Thu
Mar 31 2011 10:00am

More Than Paranormal Porn—Larissa Ione’s Demonica World

Pleasure Unbound by Larissa IoneLarissa Ione’s seductive series is more than just hot demon lovin’; it would be easy, merely judging by the five titles in Larissa Ione’s Demonica series, to dismiss her work as Paranormal Porn.

Take into account some of the blurbs on their back covers, and this impression is almost a certainty. Pleasure Unbound: “Tayla Mancuso is a demon slayer who hungers for sensual pleasure . . .”; Desire Unchained: “Runa Wagner never meant to fall in love with the sexy stranger who seemed to know her every deepest desire…” The backs of the subsequent books—Pleasure Unleashed, Ecstasy Unveiled and Sin Undone, if you please—are less overtly lascivious, no doubt to counter that very idea, but still. Even just considering the titles and the cover images (sexy, shadowy naked people with no heads; oh yes, it’s definitely Paranormal Romance), one could be forgiven for assuming it’s All Nasty Sex All the Time.

Desire Unchained by Larissa IoneAnd . . . sure, okay. Nasty Sex. A whole bunch of it, and often at the drop of . . . well, anything. The first novel in the series doesn’t get two pages without our Hero, the demon Eidolon, ruminating on his burgeoning manly urges. In fact, the helpful Glossary at the front of Pleasure Unbound, establishing the tone of what is to come, scientifically classes the species to which E belongs (he’s a Seminus demon; yes, yes, very mature) as an Incubus of the Sexual Demon family. So, sex. Frequent, explicit, fetishistic sex is laced through these books pretty darned liberally.

So far, so blush-worthy.

But there is also, astonishing as Ione’s reflexive detractors might find it, Plot. Major, involving, viscerally-compelling Plot, all wrapped up in the trappings of dirrrty Paranormal Romance. The Demonica world is executed with such exquisite care, its characters so fully realized, and the rules of its hidden society so immediately fascinating that it is no chore to look past—if look past you’d rather—all the hardening and moistening and glistening, and instead just be swept away by what is, withal, a cleverly wrought underworld of equal parts terror, humor and wonder.

And, actually, the sex stuff: it’s not that bad. Ione’s economy of phrasing is so frank and yet evocative, taking aim directly at the gut (and often, it must be conceded, parts lower), that even if one is prone to skim the naughty bits in most other writers’ playgrounds—who amongst us hasn’t jumped over at least one Anita Blake multi-partner ego-fest?—in Demonica, they just work. Maybe because sex is integral to each main protagonist’s being, and is such a part of who they are that without its inclusion, it would be like reading a Queen Betsy book and not hearing about her shoes.

So, who are these protagonists, and why should we care?

Well, aside from the aforementioned Eidolon (a paragon of all the virtues, except for a slight tendency towards not-entirely-consensual intimacy), we also have his complicated and snarky brothers, Shade and Wraith. All three are “Sem” demons who use their innate gifts to treat wounded supernatural beasties at the Neutral Zone crossroads that is Underworld General Hospital. (No, please, stay with me.) They spend their time backbiting, rallying against the depredations of the sinister Aegis, a lesser-like human organization dedicated to the eradication of all things demonic, and stumbling across their predestined soul mates . . . all pretty par for the PNR course, right? Yep. There’s no denying it.

After all, staunch demon Eidolon’s true love turns out to be—right, brace yourselves, because you won’t believe this . . a demon hunter! Wicked Shade’s eventual lifemate? A woman he scarred for life and who justifiably hates him. Incorrigible Wraith’s immortal beloved? Naturally enough, she’s the chick he needs to kill to save himself from an ignominious fate. Then there’s the boys’ assassin half-brother, Lore, who hooks up with an actual, honest-to-God guardian angel; and, finally, their half-sister, the only female of their kind. She is named Sinead (but goes by Sin, obviously), and her tempestuous courtship is carried on with a half-vampire/half-werewolf named Conall . . . but only after she unleashes a deadly plague that kills werewolves!

Yes, the Unbidden Yet Destined Love thing is in full force here in Demonica Land, and yet Ione makes it all seem perfectly reasonable somehow, as if of course this is how things have to play out in her dark and yet alluring corner of Hell on Earth. It’s not blatant plot-devicing for all of our couples to start out at odds with one another, and to therefore have to overcome their hostility in order to . . . y’know. Overcome. No, not blatant plot-devicing; it just makes sense.

Out in the wider world inhabited by these conflicted but eventually loved-up souls there exists a plethora of intriguing life: good, evil, and many startling combinations thereof. There are more demons, of assorted species: baby-eaters and human wannabes, etc., plus a whole subset who exist only to be sex slaves. Of the humans and angels, vampires, werewolves and variety of hybrid-types, not a single creation, be they nominally decent or supposedly iniquitous, is without their subtleties. There are few truly venal creatures here, and no shining paladins of righteousness. Which is a big part of what makes it So. Damned. Good.

Coming at this series from a speculative fiction point of view instead of a romance one (although, isn’t it wonderful how often those two worlds so delightfully collide, to the betterment of both?), Ione has created an intriguing and uncompromising divergent reality in which common Dark Fantasy tropes are used to explore wider themes like individuality, chauvinism, racism, institutionalized violence and, it must be admitted, sexual liberation. This is what spec fic does; it brings to light those darker corners of our psyches we’d rather not examine and makes us confront our demons head on, compelling us to define our beliefs, address our prejudices and understand ourselves just that little bit better for having read it. Larissa Ione ingeniously does this by confronting us with actual demons. Hot, bad, kickass demons, compulsively addictive to the last. (Plus, a whole lot of Nasty Sex.)

Eternal Rider by Larissa IoneEarlier this week came the first in a new but related series, Lords of Deliverance, which continues the world-shaking happenings previously foreshadowed in this darkly tantalizing universe: the Apocalypse is coming! The Apocalypse is coming! Eternal Rider sees Ares, one time Greek god and actual, not-at-all-kidding Horseman of the Apocalypse fall under the sway of a damaged damsel who has mystically bonded with a hellhound—and he can only be hurt by hellhounds! So, yeah, the more things change in these demonic parts, the more they stay the same.

Thank Heaven—and Hell—for it.



Rachel Hyland is the Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.
 

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5 comments
SLion
1. SLion
Larissa's books are some of the best I have read. She is an excellant author and a must read in the PNR genre.
Barbara Jones
2. bimmergrl
What an absolutely awesome post!! Great author... great books... a must-read!
SLion
3. lemyn
Great auther annd series! Love Demonica and Riders!
Rachel Hyland
4. RachelHyland
So delighted to have some fellow fans along for the ride... Demonica is just the PR gift that keeps on giving. And let us not forget Ione's Sydney Croft books, written with Stephanie Tyler. So much fun!
Leni Salvador
5. leni
Is the demonica series books better the the black dragger Brotherhood series books or they the same? I loved reading BDB.
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