Behind Bars by Meredith Katz: 5/10 Stars

 

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The city of Dolana has kept itself free from demonic rule the hard way: by interrogating its citizens and sending anyone who could possibly be under demonic influence to the Inquisition. City innkeeper Pelerin is happy to help out however he can—after all, he lost his beloved wife to demons many years earlier, leaving him to raise their son on his own. If anyone deserves to have a grudge against demons, it’s him.

But when his now-adult son disagrees with his actions, he is forced to reexamine the past. Is he doing the right thing, when it could lead—has led—to the deaths of innocents? Why is his son skulking about, and what secrets is he keeping? And while Pel’s hands are full with this, a stranger comes to stay at his inn… a stranger who makes the question more relevant than Pel ever imagined would be possible.

 

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Overall Rating: 5/10 stars

Matt’s Review: 2/5 Stars

This story is set in the same universe as The Cobbler’s Soleless Son, though takes us to a different city and a different cast. It follows Tari, the demon who gave Renart his slightly odd gender identity lesson in the last book. (Tari later uses neutral they pronouns.) In Dolana, there are no demons. The humans are controlled by an Inquisition which tries to stop demons getting in, to the point of torturing and killing those suspected of being demons or anything to do with them.

And yes, it is going straight for the obvious territory you think it is.

I’m not a fan of these “aren’t humans evil!” storylines. They’re just…boring. We get it. Humans suck. Blah blah blah. Plus to be honest, it’s mentioned that Pel’s wife was literally scared to death by a demon who wanted to eat her fear, so not gonna lie, I wasn’t really buying the whole “but demons are great!” vibe the book was going for. Prey don’t tend to be too fond of their predators and I don’t think we can blame them for that.

This in itself might not have spoiled the story for me, but the whiplash in Pel did. He’s set up as someone who worked for the Inquisition and had been informing on suspicious folks for years without hesitance, totally convinced he was doing the right thing, and still very much mourning his late wife. Who was killed by a demon. And then he just…folds. Kind of fancies Tari, finds out she’s a demon, and folds. Just like that.

I just didn’t buy it. He’d been set up way too strongly at someone who intensely hated these things. Sorry for the comparison but a KKK member is not going to change his mind the minute he finds out the girl he fancies is a BLM activist.

And that damaged the whole story for me. I didn’t understand why he let her go. I didn’t understand why he cared. I didn’t understand why he didn’t blame her for his son’s capture.

Rep wise, again, I’m not totally sure where I stand with this one. It’s a bit clearer than last time, as Tari uses gender neutral pronouns, but I still don’t really understand how demons are supposed to perceive gender and why an assumption, any assumption, would bother them in this regard. I don’t know. I’m still not really buying it. At least this time it didn’t have the more than slightly creepy coercive ‘gender bending as a lie’ sex scenes.
Sadly this book was a bit of a bust for me.

Laura’s Review: 3/5 Stars

I started this book with a bit of trepidation. After the first one, I wasn’t sure I would like another sex driven character or plot. Thankfully, this time was different. Still, it took me a bit to actually get into the story. Up until the 50% mark, I felt like I could stop reading and there wouldn’t be a need for me to know what was going to happen in the end.
But then things got interesting! The plot and pace picked up and I kept turning the pages for the second half of the book.
Just as I did with the first book in this series, I find the worldbuilding interesting. And on a positive note, even though they share the same universe, the setting for this was truly different from the previous one. We’ve gone from a city where demons roam freely to one that has an inquisition and anyone suspected of being demon touched gets turned in. I welcomed the change.
In the end, I liked this book better than the previous one, but it still took me a while to get into it.
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