she reacts to the things that happen to her in a realistic manner. She’s a librarian, and a good one, loving her books and occasionally loathing her patrons: “She could feel her cheeks freezing into what Charlie called the Dealing-With-Idiots-Smile. It almost hurt.” And terrible things happen around her and to her, things that most of us reading (and writing) this will never, ever, ever remotely experience, and Lilith Saintcrow managed to make her someone who would both respond heroically and then melt down. As one does, when suddenly confronted with almost unstoppable demons taking the forms of people one knows.

I loved her constant self-reassurance: “I am doing really well with this. Don’t get cocky.” “I am dealing with this really well, she thought for the fiftieth time, and felt like it might actually be true.” She’s confident, but not so certain of herself or the new and wildly bizarre and dangerous circumstances she’s plunged into. I found it a nice touch that this rather amazing woman uses a technique I’ve been known to try (“it’s ok – you’re ok – you can do this”) and is occasionally overwhelmed by tears.

And I kind of love that one of the first things our hero, Ryan, falls for in her is that he saw her weeping.

He’s a very interesting character. I’ve seen criticism of how he behaves and how he treats Chess, but I had no problem with it. He’s not just some guy; he’s not human, quite. There are reasons for his behavior, reasons in keeping with the unique and skillful worldbuilding that’s gone on for this book. I look forward to more from this author, hopefully with these characters. My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for introducing me to a new author to follow.

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