Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Review: Dead Man Rising

Dead Man Rising, the second book in Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine series, is very low on the demon count, and I was happy that it didn't have the same twist regarding the villain as book one. It would have disappointed me if the series turned formulatic. However, one of the big draws to the first book for me was Japhrimel, because I'm not entirely convinced I like Danny Valentine. No Japh means Ms. Saintcrow had to work twice as hard to keep my attention.

Most of what I didn't care for in book two revolved around Danny pining for Japhrimel and being torn between her love for him and her inability to decide if she loved Jace.

The reason this bothered me was because Danny strikes me as strong, firm character. Her wishy-wash "I love Japh, I love Jace, I love Japh, I don't love you Jace I'm really sorry, I love Japh, wait maybe I do love Jace" seemed to detract from an otherwise iron-clad and very well-written mystery.

The reason that Danny has to suffer more emotional and psychological threats is because of her increased strength and healing abilities. I understand that, and it's done well. But I'm concerned it was a little too much emotional trauma. The psychological threat of the Rigger Hall memories would have been enough for me, without the added Danny misses Japh and is confused by her feelings for Jace plot. Unfortunately, to not address the Japh and Jace emotional issues would have lessened Danny's ability to appear as a sympathetic character. It's a bit of catch 22, so I put up with her moaning because it's what she ought to be doing.

And the death in this book did get a "no way" from me. Unfortunately, that's all it got. I didn't feel saddened by the death, because I didn't care for that character, but I was surprised that it happened. I understand—from a writer's perspective—why it had to happen, but I'm unconvinced that it wasn't a ploy to play off reader's emotions.

The psychological angle of the threat in Dead Man Rising is really well done. Despite how annoyed I may have been with Danny over the course of the book, I would say this is better written than Working for the Devil. The mystery that fuels the second book is fueled by a concept that I found terrifying. Psychic vampires, though, are not a new thing. The concept of a Feeder has circulated through fiction before and it will again. However, Ms. Saintcrow does it well and makes it terrifying.

Working for the Devil had the twist in the last twenty pages that seemed thrown at the reader—where Danny reveals all the things she found out later, and it was the one moment in the book where I hesitated and didn't immediately believe the way the information was delivered. Dead Man Rising doesn't have that problem. The resolution isn't thrown at you, almost like an after thought, it's delievered at a reasonable place and pace.

While the first book developed the demon world and a little bit of their culture, the second is all about the psions. Their culture and world is expanded and developed. Ms. Saintcrow has the advantage of book behind that started building her world, now she just has to concern herself with expanding and reaffirming it.

The second book comes with four extras: a glossary, a lecture transcript, a term paper and a preview of the third book. I love the glossary, despite that it's incomplete because there are terms used multiple times in the book that don't appear in the glossary. It's a nice reference, though, and I did flip back to it a few times while reading.

As for the "lecture" and "term paper" extras, they seemed unnecessary—yes, that would be why they were extras—because they weren't really long enough to devulge a great deal of information.

Book Three, The Devil's Right Hand, is set to come out in July 2007. Given the title and what happens in book two, I'm guessing that book three will be back to the demon side of things and may finally give us some answers about Japhrimel's history. (Or Vincent Valentine will show up and bitchslap Danny around for thinking she could even try to steal his title of Emo Badass Valentine)

Overall, it's well-written and a good read. But it's just not as much fun as the first one. It's a bit like comparing chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream. They're both tasty, but they're two different kinds of treats.

Rating: B+


Rachel Vincent said...

I haven't read DMR yet, because I still haven't finished writing BoS, and I'm not allowed to read anything for fun until then. But this is one of three I have on my list for that occasion.

I have to say, though, that I'm a bit intrigued by how connected the names in Saintcrow's series are with yours and mine. You have a Valentine (right?), and I have a Jace. And apparently in the new one, there's a VINCENT Valentine.

Weird, no?

c.rooney said...

It's really how names work like that. I mean, six, seven years ago when I first created Valentine Avalon, it seemed a pretty unused name. Now there's Valentines in everything. I just worry about it sounding like he was based off Danny.

I'm sure your Jace is different enough from hers, though.

Is there really a Vincent Valentine? In DMR or The Devil's Right Hand? (I don't know how I would missed that name if it was in DMR.)

Sorcha Chumomisto said...

i think she was referring to your use of the name vincent valentine in your review.

i am looking forward to reading this. i finished working for the devil on the flight back home. its all i did, besides scramble to find stamps in the colorado airport and eat. and put a stupid amount of one dollar bills into the airport internet machhine in LA. [did i tell you that after all that wanting to be there on time, the flight was delayed by an hour? blech]

anyhoo, back to topic. i really liked working for the devil. so much so that i went to ms. saintcrow's website and poked around some. apparently she is working on a book five in this series. i'm looking forward to reading Dead Man Rising. and if i really like that one, i imagine i will be irritated with how long i have to wait for the devil's right hand. alas and alack.