Books Reviews

REVIEW: “The Demon Abraxas” by Rachel Calish

**Thank you to Lynda Sandoval for her editing assistance.**

Reading Paranormal novels isn’t really my thing.  I find this strange since I did spend a lot of time reading Buffy fan fiction and really enjoyed it.  I probably read so much during that period that I just eventually burned out.  Not that I found anything wrong with it, I just wanted to move on to other genres.

So, why did I read The Demon Abraxas (Bella Books) by Rachel Calish?  I mean, after all, it’s not the type of book I normally read.

Well, there are a three main reasons:  First, have you seen the cover for this book?  Holy Crap!  It’s really quite beautiful.  I was particularly drawn to the blonde woman on the right – it’s the BEL-DemonAbraxaseyes.  They just pulled me in.  Spectacular!  The second reason is because I felt I needed to get back to this genre and (after seeing the cover) the blurb on the back sounded quite interesting. Finally, Rachel Calish’s “staid, grown up personality” is Rachel Gold.  If you are a regular reader of my reviews, you know how I feel about Gold’s Being Emily.  (If you’re not a regular reader, you can check out my review here.)  So, I had to check out what Rachel wrote outside of the YA arena. How would these “two” authors differ?  

Let me start by saying this:  I’m very happy that I chose this book to reintroduce me to Paranormal novels.

Since I’m not really great at providing synopses of novels without giving spoilers, let me provide you with the blurb on the back cover.

San Francisco after dark can be full of unusual sights, but the last thing Ana Khoury expects to stumble across is black-garbed figures carrying a body. Her call to 911 is interrupted by a blow to the head, plunging her into nothingness.

Sabel Young has long been attracted to the impetuous and alluring Ana, but her obedience to an ancient order of witches leaves her with few options for romance. When she realizes that Ana has been taken—and by whom—her very private life and Ana’s normal world collide.

Her orders are clear: Do not get involved with demons. But she can’t leave a woman with no magic in the hands of dark powers that will exploit her body and destroy her soul—especially Ana. With daring and luck she pulls Ana to safety.

At first it appears they have escaped dark magic unscathed. At first…

The Demon Abraxas is a tightly-written, edge-of-your-seat novel.  Only a migraine and the need to actually show up for my job kept me from finishing this book in one sitting.  (I admit to considering making a “sick call” one day so that I could finish it, but I knew that karma would bite me in the butt later on.)

Calish wastes no time getting the reader into the action – before chapter one is complete, lives are in danger.  I love this!  I’m sure we’ve all read mystery/suspense novels that drag for many chapters before things get started.  I don’t know about you, but the author loses me if things don’t start quickly and pull me in.  Calish did not lose me.  However, she did make me concentrate on what I was reading.  The novel was peppered with twists and turns and cliffhangers that kept my eyes glued to the pages.  Nothing was predictable; the end was not telegraphed.  There were times I needed to go back a paragraph or so just to make sure I “had it” and wasn’t missing anything.  While there are some who would see this as a criticism, I assure you it is not.  If I can skim through a book (particularly a book with intrigue as a major focus) and still follow every subplot without missing a beat, I feel as though the book has been “over written.”  There were probably scenes that could have been edited out.  Not so with The Demon Abraxas.  I did not re-read out of necessity, due to confusing or poorly written prose. I re-read to absorb every word, to catch every detail. Bliss.

What is very interesting about The Demon Abraxas is that it feels very much like an episode of a favorite TV series.  What does this mean?  Let’s see if I can explain.  Think of your favorite one-hour drama.  There’s usually a teaser at the beginning providing us with the set up for the rest of the episode:   a dead body is discovered; a murder is committed; the lovers are caught in the act; the protagonist is kidnapped.  It draws us in and presents us with the problem to be solved.  The episode then gets broken down into “acts” (those parts in between commercials) where the problem is explored, stakes are considered, choices are made, obstacles are encountered, more choices are made, etc.  The final act is the climax – the problem is solved (often in a very exciting fashion).   Finally, we get a resolution or tag at the end of the episode.  We learn the consequences of actions taken throughout the episode and, in some instances, the set up for future episodes (particularly if there is a story “arc” happening for that season).

Calish seems to follow this form – whether deliberate or not – quite successfully.  The main characters, Ana and Sabel, are introduced quickly and the story is set in motion within the first two chapters.  The “A-plot” – demons and witches and bad guys (oh my) – is explored and exposed via exposition and the introduction of important supporting characters.  The “B-plot” – the attraction and building sexual tension – is ever present, providing motivation for, and obstacles to, finding a resolution.  The final build toward the climax of the story has the protagonists pushing forward – taking charge and taking action. The climax itself is exciting and nerve-wracking and intense and complex and satisfying. The final 2 or 3 chapters of the book finish things up, letting us know the consequences of the actions taken – by good guys and bad – and, ultimately, wrapping up both the A-plot and the B-plot.  It was very nicely done and kept the story flowing.  What is especially exiting for me is that Calish appears to leave some questions unanswered, which makes me think that she’s left herself wide open for a sequel.  Now…that…makes me happy.  I hope it’s true.

Ana and Sabel are very compelling characters.  Each has a rich, deep back story that is revealed throughout the novel.  Similarly, the supporting characters in the story are given the chance to become fully developed players in the story.  Even the characters who don’t appear often are essential to the story and the underlying tension throughout.  I really appreciate that the characters’ back stories are essential to the development of the plot and the final resolution.  It’s not often that I find this done well.  Most of the time, events from a character’s past may have an incidental influence on the plot, but most often they are solely there to provide a starting place for character development:  “Here’s where the character was at the beginning of the book and here’s where the character is now.”  But in The Demon Abraxas, past events are essential to the unfolding plot.  It’s nicely done.

If you’re unsure about reading a novel dealing with demons and witches, that’s okay.  Calish makes this world very accessible to the reader. The demons and witches found on these pages are defined and explained in such a way that the “paranormal novice” will easily understand, while not “talking down to” those who are well-versed in the world of the paranormal novel. These definitions and explanations are also integral to the unfolding plot.  Oh, and if you’re a Buffy fan, don’t expect these demons to look or act like those in Sunnydale.  The demons Calish offers us are intelligent and far scarier.  Why scarier?  They are scarier because they are intelligent.  Delicious!

So, let me sum this up in the simplest way possible:  Read The Demon Abraxas.

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