The Mortal Bone by Marjorie M. Liu
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“When the bond Maxine Kiss shares with the demons tattooed on her skin is deliberately severed, the demon hunter is left vulnerable and unprotected. For the first time in ten thousand years, the demons have a taste of freedom. And as the little demons grow more violent and unpredictable, Maxine starts to fear they will lose their minds without her. Reuniting won’t be easy, since a greater temptation waits for these hellions: a chance to return to their lives as Reaper Kings, and unleash hell on Earth.”
It’s been quite a while since I read this series. I read the first three as they came out, and then I dawdled at getting to this one. As a result, I had forgotten a lot about the series and its characters and plot. I didn’t find it too difficult to get back into the swing of things, and mostly that was because of how memorable Liu’s characters are.
What always stood out for me were the demons: Zee, Aaz, Raw, Dek, and Mal. Quite inhuman, they still took on human-like qualities that came from long association with humans. Zee is the only one who talks, and he always seems genuinely fond of Maxine. Raw and Aaz eat anything, but have a fondness for chewing on teddy bears. Dek and Mal communicate by humming tunes that express what they’re feeling (for those of you familiar with Transformers, think Bumblebee as a large lizard). It has always been clear that they’re dangerous, but in this book, readers get to see them as the Reaper Kings, the entities that they were thousands of years ago.
Paradoxically, the fact that Zee and the boys are free from their bond to Maxine allows the author to show how strong that bond really is. Maxine is heartbroken at losing her connection to them, and she has to deal with feeling abandoned when they’re not constantly around her. But even though they have no mortal ties anymore, they still protect Maxine out of love for her. They’re still beings to be feared—even Maxine treads warily around them—but the very real affection between them all is one of the novel’s high points.
I’m not quite sure I bought the reasoning behind the severing of Maxine’s bond to the demons. I’m not going to spoil it, obviously, but the explanation felt kind of thin to me. What breaking that bond was meant to accomplish is something that, to me, was rather trite. I didn’t think it ruined the book or anything, but I wish I’d gotten to the end and seen a better reason for why things fell out the way that they did. Readers do get to see more of the politics of the demon realm, though, and find out some of the background of their world. If it took a silly reason to get to all of that, I guess that’s okay.
This particular installment of the series came out more than two years ago, and I have the most recent one sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I think I’ll be getting to it much quicker this time around, as I realize how much I missed Maxine and Zee and the boys. The Mortal Bone may have been created with some shaky reasoning for letting the demons go free, but I still enjoyed it and will be continuing with this series.