Tuesday, June 23, 2009
SBD Dante Valentine Series by Lilith Saintcrow
Dante Valentine is a hard as nails Necromancer who does bounty hunting on the side. In fact she's the best Necromance around and can pull the spirit of a dead person back from their ashes. One day she's hanging out at home when *knock* *knock* there's a handsome demon at the door who roughly grabs her because she has been requested to meet with Lucifer. Yikes!
So she doesn't quite like being manhandled...demonhandled and led into the rather disorientating and sickening world of Hell, although it smells rather nice. In fact this demon smells nice too. Anyway. Lucifer is all gorgeous and arrogant and tells Dante he wants her to hunt down and kill this escaped demon called Santino (Although that wasn't his demon name, I forget what it was, Vardimal I think) and retrieve the thing that was stolen from him. It was an egg. Lucifer lays eggs? Has an egg? Dante doesn't care, she's going to be paid to kill the one demon she's been gagging for chance to kill because a while ago, before this book was written, Santino murdered Dante's lover! Dun dun duuun!!
As a help, the demon who escorted Dante today will be her assistant. Even better - he's her familiar - complete with creepy crawlie tattoo that Dante need only touch to see through Japhrimel's (That's his name, he doesn't talk much) eyes.
Dante isn't too impressed at having a demon lackey following her around, so she immediately sets herself as boss, Dante's Alpha. Got it? If not, she'll tell you another dozen times per chapter just to remind you.
Dante is rude, pushy, grumpy, intense - oh dear is she intense. Actually, she's quite annoying and that's not the best way to think of a lead character from a story told in first person.
Japhrimel is a smoldering, gorgeous, constant malevolence who speaks little, does what he's told and criticizes Dante occasionally and even employs sarcasm. But he makes a great cup of coffee.
Eventually they get a good working partnership going and Dante starts to kind of trust Japh and treat his as an equal. Treat Japhrimel as an equal? An Equal? Why, no one has ever treated Japhrimel as an equal, and he's Satan's number one guy - the Kinslayer - he's as tip-toppy high as you can get before the big demon himself and Dante treats him as an equal (Actually she treats him like shit on her shoes, but he'll take it). You'd think Japhrimel would find this amusing, but no - he's overcome by passion and falls in love with Dante. Dante's reaction is a confused WTF? (Must be a brutal caste system in Hell)
She's WTF for a wee while until she gets hurt in a fight, has a bit of a ego slapdown and realizes she's probably no match against a demon in a fight. So Japhrimel says he knows a way to make her much stronger - he can share his power with her. She says no, thanks but no, and he's like Yes! But I really want to! It'll help! and she's like, nah I'm not so sure. At this point, I'm not sure if just from exhaustion, frustration, eroded will and plain needing a cuddle, she gives in because we've all had some desperate soul beg us for sex and sometimes it would be easier to just give in so they'll shut up, or if Japhrimel uses some demon magic against her to bend her will but they have this amazing zingy demon sex that lasts like half a page.
Next thing we know, Dante is now half demon. He really meant it, he shares his his power. Dante is really, really pissed off. I mean she hates being extremely gorgeous now with her demon accented cheekbones, her skin is a golden glow, she's stronger, faster, heals almost instantly from injury...sounds great! But no Dante's not pleased. And now she has a soppy lovestruck demon in her bed. *Sigh*
The story continues on for five books. The Devil comes back and toys with them, they have everyone out to kill them and Dante never really - even after five books - accepts her place as half demon and Japhrimel's eternal love. Thing is, I really liked Japhrimel. He was level, controlled, clever and occasionally funny. Dante is a frikken nightmare who's like an exposed nerve in a cracked tooth who jumps and over reacts to everything! She thinks she loves Japhrimel and then she's willing to kill him to free herself - if she lives, he can die and be resurrected by her so it's kind of like a husband vacation.
I wouldn't say this is romance of any kind. Well the annoying kind maybe. Dante only grudgingly trusts Japhrimel, she'd much rather throw herself into trouble and have him come save her and I hate that plot device. Five books later and I'm still not convinced Dante is settled into this Demon wife role. Granted, Japh didn't tell her it was such a dangerous role since demon wives were banned by Satan and are to be executed on sight...usually by Japhrimel He is the Kinslayer after all.
But, a week or so later and I'm still thinking about it. I liked Saintcrow's writing, the books were easy to read, the world she creates around Dante is fabulous and detailed. On reading book one I thought it was further along in a series because it reads like I'm supposed to know all this back story, but it really is just jumping into Dante's head at that moment complete with her baggage - and she has a lot.
Would I recommend it? Sure. don't expect it to change your life and don't expect Dante to grow as a character, she just doesn't. Saintcrow did a disservice in not allowing a better romance to grow between the leads. But as a sci-fi paranormal kind of adventure it's pretty good. Get it from the library though.