Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Song of the Demon Court by Dakotah Gumm


I bought this book because of a teaser I saw the author post on Threads that made me think this was going to be a really twisted dark romance with dub con (MY FAVORITE). It wasn't quite that, but I loved it anyway. SONG OF THE DEMON COURT ended up being an examination of personal faith, an enemies to lovers romance with high stakes, and a pretty interesting character portrait of two flawed and damaged people slowly learning to trust each other-- all with a Jareth-coded hero framed within an erotic pied piper retelling. WHAT.

Annika lives in what I believe is medieval Bavaria. The children in town are dying of a plague and the council have called upon a mythic race (kind of like demon elves?) called the pipers to cure the children with enchanted song. However, they cannot afford to pay the price and they know it. But because The Men(TM) are stupid and stubborn, they go ahead with the plan anyway, and the pipers decide to take the children away as punishment.

Annika alone goes to the kingdom of Laute to get the children back. Instead of forking them over, Loic, the son of the king, agrees that she can look them over as a sort of nanny in exchange for being his plaything. Disgusted, Annika agrees, and is then surprised when he proceeds to mostly not touch her. She came to this kingdom playing a game of her own, but it seems like Loic is playing one, too. And the stakes have never been higher.

So this was a really fun read. I loved that Annika was a single mom and her body wasn't perfect. She was brave but made stupid decisions, which, don't we all. I never disagreed with or failed to understand anything that she did, though. Loic on the other hand is a true morally grey character. He reminds me a lot of some of Anne Stuart's heroes, particularly the one in PRINCE OF MAGIC. Towards the end, he did a lot of things that were hard to like, since he wasn't truly a villain character, but you know what they say: hurt people hurt people. He was basically the fantasy equivalent of that. AND OH MY GOD, the author makes him suffer. This is a man who is put through hell for his cruelty, and has to really grovel to get his HEA. I actually felt so sorry for him by the end.

The world building was SO detailed and creative and I thought the writing was beautiful. I was surprised by the heavy religious themes. I'm not religious at all but I thought they added to the medieval setting in a really rich and authentic way. THE LAST HOUR OF GANN was similar, especially in how the hero's faith was tested and challenged, and I loved that book as well. I think it's thematically relevant to a lot of people. But the way the heroine is judged and internalizes some of her teachings to her own detriment might be hard to read for people who have experienced religious abuse/trauma.

ALSO I loved how sign language was so casually and cleverly integrated into the plot. That rep is unusual and shouldn't be, so it was especially great to see here.

Apparently there's a sequel coming out and I will definitely be first in line for it!

4.5 out of 5 stars

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