Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Silver-Tongued Devil

by Jaye Wells


Sabina Kane is part vampire, part mage, and all tough cookie investigator. Her cosy New York lifestyle gets interrupted when a human is found dead in her area. Not long after that, a member of the dark races also ends up deceased, and she's put in charge of the investigation to discover who is responsible. Sabina lives in a world of werewolves, fae, blood and magic that exists under the surface of the modern world like a violent and fantastic guilty secret.

Giguhl the shape-changing mischief demon, the cross-dressing fairy Pussy Willow, and Adam the hot mage are a few of the characters Sabina relies on for backup as she navigates the underworld. She has to figure out who is guilty of the murders before he or she strikes again. While this is going on Sabina's twin sister, Maisie, is looking increasingly fragile both physically and mentally. Maisie is struggling to get over past traumas and guilt, and her recovery seems slow and uncertain.

The stakes start out fairly low. Relationship issues and a roller derby for the dark races take prominence in between Sabina's bouts of detective work. This gives the story a more down to earth feel. The dark races have been at war for years, but they're on the verge of signing a peace treaty. The peace is balanced on a knife edge and the leaders of each faction are afraid it could easily be derailed. So the pressure is on for Maisie to deliver a positive prophecy at the ceremony at Imbolc. However Maisie hasn't had a prophetic dream in a while, and when she confides in Sabina that she's afraid to sleep her twin is faced with the choice between betraying her sister or endangering all of the vampires and mages.

Silver-Tongued Devil doesn't hang around, but I couldn't get excited about the story. It's too similar to many other recent paranormal detective stories out there, and Sabina Kane is like a composite of too many other kick-ass, supernaturally gifted main characters. She's likeable and feisty, but I couldn't shake the sense that I'd read this all somewhere before, in spite of the fact that I dived into this series at book four instead of starting at the beginning. There's a certain knowing nod to the genre's stereotypes in the character of Alexis, a vampire Enforcer who goes all out for wearing leather and slaying people. Sabina takes an instant dislike to Alexis, although she's hardly any softer in spite of having given up assassination and getting on the blood wagon.

Sabina's world is one of hidden extremes: her search for the killer takes her into dens of perverts, fetishists and criminals. There's a lot of hanging out in bars and engaging in ritual or excessive violence in between the magic and incense-waving. It's as though Jaye Wells knows the setting is stereotyped, but can't help but create it that way anyhow.

I enjoyed the way the action is interspersed with lots of angsty relationships that appear to be about to crumble. People rush around trying to save their own love affairs or to fix other people's, and these confrontations make the story more believable and the battles more poignant. But all the excitement of the early stages of romance seems to have been used up in the previous books, and we're left with the nitty-gritty of characters trying to make relationships work. If you're in the mood for dreamy escapist romantic fantasy, it's not in this book.

Although this novel isn't poorly written and it builds up to a tense climax, it's also not in any way remarkable for the genre. Vampires, werewolves, and magical creatures in crime mysteries centred around a sassy, self-reliant heroine have been done to death by characters such as Rachel Morgan, Anita Blake, Chess Putnam, Joanne Baldwin, Genny Taylor, and many others. So whilst Silver-Tongued Devil is entertaining while it lasts and fine if you haven't read a ton of urban fantasy already, it didn't give me compelling enough reasons to prefer it over other books in the genre.

23rd February 2012

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books

    Female Protagonist  

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Review © Ros Jackson