Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Book Review: The Morgan Kingsley Series by Jenna Black

Generally I'd do a single book review, as I just finished this one, but as it's the end of the series and I haven't reviewed the rest of the series I decided to tackle it as a whole. (Plus I missed a blog entry last week, oops!)

Book 1

Welcome to the world of Morgan Kingsley, exorcist extraordinaire.  It's not much different from our modern world, really, except for one specific thing: in Morgan's world, you can be possessed by demons.

In fact, demon possession is a way of life.  It's fought over by people and the government much like gay rights (with religious groups on either side to boot) and the whole of society is learning to live with their new 'reality'.  On this stage, Morgan is an exorcist, brought in to exorcise demons when they've overstayed their welcome in their human hosts.  You can imagine she has very specific feelings about whose side she's on.

The problem is that Morgan now has a demon inside of her, and not just any demon: he's the king of them all.  She doesn't want him, but she can't get rid of him, not when there's a war going on over leadership in the Demon Realm and her world will be affected by the outcome.  Her life just got a lot more complicated.

Book 2
I have been a lover of urban fantasy for a long time and I'll admit that when I'm not sure what to read next, this is the genre I immediately look to.  It's not the sex with other worldly creatures, really, it's the world and the creativity that's scattered about.  It takes a lot to make these stories believable in our world and I love it when authors can manage this.

With Morgan Kingsley's world, Jenna Black has done just that.  She's created a believable world and very interesting characters that I loved coming back to. Specifically her side characters caught me in the first book and I found myself wishing they were the main focus.  Not that Morgan herself is bad, but the side characters are also more interesting then usual.

Book 3
The concept of the demons in the world is also super interesting.  With demons, you would expect quite a few religious undertones to fill the book, however the author took another route, and treated it more like the social issues we see in our world, with religious groups taking part, but there's also laws and realistic reactions.  For example, there are people who actually want to be demon hosts, because it gives them the ability to heal and strength, so they can be better at fighting fires, being police and other such service jobs.  And Morgan's religious beliefs are not tied to her ability to exorcise.  It's a route that I wouldn't have immediately thought of and it presented an interesting challenge in that you couldn't assume that all 'demons' were evil, because some genuinely weren't.

I was also a fan of the very distinct culture created for her demons.  As an anthropology major in college, I appreciate the time authors take to build cultures and here is no exception.  There's the standard 'we don't understand humans' but there's also the mention of how our sexuality and gender thoughts don't quite apply when you're not used to having a physical body.  So demons have no issues with homosexuality and monogamy is another sticky issue, especially if someone loves a demon and not the host, or vice versa.  That along with the BDSM threads because demons aren't used to feeling the sensation of pain and therefore some delight in it a bit too much, creates a culture and a world that I would seriously pick up textbooks about in my free time, if that were an option.

Book 4
While I do love all the things above, I did run into an issue, especially toward the end of the series, that the character of Morgan started to grate on me.  She is very steadfast in her 'I hate demons' attitude and this doesn't change throughout the books, even when she's possessed by one and gets to know him very personally.  As the books moved on she struck me as very childish in how she refused to grow as a character.  It wasn't that I wanted her to completely step forward and accept demons all the way, but I did expect her to grow at least a little.  Instead she greets each opportunity at growth with clenched teeth and only in the end of the series does she start to admit that maybe she could change her views.  I like characters who are consistent, but this seemed a bit much and it made it hard to empathize with her at the end because I just wanted to smack her upside the head.  Though, I will admit, it's a great portrayal of those in our world who really will never change their view, no matter what realities they are confronted with.  

My only other issue with the series is specific to the last book: The Devil's Playground.  Unfortunately the series set up a giant demon war and a fight for the throne, and when it came time to play those cards it sputtered and failed.  There was no war, there was no epic battle, instead it all ended with a whimper that, I swear, only lasted five pages. And the wrap up afterwards didn't end a series, it was a rushed summary that left too many open ends for me to be satisfied.  In the last book specifically Morgan feels more like a looking glass to view the situation and doesn't really act, in fact, she's not even allowed to be Lugh's host for the main parts and it almost left me feeling cheated out of what should have been a much better thought out ending to an otherwise impressive series.

Book 5
Overall Rating:
Even with my gripes about the ending and how carelessly it was brought to a halt, I would still recommend this series.  Overall it's worth the read, specifically for the world building and the amazing characters and all the concepts that the author put forward.  And I even added Jenna Black's other series to my wishlist, eager to pick up the next.  I wish more care had been taken with the end, but I can't fault the entire series for it when the trip to that ending was well worth it.  Oh well, that's what fanfiction and my own writer mind are for, and the pile of books sitting near my bed, waiting to be read. I'm slightly disappointed, but still very much a fan.

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