Jenna Black,
Morgan Kingsley, Exorcist #1: The Devil Inside
(Spectra, 2007)

Morgan Kingsley is an exorcist. Her worst fear is demon possession -- and she has good reason to be afraid. She lives in an execution state, where a human found to be involuntarily possessed who cannot be exorcised is burned alive.

The story begins with Morgan being summoned to Kansas for an exorcism. The victim is a little girl, already strapped to the metal table and ready to go into the oven if the exorcism fails. The demon inside the girl is quite strong and Morgan gets touched by it -- she wakens in a containment room herself, suspected of being possessed by the demon she just exorcised, but she knows that's not true and can't figure out why.

Her sleep's been troubled for a long time. She sleepwalks and now she's writing notes to her waking self from a demon named Lugh, who claims to have involuntarily possessed her when she was drugged by her family.

This is just the beginning of a tale that takes you to a world where demons are on one side voluntarily hosted and almost worshipped by the Spirit Society and, on the other, abhorred and abused by the Wrath of God. The hints of world-building in this novel are very interesting, particularly in relation to demon advocacy.

The characters show some potential. Morgan is a strong, feisty woman who doesn't always make the best decisions. Still, she is loyal and willing to risk her life for someone she cares for. I would like to see stronger character development in the future.

Unfortunately, the plot got bogged down in heavy erotic content. When I say heavy, I am referring to whips and chains, etc. Fortunately, none of it was precisely non-consensual; however, I'd have enjoyed the politics and world-building much more than the explicit material.

I'm not sure this first novel actually has a good niche. It's billed as a fantasy, but the erotic content should probably have it shelved in romance instead. However, most female readers of romance I know are not into the heavy stuff. The sequel's concept looks promising, but I'd have to read through a good bit of it before I decided to give it a try.

review by
Becky Kyle

12 April 2008

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