A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Parts of the author's magical world come from very old sources: magic runes, talked about at least since the 6th century; and the five elements (air, water, fire, earth, ether) that have been part of medical and philosophical traditions around the world for centuries. The Gardnerian leader is a fanatic set on ethnic cleansing. There's plenty of real history to study about how devastating and dangerous these movements can be. This installment in the series digs deep into the plight of immigrants, from the dangers of the journey to safety in conflict zones to the dangers of illness in camps to the dangers posed by a bigoted community that doesn't want to receive them. While real immigrants don't face krakens like they do here, there are so many other parallels to draw.
The biggest danger to this world is racial division, exclusion, and hate. The more these things are fought against, the closer the world comes to conquering the enemy and achieving peace. There's also a lengthy mediation on the plight of immigrants, which is a reminder to be compassionate and aware of the hardships they face. A character incensed with how so many immigrants are dying of illness on the border says, "You shouldn't have to be rich to get medicine."
Positive Role Models
Elloren became a warrior in the last book and in this one she's willing to sacrifice everything to defeat evil, even if it means being allied with those who fear her power and would prefer to kill her. She continues to make selfless and brave choices to save Erthia from annihilation. Her family and friends also subvert the strict rules of their new land in the East and put up with racism and hatred, knowing that they are fighting for a greater good.
Elloren's allies and friends are diverse both in race (Fae, Lupine, Icaral, Selkie, etc.) and in sexual orientation. Part Four: Xishlon Moon, is a celebration of all kinds of love: gay and straight, younger and older couples, and couples from different races, religions, and backgrounds.
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Violence & Scariness
Two big battles with weapons, explosions, and dragons where many are slaughtered with bodies everywhere, including the bodies of children, animals, and bystanders. There's little close-up gore until a few are captured, beaten, and pelted with rocks. One prominent character dies in an explosion. A possessed character is forced to attack and harm her loved ones. A forced kiss. A man threatening sexual assault is eaten by a kraken and others are attacked by krakens in a river. An immigrant mother drowns and in front of her child, other immigrants nearly die of fever with talk of many in immigrant camps dying of fever. Skirmishes with creepy monsters killed with throwing swords. Talk of main characters' parents killed by her grandmother, of a character recovering from the trauma of an abusive marriage, and a character who remembers having the tips of her elf ears cut off by a mob.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing and sex between straight and gay couples, specifically on a holiday night dedicated to romance where the moon turns purple. Birth control used and talked about openly among partners. Sexual detail includes undressing, talk of erections, and the movement of bodies together. Innuendo and direct talk of sex -- Lupines declare a pair has been "well mated."
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Rare swearing includes "s--t," "bitch," "whore," "ass," "bastard," "hell," and "damn."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Couples drink wine on two occasions.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Demon Tide, the fourth book in the Black Witch Chronicles, is a mature fantasy read worth discussing. The series has always dissected ideas of prejudice and here it focuses heavily on prejudice related to the immigrant experience. There was a greater focus on sex in Book 3, The Shadow Wand, but characters, gay and straight, have sex in this book, too, with some detail about erections and birth control and bodies moving together. Overall, though, there's much more focus on meaningful, loving relationships and courtship than the sex part. Battle violence isn't gory, but there are two big battles with weapons, explosions, and dragons where many are slaughtered with casualties everywhere, including the bodies of children, animals, and bystanders. A few prominent characters are captured, beaten, and pelted with rocks. One main character dies in an explosion and another is possessed and forced to attack and harm her loved ones. A man threatening sexual assault is eaten by a kraken and others are attacked by krakens in a river. An immigrant mother drowns in front of her child, and other immigrants nearly die of fever. There's some wine drinking by adults and swearing that's rare and doesn't go beyond "s--t." We're going to go ahead and call characters racially diverse, even though their skin colors are green, violet, you name it, and they are fae, elfs, icarels, witches, lupines, dryads… because the characters deal directly with racial prejudice and it's clear that the biggest danger to this world they inhabit is racial division, exclusion, and hate.
Is It Any Good?
Though this fourth long installment has far too many storylines and narrators, the depth and thoughtfulness of this fantasy series continues to evolve in wonderful ways. In The Demon Tide, the focus is heavily on immigration and division. Immigrants cross from the Western to Eastern Realm and have all the same challenges immigrants on Earth do: dangerous journeys, predatory coyotes, disease and squalor in camps… and they are met with social campaigns in the East that discriminate against them. The hate and division carry through to the Mages who have defected and want to train with soldiers in the East, teach them how to fight Mage power. The racism they face despite how clearly they've shown their allegiance may remind readers of real discrimination minorities can face in armed forces everywhere. The story of Trystan, the Black Witch Elloren's brother, is particularly poignant because he's arrived in the East where he can finally be open about being a gay man and now he's persecuted for his Gardnerian/Mage ancestry. His relationship with Voth, his Vu Trin guard, is the most memorable of the many relationships featured because of the layers of prejudice they must both navigate.
Yes, there are many relationships featured. And so many points of view that are mined, so many that it feels like The Demon Tide stops and starts and threads are left hanging for far too long. It's clear with the countdown to the night of the romantic, purple Xishlon moon festival that sparks will fly for all of them, and it's a lovely payoff for romance fans, after all the work put in to keep all the characters straight. But when the dragons hit the skies and the battle begins, it's chaos and many of these threads are left hanging yet again for the next installment. Also, Elloren's coveted Black Witch powers change abruptly very late in the game, in mysterious ways, maybe too mysterious. It's hard to see where Book 5 is headed, but based on past experience with the Black Witch Chronicles, it will pull readers in a number of thought-provoking directions.
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