Daemon Lover by H. R. T. Burns

Hot Off the Presses scours the internet for newly published debut books from unknown authors, and saves everyone else the trouble of actually reading books to find out if they’re good or not. New posts every Tuesday. This is meant for entertainment purposes only, not serious consumer advice. And there will be spoilers.

Welcome back from your long exile, far from the warm glow of my idiotic opinions. I for one am excited to be back. 2022 is going to have bonus content, end-of-year awards, possibly t-shirts. There won’t be t-shirts. But I’ve been forcing myself to read the latest self published offerings on Kindle through the holiday season, using the same will power that has allowed me to eat stale panettone, grin through racist tirades, and sit through enough showings of A Christmas Story to feel like Alex from A Clockwork Orange. To begin the year, we’re revisiting a classic subgenre: sexualized World of Warcraft, also known as “men’s adventure fiction” on Amazon, which means that this thing could show up in your customers-also-boughts when you buy a cowboy novel for your dad. I give you: Daemon Lover, by H. R. T. Burns.

“If I want your opinion, I’ll steal it from you.”

Daemona is a succubus thief in one of those standard fantasy cities where it’s always nighttime, and you can just grab an apple off a cart at the night market and nobody will stop you for some reason. Not sure why mama and papa succubus named their kid Daemona, but it fits. She gets a tip from her informant, human-rat hybrid Marcenko. It’s implied that he’s not actually part rat, but I’m not sure. This is always a problem I have with the first few pages of generic fantasy novels. You’ve introduced a main character who is some kind of devil-thing, complete with horns, and you expect me to know the short guy with an overbite is a rodent in spirit only? I can’t read your mind, H. R. T. Burns. He gives her a tip on a sweet elephant jewel in an octopus tower that has no guards and is totally not suspicious at all. But then it turns out there’s a golem guarding the sweet elephant jewel in the octopus tower with no guards! Luckily, our protagonist is a kicky flippy badass who is effortlessly cool and good at everything. Specifically, she can teleport. Poof, gone, teleport. Of course, she can’t just teleport anytime, anywhere, without consequence. She has a finite amount of teleporting energy, which has to be replenished by semen.

OK, I may have skipped some critical parts of the first chapter. Our story actually began with the first of many scenes in which Daemona has awkward and very expeditious sex with some rando. I am not complaining. The way this usually works is that I take time out of my day to curl up with a good book that explains to me how each wrinkle on Lord Bargnarg’s manhood feels passing Lady Fningwig’s uvula. Then I have to take a deep breath and promise myself that fearless emotional inventory I’ve been putting off. Any day now. The sex scenes in this book linger about as long as a Wikipedia article on a village in Poland. In, out, next disposable bowl-cutted farm lad. So the golem. It was a trap, laid by the captain of the guard, Harlin. But Harlin’s not looking to simply lock up his sexy thief nemesis. This was all a ruse to get her in front of King Graymont. The king’s daughter Tamarind was kidnapped, and his other daughter Skyrim got kidnapped chasing after the first daughter. No word on how many previous daughters burned down and fell into the swamp. By his order, Daemona, Harlin, and a third companion Obvious Werewolf team up to go find and bring back as many daughters as they can carry.

“I’m looking for some wood.”

The trio gears up, and Daemona helps herself to a quick release stable boy. A pinch, a twist, a circular motion, and voila, she is recharged. There’s a pattern of premature ejaculation in these scenes, presumably because Daemona is just so sexy, but again this is to my benefit. I’m pretty sure we don’t even get one single horse disturbance in this entire book. The journey kicks into high gear when they meet an ogre friend Tish, who makes a portal to help them escape the black soldiers of the Gray Sovereign. Tish also calls her slutty, which confuses me. What constitutes a “slutty” succubus? How does slut shaming even work in a genderless species living in a world populated by sex demons? There are some fights with random minibosses wielding D&D weapons, and more teleporting, and soon Daemona needs to recharge. She calls Harlin a cuck when he refuses to sleep with her, and also she gets rejected by a dog.

The saucy banter between Daemona and the supporting cast is a big part of the book. Unfortunately, none of it really lands, except for the part when Daemona fails to convince a dog to have sex with her. The rest of it was Tarantino-style zippy one liners that were maybe trying to be funny, or cool, or both? I’m not sure. You may have also noticed a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of sex positive girl power liberation and gross normative gender roles. Your girl loves some love-em-and-leave-em leading ladies, but the problematic aspects of a Han Solo archetype don’t get any better when you swap out the hardware. Maybe I’m overthinking it because the truncated sex scenes have prevented my brain from shutting down in self defense.

“The hunter is now the hunted.”

Long time reader(s?) of this blog will remember the award winning classic Monster Girls Unlocked, in which a young nerd finds a way to bang his professor in virtual reality. In that masterpiece we all have to watch Professor McTits and every other woman in the world throw themselves upon the altar of this guy’s sexual preferences. I’ve read plenty of books where the main character’s fetish is red flags, or where flagrant abuse and self-indulgence stand in for romance, so I was braced for the inevitable scene in which her boobies were just too big to fit through the sewer grate, or a lovingly presented scene in which an ogre dungeon guard doesn’t understand consent. To my slack jawed amazement, this book actually takes the main character’s perspective seriously, treating her as an agent of the plot rather than a vehicle for gaze-y fan service. I mean, there’s obviously fan service. I don’t mean to give the impression that you won’t get the slippery meat slapping you came for. But the author, in a strange twist of fate, seems to understand that their personal desires, the perspectives of the major characters, and the rules of the universe they’ve made, may not all be the same thing.

Not that Daemon Lover is great literature. In general the writing feels rushed. There are missing verbs, and H. R. T. Burns has a habit of spelling “the” as “eth.” It took me way too long to realize that wasn’t some Hogar-style archaic word I didn’t know. Amateurism is not a mortal sin in a debut author, and I am almost ready to say that I am curious what they do for their sophomoric installment in the Daemona series. This is one of those guilty pleasure books that scratch a secret, shameful itch many of us have for erotic fantasy. It’s cheesy; the “hilarious” banter sucks. But it manages to walk the fine line between dumb sexy fun and just dumb. It’s way too short for the five dollar price tag, but if the price ever comes down I would give it a careful recommendation to anyone who wants their erotica to contain more premature ejaculation and fewer horse disturbances.

I sat through another one of Madeline’s dumb reviews, and now you do, too.

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