Plot: This well-plotted novel effectively pits two supernatural beings in a battle for the fate of the world. Demon Allastor's machinations—such as his attempts to destroy the world’s justice systems—are intriguing. However, the dynamics between the lead characters is often muddied, leading readers to question the story’s internal logic.
Prose: Dialogue and descriptions are well executed, particularly in tense action scenes. An overreliance on overt foreshadowing somewhat undercuts the power of the storytelling.
Originality: This supernatural novel’s most unique elements surround the protagonist’s internal struggles and sacrifice. Demon Alastor’s frustrations and bureaucratic tendencies that gloss over a deeper evil, are also particularly fresh.
Character Development: Friends and family members, willing to risk their lives to save a loved one, are the strongest characters, generally enhancing the story’s impact and providing greater humanity to Kyra herself.
Date Submitted: July 20, 2018
In this contemporary horror/fantasy novel, a Canadian woman confronts her destiny when a demon claims her as his queen.
Kyra Parker, 35, has been trying to live a normal life with her husband, James Parker, and 8-year-old son, Xavier. She and her best friend, Alexis Bennett, are secretly witches, but Kyra doesn’t talk anymore about the bad dreams and strange events that she experienced in her childhood. Her attempt at normalcy ends when she’s kidnapped and brutally beaten by associates of Alastor, a mesmerizingly handsome demon, straight out of her nightmares, who wants her to rule the world alongside him. “Dreams of angels, demons, magic, war, blood, death—and the fear and hope that accompanied them” soon come flooding back to her, and she’s forced to accept his demands in order to protect family members and friends who’ve also been kidnapped. Thus Kyra becomes demonic herself, wreaking havoc with Alastor, bringing down governments, and building an army of released convicts. Soon her friends and their new allies, including a priest and two other mysterious figures, organize a resistance movement, guided by a prophecy that Kyra’s special heritage will allow her to overcome Alastor’s evil. But first, they must reclaim her from Alastor’s terrible influence. Debut author Tollefson often keeps up a quick pace in this story, which delivers plenty of gory supernatural action and a dash of eroticism. She also handles dialogue and description with facility. However, the large size of the cast sometimes slows things down, as does the fact that several characters have similar names (such as Alexis, Axel, and Alastor). It’s also problematic during fight scenes, as readers sometimes have to track half a dozen characters or more through complicated choreography. The sections that explain supernatural background information, such as magical rules and their exceptions, also drag. That said, the novel’s spirit of resistance to evil will resonate with many readers even if its graphically described scenes of blood, torture, and suffering don’t appeal to everyone.
A violent, dramatic, and ultimately hopeful debut despite some pacing issues.
Kyra is leading a fairly great life in her 30s. Her new boss is a jerk but she's quite happily married and has a child. She even has a best friend that knows she's a witch - and can do magic herself! Best of all, the family is going on vacation. When she, her husband James and 8-year-old son Xavier change hotel plans at the last minute things really start going crazy. Two hillbillies drug Kyra and take her, along with her family, to a secluded home where Kyra also finds her mother, her sister Hailey and her husband, and her best friend Alexis along with her brother Axel. To free them all and save her mother from hell she agrees to join forces with Alastor, an immortal demon, and fulfill her fate.
Melhara by Jocelyn Tollefson is a wild ride of an adventure with a plot that kept me hooked from the first page that spoke of her terrifying dreams until the end. Kyra is a woman torn between the mysterious abilities she discovers at an early age and being medicated for them, forcing her to hide her true self. Alastor - a demon in Lucifer's own bloodline - is able to play on this inner conflict of hers by celebrating her strength and showing her just how much she can do. Despite reluctantly joining his side and the warnings in her dreams, she falls for Alastor and becomes enchanted by his plans. Often the villain of a story has a pretty weak plan, but Alastor's is brilliant in its simplicity - he and Kyra, an unstoppable duo, seek to cause utter chaos and turn good people evil by eradicating the government and the legal system, effectively creating a permanent version of The Purge.
Kyra and Alastor being so unstoppable would normally make for a cheap, unfair advantage, but Kyra's friends and family have something just as good. When Kyra reluctantly joined Alastor she made an ironclad deal with him that they be kept safe from him and any lackeys he may have. This essentially makes Alexis, Axel, Hailey, Nick, Iris, James and Xavier unstoppable as well, and they have a solid plan of their own. Kyra is the only one who can stop Alastor, and if they can just get through to her then good will prevail over evil once again. Alexis and Axel are also both powerful witches, able to pull plenty of tricks out of their own sleeves as well. It all comes together and makes for a unique, balanced battlefield filled with angels, demons and witches.
While the plot is unique and the sides are balanced well, it's the characters themselves I really felt could have used more polish. Most of the characters have their own moments to shine and let their personalities out a bit, but I didn't feel any of them were particularly strong. I would have loved more scenes where the characters could interact with one another beyond just furthering the plot.
Along with the characters, the plot sometimes seemed to progress just a little too fast. The action in the book wasn't always the easiest to follow and there were some really fantastic settings that are explored, but then they're barely touched upon beyond what's necessary. The book ends with lots more to do (although it IS effectively a solid ending for this book), and Jocelyn's Goodreads author page states that there will be two more books in the series, so I'm hoping these areas will be explored again.
Overall, however, Melhara succeeds on most fronts. I didn't want to put it down, I want to continue reading the series, the plot was unique and neither the villains nor the heroes felt unfairly overpowered. I also only found 3 grammatical errors in the entire book! These points all make it easy for me to give this title 3 out of 4 stars. I'd recommend the book to anyone who loves fantasy, angels vs demons, magic, a unique plot and chaos. It's worth mentioning, however, that there are a couple sex scenes in the book. While they're minimally explicit, it does make it so I can't personally recommend it to anyone under 18.