I hardly ever reread a book, no matter how much I like it. First, there are SO many books I still want to read and haven’t gotten to yet. Second, I get more critical the second time I read anything–including my own stuff. The more I read it, the more flaws I see. But, I remembered Patricia Briggs’s WHEN DEMONS WALK as a book I absolutely enjoyed when I read it YEARS ago.
I’m a Patricia Briggs fan. I love her Mercy Thompson series. Having a coyote shifter mate with a werewolf and then often making her be the one who saves the day is just too much fun. Wits and wile often win over intelligence and brawn. And her mate, Adam, is nothing to sneeze at. He’s steady, strong, and loyal. What’s not to love? But her series has gotten more serious as it goes, and I was in the mood for something a little more FRISKY, so I turned to one of her really early books–before Mercy Thompson even existed.
To be honest, her writing has gotten a lot more polished, more professional, the longer she wrote. WHEN DEMONS WALK is not the smoothest writing I’ve ever read. It can get downright clumsy here and there. BUT, oh, are the characters interesting! The protagonist–Sham–lived in the Castle before it was defeated and overrun and her parents killed. She had to hide in Purgatory–a hell hole of crooks and poverty. She has magic and becomes a thief to survive. The Reeve is the man who led the forces that took the Castle. But he’s strong and fair-minded. When he takes charge of Southwood, he wants to make it a good place for everyone to live, not just the conquerors.
A demon comes to live in the castle and can enter any room at any time to kill its prey. And the Reeve is suffering from a slow decline, his body losing strength each time pain racks him at night. He knows he needs help, but he’s not sure whom to turn to, until he meets Sham. A thief with magic just might do the trick, so he invites her to the castle in the pretense of being his mistress. And then the fun starts.
Sham lives by her own rules and loves to shock people. She intends to shock Kerim, but he finds her skimpy, daring costumes at court amusing. He enjoys breaking rules almost as much as she does. Add in a mix of wonderful minor characters and the story turns to wonderful entertainment. The Shark rules Purgatory, and everyone there fears him…except Sham. Talbot, a seaman, becomes the law-keeper of Purgatory but has no problem working with Shark. He’s a realist. Shark keeps order among the lawless, so why not work with him? And Elsic is a blind selkie, whose own people would destroy him, so the Reeve takes him under his wing. Who can resist a cast like that?
This book isn’t the most well-written I’ve read, but it was the beginning of Patricia Briggs’s career. It’s to be expected that she’s improved. But for pure fun, I’m glad I reread it. The characters will live with me a long time.