View our feature on Marjorie Liu’s Darkness Calls.Demon hunter Maxine Kiss, inked with living tattoos, is on a mission to rescue the man she loves from a bloodthirsty army. To save him, Maxine has only one choice: to lose control—and release her own powers of darkness.
-PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (STARRED REVIEW)
Demon hunter Maxine Kiss is from a long line of women tasked with protecting the Earth from the demons breaking out from behind the prison veils. By day, her tattoos are her armor. By night, they unwind from her body to take on forms of their own: demons of the flesh, turned into flesh.
Passed down from mother to daughter, only the demons decide when the time is right to leave a host. When that happens, when the mother loses their protection, she is murdered by those she hunts. Usually in front of her daughter. Fathers are not talked about, ever. Fathers are never acknowledged. There is no family but mother and daughter—and the demons who protect them.
Maxine changes everything, in more ways that one. She’s fallen in love with a former priest whose secrets are almost as terrible as her own. Grant can alter the nature of a human—or demonic—soul with nothing but his voice, and he’s been using that gift to help others, to make the world a better place. Maxine and Grant are determined not to lose each other, no matter what—no matter who comes for them. But there’s a lot of uncertainty in their lives, and risk.
One day Maxine will have a daughter. Grant hopes—and believes—that he will be the father. And this is a letter to that unborn child, a way for him to be with his little girl. Just in case the worst happens. Just in case he never gets to meet her. He wants her to know she’s loved.
For more about the series, check out Marjorie’s website at www.marjoriemliu.com
* * *
To my darling daughter,
You do not know me. Maybe you never will. You do not exist yet, but you are coming. You are part of me already.
I am going to be your father.
Maybe that is presumptuous of me, but in this I can be bold. I have no alternative left but certainty. I love your mother. I will always love her. Not with blind eyes, but with truth.
Because I can see her soul.
A long story, another letter. Maybe you will have the same gift. Maybe it would be better if you did not. It can be a burden, knowing the truth about people. Always seeing the truth, and the darkness.
You learn about yourself when you see the darkness. You learn what you can tolerate and what you can forgive, and what you cannot. You learn how dark your own heart is when you see the darkness in others, and you learn how strong your light can be, when confronted with the endlessness of human suffering. Everyone, baby, feels alone. Everyone aches for kindness.
* * *
Your mother is kind, though she would deny it. She would be embarrassed. But she is kind, and against the odds, sweet—and she is filled with that rarest form of compassion, a sympathy for the suffering of others demonstrated only by saints, and the fearless.
Don’t mistake me : Your mother is not fearless. But she is brave. Never doubt it. Your mother cannot walk away. You understand, baby? Your mother, when she sees something wrong, cannot walk away. No matter what. No matter who stands in her path, no matter how much she might want to. Your mother’s heart is relentless.
So let me tell you about your mother, because no one else will, certainly not her. She will never say these things out loud. Not because she doesn’t love you—because she will love you, she does love you, she will fight for you and die for you, and be your friend past death. But she will not tell you about herself—her real self—because she will never believe that there is anything worth telling. Because she does not see herself as I see her. Your mother is too close to her own life, as we all are too close to ourselves, but her burden is unique—and she is blinded by it, and the hard choices she has had to make.
Your mother saved my life. She might tell you that, I suppose. She saved me from being murdered, but that’s a story for another time. What I want to tell you is that she saved me, in more ways than one.
* * *
I was so alone.
More alone than I realized. A man like me, a woman like your mother, must wear masks, tell lies. As will you.
But you cannot be with someone, hoping for love, and live that lie. Truth may not bind two hearts, baby, but it is one of the legs that love stands upon. Especially for people like us, where too much is at stake.
You don’t need to be told what’s at stake. You’ll know by the time you read this letter. We’ll have taught you, prepared you—sheltered you as best we can, when we can, for as long as we can. And maybe, by that time, things will have changed. Perhaps the stakes won’t be as high. Possibly, hopefully.
But no matter where you find yourself, make this a letter to your life: an ode, a reminder. Because there will be bad moments, times when you lose your mind, your sense of self to the world, to this existence beyond your skin. You will never suffer the raging quiet, but will always move inside your mind, down those labyrinths; and you will imagine yourself lost, sometimes.
Do not be lost. No matter what pressures come to bear upon you, they are not the end of you, and they are nothing in time. Even you are nothing in time, in the scope of time, but a footprint, a soul print, an opportunity given, for a moment, to be a burning light.
* * *
Your mother burns with light—as will you. Never stop. A command, you know, that cannot be easily dictated—or, as the recipient of such orders, controlled. You cannot control the world around you, not as you wish. Nor can you entirely control yourself —you, who are buried in mystery.
But you can be the mystery. You can be the riddle and the heart, and dwell in possibility. You can gaze with wonder upon the world, this terrible and lovely world, and love each moment, each breath, and fight to bring such love unto others. You can be the warrior and the poet, searching for the eternal in the labyrinth of your mind, and you will be the flame. You will burn. You will never stop burning.
Live in service to the heart. Be free. Be kind. Do not be afraid.
You are loved.
You are loved.
You are loved.
Your adoring father