Saturday, September 02, 2006

Review: Working for the Devil

It's completely Rachel Vincent's fault that I read this book, and I thank her for having that kind of influence.

First, I had reservations about reading Lilith Saintcrow's first novel in her Dante Valentine series for one simple reason: she named her main character Dante Valentine. You see, I have a character named Valentine and his father is named Dante. So when you combine the two names into one, it causes me to giggle hysterically because it strikes me as absurd.

Happily, I report, I overcame this hang-up and was able to thoroughly enjoy Working for the Devil. Mostly because I was just having too damn much fun reading the book to care what the character was named.

Working for the Devil is a riot. Pure plup goodness that you can zip through in a matter of days. Mmm, if this is urban fantasy, then I can see why it's considered so tasty. Like the chick lit sundae that was The Undomestic Goddess, Working for the Devil is a delightful indulgeance.

Danny Valentine is sexy, tough and over the top. I love her, because she's like a comic book superhero at times, but Ms. Saintcrow balances all of Danny's powers with a rich, twisted past so full of angst she could give Peter Parker a run for his money.

That is where Working for the Devil succeeds. Despite the larger than life characters, it has an equal threat to their powers. The plot is tight and well-done. I didn't find myself more interested in the subcharacters than the narrator, and I wasn't disappointed with the plot twist's revealed. The romantic subplots do what they should—add to the story, not hamper it from moving forward.

Even when Danny gets her "power-up," it's done well. Ms. Saintcrow takes the narrative time to let the impact of what's happened affect Danny. I believe that it's possible for that to happen, and I believe Danny's reaction to what happens.

It's handled almost perfectly. I think it could have been more of an impact to see everything that happened, but the way its been written is probably to mind the length of the story.

Ms. Saintcrow has built her world with such an iron-clad tightness that believability isn't an issue. Even the brand names have been thoughtfully placed to help you breathe the world where Danny resides. It's a hot sci fantasy world—futuristic technology coupled with a strong magic system. If you're leary of science fiction, this would a good primer for you. I promise, there's no hard science that will leave you with a headache.

This book would have flopped if it was third person, because I don't think Danny would inspire the reader to care about her without having them tagging along in her head. That's not a fault of Ms. Saintcrow's writing, it's just a reflection of Danny's character type. Because she's so set on being "tough," she doesn't open up to many people. So she'd be very cold and difficult to relate to were it not for the first person POV. Instead an immediate intimacy is created that inspires the reader to care about an otherwise prickly personality. Bravo, Ms. Saintcrow, for making that technical choice.

I'm a stickler for dialogue, and Working for the Devil is pretty good. The dialogue is believable, and it's fun, too.

I have to admit, there are certain things about the book that bother me. I'm not a fan of characters who think something then verbatim say it aloud in the next few lines. That's just a nitpicky little stylistic detail that most readers aren't even going to bat an eye at.

Occasionally, I questioned why Danny was telling me something. There's one or two spots where the world-building is exposition that doesn't move the plot forward. It's sort of like too much icing, but some people like a lot of icing on their cake, right?

It took about three chapters to really start to connect with the story. I think this is because of how brief those first few chapters were. With the way the world-building is done, you're thrown in headfirst and it takes a chapter or two before you can stay afloat.

The only thing that I could see being added to the book to help would be a glossary to aid with some of the world-terms. I'm still not entirely sure what a couple of the magic types are. It's one of those "I think I understand, but I couldn't explain it to someone else if they asked" problems. I'm assuming this will be clarified in future books.

These are all minor concerns. None of them would prevent me from picking up Dead Man Rising (book 2.) I want to know where Danny's story goes next. I want to know what Rigger Hall is. Most of all, I want to see how Ms. Saintcrow will continue to provide a threatening conflict for Danny after her power-up.

Could this degrade into the silliness that was Simon R Greene's Nightside series? No, I don't think it will. Ms. Saintcrow has already proven that she's better than that.

Rating: A-


Rachel Vincent said...

Oh, you just reminded me that her new on should be on the shelves! I can't wait!

I really loved this book. The short chapters threw me off at first too, but I got over it.

The thinking-it-then-saying-it thing isn't my style either. But I have to say, there's another writer I read a lot who does a lot of that too, and I find it even more annoying in her work. But I agree with you that I don't think a non-writer would even notice that. It's certainly not a reason to skip WFTD.

Glad you enjoyed it!

c.rooney said...

I did enjoy it, thanks for the recommendation.

Unfortunately I have a whole stack of books to get through before I can go get Dead Man Rising. Please let me know if it's as good as the first one.

Sorcha Chumomisto said...

i was going to comment about that thinking then saying it thing too as a nonwriter. but then it occured to me that just because i don't write anymore doesn't mean i don't think like a writer. so. ya. i always notice that, and i never like it. it makes me think that my brain is a skipping record. very disorienting.

c.rooney said...

Rachel's right, though, it's annoying but it doesn't happen constantly so it's bearable.

Sorcha Chumomisto said...

well, if i get my hands on a copy i will give the book a try, that particular phenomenon has never stopped me from reading a book before. i just whine about it a little bit once i'm done reading.

c.rooney said...

Me too. If Rae's done with my copy before you get here, I'll lend it to you.