Demon of Want is an absolutely fantastic book that the lovely Freja Ki Gray sent my way several months ago. I’m woefully tardy in getting it reviewed, but that’s entirely on me, and in no way a reflection on the story. In fact, I loved it so much, I bought myself a paperback in hopes of getting it signed at some point.
For the first 25% of the book we’re presented with a story that sits comfortably between quirky urban fantasy and over-the-top supernatural horror, with one scene in particular that thrust me from curious onlooker to gleefully engaged spectator. At the risk of saying too much, it involves Izumi and Maria, her trans girlfriend, weaponizing sex toys to battle a demonic teddy bear of monstrous size. It’s fun and it’s bloody and it’s wholly original.
Where the book really hooked me, though, was with the shift into a mix of epic, post-apocalyptic, and dark fantasy that defines the last 75% of the story. The horror is still there, full of demons, tentacles, the undead, and the undying, and there remains an urban fantasy thread back in the real world, but fantasy journeys, portals, quests, and even fairy-tale wish-fulfillment dominate. It’s in the fantasy realms where Maria and Izumi really come into their own, with life-and-death stakes forcing them to confront trust and relationship issues alongside their own fears, insecurities, and desires. I loved how those confrontations incorporated questions of sex and gender, not using them to define the story, but to illuminate the characters.
Overall, Demon of Want is a fast and frantic tale, told in short chapters, with multiple POVs, featuring two adorably kickass heroines in Maria and Izumi, along with the beautifully badass Rhea (who joins them in the nightmare fantasy lands). It’s clever, self-aware of the genre conventions, and makes good use of classic tropes in new ways. The supernatural evil is perfectly suited to the tale, a nearly unstoppable, catastrophic threat with a mythological purpose, personified by horrors both familiar and frightening. It’s also a story of a relationship under threat by more mundane challenges, however, and its relationship resolution is just as satisfying as the horror/fantasy one.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ ½