Price: $12.99 paperback / $3.99 Kindle
Released: October 21, 2011
Publisher: Red Iris Books
Author's Website: http://www.smreine.com
Buy it: Amazon
Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy
Series: The Descent
1. Death's Hand
Policing relations between Heaven, Hell, and Earth is messy and violent, but Elise Kavanagh and James Faulkner excelled at it -- until coming across a job so brutal that even they couldn't stand to see one more dead body. Now they've been pretending to be normal for five years, leaving their horrific history a dark secret. Elise works in an office. James owns a business. None of their friends realize they used to be one of the world's best killing teams.
After years of hiding, something stirs. Bodies are vanishing. Demons scurry in the shadows of the night. A child has been possessed. Some enemies aren't willing to let the secrets of the past stay dead...
My Rating: 3.5 Dragons
I have mixed feelings about this book. Reine definitely has a way with words, and the writing was decent, but the flashbacks were jarring and a few things about this story didn’t totally add up.
The first 50-70 pages make it difficult to tell what’s going on or where the story is going. The prologue confused the hell out of me because it doesn’t tie in to anything that happens and isn’t explained until very far along in the story. When I was offered this book for review, it was the first thing I read, so it surprised me that there was no easily spotted connection between the prologue and the opening of the story. The scenes felt very disconnected from each other at first. Please bear in mind that might just be Book Dragon’s senile mind kicking in—you readers out there might have an easier time of it than she did. It all comes together later, but there wasn’t really a feel for where the crazy train was going until I’d already put a significant page count behind me. After a while, it becomes crystal clear—super powerful demon intends to take over the world using an idiot sockpuppet human (“ISH”) and countless faceless demons and reanimated corpses. ISH is overweight, lonely, and is just pleased as punch to have found a demon to give her power and be BFF in her head.
They need a few things in order to carry out the world domination plan. Cue entrance of our heroine, Elise. Who comes across like a more prickly, less charming version of Anita Blake. She’s a retired but still badass demon hunter/exorcist who is living out her old age as an accountant to the seedy demonic underbelly of her city.
James bugs me. He’s supposed to be Elise’s mentor, has known her since she was little, and should theoretically know her moods better than anyone else in the world. Yet he does things which seem calculated to piss her off, go against her convictions, needles her in subtle ways about her decisions, and keeps things from her that are guaranteed to hurt her feelings. It just doesn’t make sense to me that someone who knew so much about her would have made such an effort to go out of his way to ask her to do things that she clearly doesn’t want to do and that make her uncomfortable. Why didn’t he handle some of the issues himself, if he was so insistent they be taken care of? Why drag her into it? Why not the other witches in his coven?
Not to say Elise was entirely consistent, either. If she was bent on laying low so she could retire, why would she take a job as an accountant for demons when she’s supposedly infamous among their kind? Wouldn’t one of her clients have recognized her? If she knew they wouldn’t pay her, why would she continue to work for them instead of taking on human clients? Why the hell is she hanging out with a TSTL creampuff like Betty? (Yes, yes, I know this question is answered in the book, but really—they are from such totally different worlds that I can’t understand why Betty would persist in trying to make a friendship work or why Elise would let her.) Elise is very hard to like as a main character due to her attitude. By the middle/end of the book, her gruff nature softens somewhat, but I think part of the problem and confusion with the beginning/setup of this book was that she was just so damned cold and unpleasant that I didn’t want to accept that this was the MC right away.
Once I stopped questioning the greater “why” underlying some of the characters’ actions, it came together like a typical horror/action flick. There was a very cinematic feel to some of the descriptions, particularly the fight scenes, and some very vivid descriptions. There are a few clever one-liners and a couple plucky, clueless human sidekick types. The ending is suitably epic and gives the obligatory sequel bait. Though the story is not the same, it reminded me a great deal of that Schwarzenegger movie, End of Days, with a little bit of The Exorcist on the side. As long as you don’t question what’s going on too closely, and you’re into that sort of thing (blood, mayhem, explosions, demons, etc), it’s a decent way to amuse yourself for a few hours.
There is a lot of horror, violence, and gore. More so than I’ve seen in most recent urban fantasy novels. Some of the descriptions are pretty gross, so if you don’t have a strong stomach for that sort of thing, this may not be the book for you. Personally, I loved the fight scenes, particularly the first exorcism, because that was some of the most compelling writing. It makes for a good October/Halloween read. As much as I may be coming across like I’m ragging on it or nitpicking the details, it was worth the read and kept me engaged. If you enjoyed early Anita Blake novels (particularly the one where a zombie rose and started eating its way through the fine folks in town) and have a taste for some of the grittier Stephen King offerings, chances are you will like this book.
Overall, I have to say I was entertained. It’s not bad, but not great, either. The author shows potential, and I’ll be on the lookout from the depths of my cave for books by her in the future.