Kiss of a Demon King (2009) by Kresley Cole
Kiss of a Demon King is the sixth book in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. For the most part, these books can stand alone, so no need to worry about spoilers. This book features Rydstrom Woede (the fallen demon king of Rothkalina) and Sabine, Queen of Illusions. In some ways, it’s a continuation and companion to the previous book in the series, Dark Desires After Dusk, which features Rydstrom’s brother Cadeon. Though I say that these can stand alone, I recommend reading Cadeon’s story before Rydstrom’s for more enjoyment and because both stories are happening at the same time. Some of the events in Cadeon’s story are spoiled in Kiss of a Demon King so do beware of that.
It’s no surprise that in a series of this length (right now, there are fifteen books in this series, so I’m not even halfway through what’s currently available) you’re going to find some books that are weaker and less appealing than others. Part of this is because of the need to write characters who aren’t carbon copies of each other, right? If every male and female protagonist were exactly the same as the ones that came before, it wouldn’t keep me invested as a reader or keep me coming back for the next installment. Well, this is how I feel about Kiss of a Demon King. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t wonderful. The characters? Meh. One of the things I like about Cole’s writing style is that she does her best to present strong female characters. She does this successfully with Sabine, who is a sorceress that has been hunted nearly all her life and has had only herself to depend upon. As a sorceress, she is physically vulnerable and has no “battle magic”, and she has died dozens of times only to be brought back to life by her sister Lanthe, who has the power of persuasion and uses that power to bring Sabine back from death. It is because of her vulnerability that she and her sister agree to become part of Omort the Deathless’ court in exchange for his protection. Omort, as it happens, is the self-proclaimed new king of Rothkalina, assuming to throne after defeating Rydstrom in battle nearly a thousand years ago. Yes, you got it–this puts Sabine and Rydstrom in opposition as enemies from the very beginning. Cole takes these two characters and actually does a role/gender reversal with them. After Sabine captures Rydstrom, it is he who refuses to surrender sexually and shuns marriage (I don’t want to spoil the reasons for this but they do make sense within the context of the book) while it is she who is the sexual aggressor and the one who insists upon marriage. For much of the book it is a battle of the sexes and a clash of wills, with each one seeking to torment the other until one of them gives in. The thing about Sabine, though, is that I don’t really buy into her feelings for Rydstrom, and that makes the romance part of this story not work at all for me.
What does work is the adventure part of the story. Since we met the Woede brothers early in this series, we knew that eventually it was going to come down to whether or not Rydstrom would return to his throne and his place as king. In this book, we see more of Rydstrom’s side of his relationship with Cadeon which is satisfying after reading Dark Desires After Dusk, and we also get to see how the final showdown between Rydstrom and Omort plays out. Since this is happening during the Accession, it becomes clear that the Woede brothers are yet another group with the potential to reap gains during this period of tumult and life-or-death stakes. They are clearly aligned as allies with the Valkyrie, the Lykae, the Wroth brothers, and the Witches. They are on the “good” side of the Lore.
One other interesting part of this book–we get our first introduction to Lothaire, who was spoken of but not heard from in book seven, Untouchable. Here we learn that he was an ally of Omort, and his character’s exit from the story promises his eventual return later, a promise that the next book also continues. Right now he’s a mysterious character who’s allegiance isn’t yet fully known, but what we know if him so far is compelling enough to make me as a reader want to know more, so I’m looking forward to his story which is told in book eleven, aptly titled Lothaire.
Yes, I intend to keep reading this series. I almost didn’t review Kiss of a Demon King because I just didn’t feel like I had a lot to say about it. The role reversal keeps the tension going between the protagonists, but the part that really works is the adventure and ultimate resolution of the story of the Woede brothers. Sabine is a strong female character, but the romance between she and Rydstrom wasn’t completely believable. Typically I would say that I’m on to the next book in the series, but I have skipped book three, and since it tells the story of one of the MacRieve clan, and book eight also is about one of the MacRieves, I’m going to go back and read that one before moving forward.
Have you read Kiss of a Demon King? What were your thoughts?