Bliss Devlin is a supernatural/mythological erotica author. Her books are compelling because yes they’re very clearly erotica but there’s a story (sort of) attached to all the sex. As a non-sexual reader, I appreciate that there’s a setting, challenges (well, at least initially) for the female lead, and at least one ongoing plot to hook you from one book to the next. I’m not convinced that her demons/monsters are demonic/monstrous, but then I’ve also questioned this same thing when it’s coming from a hardcore horror author. I’m surprised that I’ve found aspects I genuinely like in an erotica series, but for whatever reason I do like Bliss Devlin’s writing.
Amazon (here used as the corporation and the publication filter) isn’t as open-minded as I am.
Here’s the controversy: Bliss Devlin submitted a novel called The Rebel to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing for it to be approved and published. There’s probably a less redundant way to say this, but Amazon KDP is all about approval and publication. She got a response from someone at Amazon KDP stating that they couldn’t publish her novel because of objectionable content. Devlin was sad about that for understandable reasons, but more importantly she was confused by how her novel was objectionable when Amazon KDP published novels with much worse content. I can vouch for that, as I did in a status update post on Blog Job. You’ll get the same information here as well in more detail. For now, keep in mind that just like Devlin, I have questions about the legitimacy of Amazon KDP’s objections to her novel.
Out of curiosity, I researched the content guidelines for Amazon KDP to see what Devlin may have violated. I only saw two potential points, and neither of them seemed particularly fair in singling her out. The first potential issue was with guideline one stating “We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts”. Well, there goes the entire erotica genre, all romance novels except possibly Inspirational/religion romance novels, horror novels with heavy, abnormal sexual scenes, and some non-fiction. The second potential issue was with guideline two stating “What we deem offensive is probably what you would expect”. In other words, Amazon KDP is making authors play a guessing game of what Amazon KDP thinks is or is not offensive.
Now for the fun par: Check out examples that have been considered perfectly okay by Amazon KDP.
- Consumed by Matt Shaw. Extreme horror novel with inbred cannibal serial killers and copious amounts of rape.
- The Angel of Vengeance by Wade H. Garrett. Extreme horror novel with highly descriptive torture on every page.
- Anything by Shane McKenzie that’s not published by Samhain.
- Anything by Tim Miller, but especially see his April Almighty series. He’s technically published by GutWrench Productions but the Kindle edition is published by Amazon KDP.
Those are obviously the horror novels. Next we’ll look at some (okay, one; my romance/erotica reading is very limited and I am supremely lazy about doing the research) of the romance/erotica titles allowed by Amazon KDP.
- Demon Seed by Desiree Acuna. A young adult woman who was sheltered and despised by her family trades herself to a demon in exchange for keeping her family alive and then the erotica kicks in. If you crave sex scenes then you’ll love this book. I appreciated it because it also has a story, not a particularly complex story but still a clear story. The print edition is published by New Concepts Publishing, but on Amazon the Kindle edition is published by Amazon KDP.
There’s other novels that I haven’t read and want to get around to that sound very much like they’d violate Amazon KDP’s publishing guidelines. I’m thinking that if Amazon KDP wants to have credibility in censoring certain novels, they should consider what they’re already published and thoroughly explain in their guidelines what’s acceptable or not in content. Authors shouldn’t have to play the “Guess what’s acceptable” guessing game when submitting their work for publication.
There is a happy ending to this story. Today I checked out Devlin’s Facebook page and saw that she resolved the issue with Amazon KDP and will revise her novel so that it fits into the publication guidelines. While I’m impressed that she didn’t take “No!” for an answer, I don’t think she should’ve had her novel rejected without a good explanation.
If you read my review of Dark Exorcist, then you know I wasn’t thrilled with the novel overall. As a fair book reviewer I gave it credit where it was awesome (mainly that it had a very evil demon who may or may not even exist in fiction and real life and was definitely a problem) but in the end of my review I concluded that wouldn’t recommend the book as a stand-alone novel. Dark Exorcist was saved because it was the first book of a series, the second book was available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, and the second book synopsis promised to be even better. For those of you who shared my experience with being disappointed by Dark Exorcist but wanted to continue the series out of compulsion, you’re in luck because Dark Exorcist 2 is a novel I can genuinely recommend.
Dark Exorcist 2 begins with a prologue where a concerned single mother of two young offspring hears a baby crying and searches the house for her six-month-old daughter Isabelle. If you’re a longtime horror novel fan, you know this can’t signal anything good. Finally the mother, Sharon Masters, walks into Isabelle’s nursery, sees a bloody knife on the floor, and sees her son Simon munching on something fleshy. He looks up and says “Isabelle is yummy!” The entire neighborhood goes downhill from that point on (which is why you’re going to want to read this novel). I’m not going to spoil the rather disgusting imagery in chapters one through four, but let’s just say that it is very much Tim Miller’s signature writing style.
Before I continue reviewing Dark Exorcist 2, I made a major mistake in reviewing Dark Exorcist and I’m going to clear it up here. The main priest/exorcist is Father Harlan rather than Father Pierce. I messed up names in my review of Dark Exorcist and I apologize for any confusion that may have caused.
Chapter five returns to Sharon and Simon when they’re at the police station for questioning. Father Harlan (who has given up being a priest for what he thinks is forever) is there to assist the police with questioning purposes and uncovers something chilling. Simon was possessed by what he describes as a man with a “mean voice” who talked to him at night and said if Simon did everything the man told him to do, Simon would become a living superhero. The police are boggled but Father Harlan immediately knew who the man was and why the town was going completely insane.
Now would be the perfect time to tell you about this demon. The “man” Simon talks about is actually a Native American coyote god named Yeshto’th, whose name (at least in this book) means “war” and “mayhem”. Appropriately enough, he’s the god of chaos. Also, this god/demon has the power to completely possess one person and also anyone else it thinks can bend to its will. Calling it “problematic” doesn’t begin to cover what it is. Needless to say, I immediately fell in love with this demon. I know, I know, that’s sick and twisted. On the other hand, I have a soft spot for chaos demons and whatnot.
A lot of deliciously bloody and gory scenes follow, but we need to move on to explain what happened to Amanda Ross (the character that didn’t stand on her own in Dark Exorcist). In Dark Exorcist Amanda was a helpless fifteen-year-old but in Dark Exorcist 2 she becomes a legitimate hero (sort of) at a great cost to her humanity. When Amanda returned to her body after K’rall was exorcised, she gained the ability to cross into Purgatory. This was risky even on a non-chaotic day but it was a huge sacrifice when demon-possessed humans were attacking her and a group of friends who could potentially banish Yeshto’th and her physical body was killed off. Not to mention that in Purgatory, her spirit could meet potentially nasty demons…such as K’rall. Long story short, Amanda was able to banish Yeshto’th although she didn’t know how she did it and all of his former legions teamed up with her and everything became sunshine and rainbows. No, not really. Amanda Ross becomes a powerful character, not exactly a demon queen but certainly a powerful entity who works for the side of good and poses a threat to K’rall and his Master (who we meet in the prologue). It’s hard to review this novel without spoiling important details, but you should absolutely read it for yourself regardless. All these loose ends concerning Amanda Ross leads me to believe that there will be a third book coming soon (I hope) and we’ll see Amanda become even more of a lead character.
I love that Dark Exorcist 2 is much more Tim Miller’s writing style but has heavy supernatural elements. He shows here that he is versatile and can write outside of his serial killer cannibal niche. I do love his niche, but as a supernatural/demon subgenre fan, I more often gravitate towards the spooky but not highly graphic. It’s hard for me to explain what I mean by that because I also occasionally crave my blood and gore. Why do you think I rated Dark Exorcist 2 so highly? What I’m trying to say is that Dark Exorcist 2 works well for me because it blends supernatural elements with gore and somehow it works so ridiculously well.
The only problem I had with Dark Exorcist 2 is that certain elements were resolved too easily. When Amanda Ross banished Yeshto’th, she said so herself that she had no idea how she did it, and it felt very much like he decided he’d had enough, packed up, and left town on his own free will. I guess I expected more of a battle between good and evil. To piggyback on that idea, Father Harlan took a backseat to Amanda Ross. Who’s really the “dark exorcist” in this series? If you asked me, I’d say it’s Amanda. I now like Amanda for coming into her own and making a tough decision (essentially sacrificing her physical body if it would save the town from destruction) and I look forward to seeing how she continues to grow in her role. I just felt like Father Harlan was no longer necessary other than for providing information about the various demons and he was written out too easily.
In spite of my criticism, I genuinely enjoyed the more complex storytelling of Dark Exorcist 2. If it sounds at all appealing to you and you have a strong stomach (yes, you’re going to need it), don’t hesitate to purchase it or rent it from your Kindle Unlimited account.
I promise I’ll give you a substantial review, but bear with me while I first offer an important note about this blog. In the beginning I wasn’t sure what type of blog site Demon Love would be. I posted a guide to demons for the sake of giving you all some information about demons around the world (most that aren’t written about in fiction for some weird reason even though they’re pretty interesting creatures) but then I wasn’t sure if I would make the blog for demon themed books in any genre or if I would specialize to one genre. In the end, Demon Love is for any demon-related book, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.
Disclaimer out of the way, I’m pleased to reveal that my first fiction review will be of Tim Miller’s novel Dark Exorcist. Tim Miller is quickly becoming one of my go-to Kindle Unlimited horror authors and I’m thrilled that the Dark Exorcist series gives him a chance to write about the supernatural rather than torture. That’s not to say that Tim Miller completely scrapped blood and gore for Dark Exorcist. If you are a fan of Miller’s serial killer cannibal torture novels but don’t think you’d like his supernatural offerings, you might be surprised about Dark Exorcist. It’s not a never-ending bloodbath but there are scenes that will turn your stomach and make you want more. As for me, I give credit to Dark Exorcist because of the demon (like, to the point that now I want to research if it’s an actual demon), but compared to the second book, appropriately titled Dark Exorcist 2, it’s missing the depth and detail I’m used to in a Tim Miller novel. For example, I learned so much more about Amanda Ross in Dark Exorcist 2 even though she wasn’t the main character where in Dark Exorcist she was a lead character and there was a lot left out about who she was. Dark Exorcist also did too much head-hopping, where one chapter was about Amanda and one chapter was about the exorcist and yet another chapter was about the police officer. Admittedly, this book wouldn’t have encouraged me to read Dark Exorcist 2 and I only continued on because I don’t feel comfortable with starting a series and not following it to the end. Dark Exorcist 2 is much better. That said, Dark Exorcist has one merit and I would recommend reading it before reading Dark Exorcist 2 in order to understand Amanda Ross’ background history leading to a major decision that she makes in Dark Exorcist 2.
First let me tell you about the demon. It possessed a fifteen-year-old named Amanda Ross, causing her to go on multiple rampages in an otherwise sleepy town. The book begins with a scene where the police are called downtown and Peter Roman, the main police officer that we meet, is shocked by seeing six grown men trying to hold down a fifteen-year-old girl who he didn’t think could weigh over 90 pounds. His mind immediately says “demonic possession” because in his career it was the women that were the craziest but Amanda Ross was superhuman. In fact, there were times when Amanda was in her body and wondering where she was and why she had attacked people because for whatever reason, the demon sometimes had to give her a break. Throughout the novel, Peter Roman and Father Pierce the exorcist learn that the demon is named K’rall and is relatively unknown (maybe even non-existent) in demonology. It’s a strong demon that can’t be killed off and the only hope for keeping Amanda alive and saving the town is to banish it. In the end, things are only partially resolved. That’s why we have Dark Exorcist 2. Back to the demon itself, I know it’s evil (and ridiculously foul-mouthed!) but I absolutely wanted to know more about it. A good supernatural novel makes you interested in the villains as well as the good guys, and for that reason I think Tim Miller succeeded.
On the other hand, I found aspects of this first novel in a series frustrating.
Dark Exorcist is about demon-possessed fifteen-year-old named Amanda Ross, but she’s not a strong character in her own story. Every time I read about her, I viewed her as the victim. She was either the victim of the demon or the victim of circumstances (her history involved living in foster care). In Dark Exorcist not only is Amanda not a strong female character, she is not an interesting character to read about. Without giving away too many spoilers, Amanda is much better-written and much stronger, almost heroic in Dark Exorcist 2. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t read Dark Exorcist because the demon makes up for what Amanda lacks, but you shouldn’t expect much from Amanda and that bothers me.
The writing style of Dark Exorcist also got under my skin. There are at least three major voices in the novel: demon-free Amanda, Father Pierce the exorcist, and Peter Roman the police officer. There’s also sections told from Dr. Bennett, Amanda’s doctor, but he doesn’t survive long enough to be a significant voice. From chapter to chapter, any one of the three main characters could be telling the story. It should give readers more clarity of the situation, but instead it feels blocky and disconnected. Amanda’s sections are mostly “What happened to me?”, Peter Roman’s sections are about people who Amanda/K’rall attacks, and Father Pierce’s sections are taking action against K’rall. If you like one character you’ll probably like their sections, but it’s hard to read if you either hated some of the characters and didn’t want to be in their heads or if you can’t understand who’s speaking at the moment. The chapters that head-jump tell you in the first line who’s speaking and what time it is that the events are occurring, but just reading the dialogue and the style of description doesn’t give it away. I couldn’t tell one character’s voice from another character’s voice. This is a personal dislike, but I wasn’t enthusiastic about the way the book was written. Dark Exorcist 2 is completely different and much stronger in voice and event consistency.
I’m trying to figure out how to wrap up my conclusion. I didn’t like Dark Exorcist overall, but I needed to read it to understand better about events in Dark Exorcist 2 and I would recommend that everyone follows suit. On the positive side, Tim Miller knows his demons and that is why I think Dark Exorcist redeemed itself. I just feel that if you read Dark Exorcist as a stand-alone novel without continuing to the second book in the series and beyond, you’d be disappointed.
Before we talk about authors’ dreamboat fantasies and new horrors piled onto old horrors, we should absolutely know our folktales and legends. I know, I know, I can hear you groaning. What’s all that boring old stuff have to do with slick, fan service heroes and the most evil entities created even more villainous by creative minds? Hold it right there! Did you know that any good speculative fiction author researches the real (or “real” if you don’t believe these folktales hold any truth) and pulls their modern characters from bits and pieces of classic stories? In short, learn your history!
Before we continue with the juicy details, a few warnings. First, bear in mind that Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack, unlike many authors on aspects of the supernatural, are not demonologists. With degrees in religious studies and strong interests in mythology and anthropology, however, they make credible sources for these collected stories. Also consider that no matter how many negative, critical reviews they received for this book, there’s been at least three printings of this book. They’re clearly doing something right. Just don’t go into this thinking that you’ll learn how to summon and bind these creatures because I guarantee you that you’ll be disappointed. This is strictly the stories attached to these entities.
Now that I’ve given you some much needed disclaimers, let’s talk about demons. Specifically, let’s talk about demons according to the research by authors Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack. Demons are as stereotypical as people think they are, but then they’re completely misunderstood as well. In the introduction the Macks clear up the misconception that all demons are like the little red cartoon man with red horns and a red tail. They explain that from culture to culture demons vary in appearance and some demons can even change their appearance to suit their purpose(s). Just because two types of demons are referred to as such, they’re not going to look the same or have the same purpose. The consistent point from story to story is that the demon would be an all-powerful entity that nobody could defeat except that they lack human qualities such as compassion and the ability to feel love and that can lead to their undoing. Interestingly, the Macks note that even evil demons that nobody would want to mess with have a purpose. The introduction concludes with the two authors stating that demons are a way to explain what the opposite of goodness looks like in the battle between good and evil.
As a guidebook, I couldn’t find anything wrong with the format. The book is broken down into sections of where these demon stories (and the demons themselves) have originated. There’s your “five element” demons, which are demons of the water, the air, the mountains, the desert, and the domicile (house). What I’d consider to be the bonus section is demons of the psyche, better explained as pop culture demons. I appreciated that the authors not only told their readers where these demons seemed to rule but also what country or culture “owns” them. For readers who are completely new to demon mythology, it’s good background information. I’m not sure how exactly to explain that, but it is something I genuinely like about this book.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t enthralled with the authors’ choices of demons.
Useful as the book was laid out, it isn’t good for much more than getting some names for further research and maybe entertainment (though why would a normal person read a field guide to demons?). There could’ve been additional demons added for more interest and because, well, it helps to know what people should avoid (assuming that these demons exist and are still interacting with humans today). Plus, there’s some neat demons that were completely left out. I was outraged that under the section for water demons, there was no listing for the Mexican La Llorona (translated to “The Wailer” and is a ghost demon who lures people to the river bank with her loud, sorrowful wailing and then drowns them). Surprisingly there was no bonus bonus section for a list of Solomon’s 72 demons (although a few of them were listed under the section “Seven Deadly Sins”). Clearly this is a guide to the major entities rather than a demon dictionary and there had to be picking and choosing, but this is one of the drawbacks of the book. A later edition (from either 2010 or 2011 depending on the format) isn’t much better content wise, but it is updated with a lovely blue cover and describes vampires in addition to demons so that’s a major change. By the way, did you know that vampires in their classic form are a type of demon?
The point is, this isn’t a comprehensive read. If you have a favorite demon, I’d recommend skipping this book and just researching your demon online. However, I do believe that fiction readers who claim they love demons should know what demons are. Hint: They’re not (usually) handsome men who are outrageously possessive of their “mate” and essentially live all for her. It does happen, but it’s much more gritty than paranormal romances make it out to be. There’s usually blood and gore involved. For that reason I insist you all read this field guide to get a more balanced view of demons.