Demons are preying on schoolchildren in her city, so Francesca Barnes does what any red-blooded librarian would do-she does some research and goes hunting. But the books she finds in a secret cache don't tell her the whole story. Chess has no idea what she's just stepped into or just how special she is. Orion is Drakul, part demon, and a loyal servant of the Order. He doesn't expect a motorcycle-riding librarian to be messing around with demonic forces, and he doesn't expect her to smell so damn good. But Ryan's got bigger problems. His partner has disappeared, and the forces of Darkness are rising. Now Chess is Ryan's only hope of finding his partner, and Ryan is Chess's only hope of survival because the demons now know Chess exists and that she is the heir to a long-lost power that could push back their dark tide. If Ryan can keep her alive long enough, she just might be the key to destroying the demons completely. But Ryan doesn't know he's been betrayed by the very Order he serves. And if Chess does, by some miracle survive, he won't ever be able to touch her again. . .
(synopsis via Goodreads)
So! Librarians, secret books, demon hunters, mysterious order protecting us poor little humans, a little romance, everything about this story sounds awesome, right? Well, not quite. It’s good but never quite makes the leap into amazing. Chess is a likeable protagonist, she’s smart (a librarian!), she’s feisty (but not that absurd-feisty that too many UF lady-protagonists tends towards), she’s pretty brave, she’s independent. Although sometimes she’s a little too independent for someone who’s only killed one demon and who now has a certified demon-hunter at her beck and call.
Ryan sounds super foxy and he’s definitely a good guy to have in your corner, what with the super strength and healing abilities, but I am not a fan of the mate-instinct that we got to deal with when Ryan’s POV was at the forefront. I got a little tired of the but she’s so pretty and she smells so nice! This must be Twue Wuv! Also, things could be a little scary from his perspective because he was fighting his instincts (read: major boner) all the time. And he goes from “You give me a boner” to “I love you forever” really damn quickly.
On the other hand, the romance was almost totally undeveloped on Chess’ side, because she spent most of the book going “Fuck, demons! This is scary, run, no, fight, wait, I have a knife!” and passing out and only very occasionally “That Ryan guy is a little scary, but he’s kinda good looking”.
There isn’t much in the way of world-building since it’s basically just real world + demons but there’s enough to make it convincing. It’s a bit of a shame because Lilith Saintcrow is a master world-builder (seriously, the world-building aspect of her Dante Valentine series is mind-blowing).
Read this? Sure, why not. It’s entertaining and over quickly. I realize that isn’t quite a ringing endorsement but I would have liked it better if there were a couple of follow-ups (or even just one) because the epilogue was kind of ridiculous. It reads like a first entry in a series, right up until the epilogue, where things get wrapped way too neatly, but it’s a stand-alone. It’s kind of hard to categorize too, since it’s PNR from Ryan’s POV and UF from Chess’ POV. It was at least worth the 7 bucks I paid.
The Demon’s Librarian by Lilith Saintcrow
P.O.V: Third person, past; alternating perspective
Language: Mostly clean with a few dingers
Sexxxoring: Zero action, lots of (mental) talk