Beth Woodward’s debut novel in the Dale Highland series, The Demon Within, sets up a complex protagonist and establishes her as walking between two worlds: the human realm and the kingdom of angels and demons. Dale is also a passionate young woman who is driven by a desire to protect those she cares about, and her Rages are most often fueled by an intense need to keep someone else from harm. Simultaneously, she longs to connect with others while she fears the moment her Rages will take over and force her to flee again. As a result, Dale is more susceptible to the enigmatic John when they meet, because he offers her a bond, and her greatest weaknesses are tied to relationships.
The basic plot of The Demon Within follows Dale’s journey of discovery about her heritage and all that it entails. Overall, I found it engaging, but a few scenes jarred me out of the story a little. I don’t mind explicit material, but Dale’s two sexual encounters didn’t seem to move the plot forward or add much to her character. The final chapters would have impacted me as deeply if they had been based solely on a deep friendship rather than love, and connection to other beings can go beyond sex. In fact, my favorite relationship in the story (Dale and Isaac) has no sexual component; they are simply two outsiders whose unique gifts allow them to find understanding with each other.
Woodward chooses to present her story in the first person, but she uses it well. Dale makes a good viewpoint for readers to engage with the world of angels and demons, because she understands it as little as we do. As she learns more, the plot naturally unwinds and reveals itself. Also, since the book is a rather introspective look at someone learning the truth of who they are, a third-person omniscient narrator really wouldn’t fit; readers wouldn’t empathize with Dale’s journey if they knew too much at the start.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed The Demon Within, and I look forward to continuing books in the series. Dale feels dynamic, whole, and - despite her demonic side - completely and utterly human. I long to see her grow into her powers and become at home in her own skin since, like many geeks, I know the struggles of finding my place and my people. In many ways, Dale’s journey is a metaphor for anyone who has longed to find somewhere he or she can be themselves and be fully understood.
4 Hints of Butterscotch out of 5
The Demon Within is now available for sale in Kindle and paperback editions through Amazon.