Demon Bound is the second book in Caitlin Kittredge’s Black London series. Kittredge fans will be happy to know that she has once again spun a fascinating yarn that is loaded with creative nuances and twists. Her dark imagination is a breath of dank, moldering, fetid air exhaled by something creeping out of the haunted crypt she calls a brain. She has a knack for unfolding compelling stories without too much backfill (backfill is something I personally find annoying). And I especially love the magic system and the world of London’s “Black.” But as much as I want to give Demon Bound a glowing recommendation, my enjoyment was limited by the fact that I personally found it very hard to sympathize with the male co-protagonist, Jack Winter.
Jack is the co-protagonist and true main character of this novel. (His lover, Pete, a female, was the protagonist of the first). Years ago, Jack bound himself to a demon to save his life because, or so he claims, he was in love with Pete, (though he really just sat on the sidelines and stalked her for nigh on thirteen years, which I’ve never truly forgiven him for). At any rate, while I definitely feel pity that he’s about to die and go to Hell, Jack was just too relentlessly rude and self centered for me to ever work up the kind of empathy I needed to identify with him or his situation. Some of the rudeness was not just gratuitous, it felt stretched and unrealistic, and I was skeptical that even a rude person would be so rude in situations that didn’t seem to call for rudeness. I found myself clawing through Demon Bound in the vain search for the redemption scene where he would show himself worthy of Pete’s love — or, failing that, at least some scene where he said something nice to someone and showed some human decency that I could relate to. And when it became apparent that he was incapable, I began praying that Pete would see the light and dump his sorry butt, though given the story arc, that seems singularly unlikely to happen.
Having said all that, let me say that Caitlin Kittredge is certainly aware that she has made Jack rude and sometimes cruel and hard to get along with. In fact, she has a penchant for writing rude protagonists and has become a best-selling fantasy author despite/because (take your pick) of this. As an urban fantasy junkie, I’ll probably break down and buy the next book in the Black London series (Bone Gods) — but I just want to be clear, I’m doing it for Pete — not Jack.