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Book Review: The Devil’s Right Hand by Lilith Saintcrow

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The Devil's Right Hand is the third book in what is currently a five-book series chronicling the life and times of Dante (Danny) Valentine, necromancer, bounty hunter, and demon lover.  The tales take place primarily in Saint City on Earth in the distant future after the Awakening, an event that activated numerous psions and others with supernatural abilities as well as bringing Hell and its denizens to Earth.

I have read many vampire and magic fantasy series including Anne Rice's ubiquitous "Lestat" series and Laurell K. Hamilton's "Anita Blake Vampire Hunter" books, and while I don't mind reading an entire series of books I like, it is also nice to have the individual novels stand alone so one can read them out of order and still follow what's happening. These are books that work by themselves but are deepened when read in order with the series.

If you have not read the first two Dante Valentine novels, Working For the Devil and Dead Man Rising, don't even open The Devil's Right Hand.  This is definitely not a standalone novel.  Dante has a checkered past that involves becoming the most sought after necromancer (raising the dead and asking them questions), working as a bounty hunter for Satan, watching her love Jace Monroe die at Satan's hands, falling in love with the demon Japhrimel who actually gives up his place in hell to be with Dante, now genetically changed into a half demon known as a hedaira.  Without this background you will be completely lost.

This book begins with Dante making a Faustian deal with her former boss, the devil, agreeing to become his right hand girl and kill four rogue demons.  In doing this, she opens a space for Japh to take back his demon powers, thus launching a confusing internal and external battle when she realizes what Japh is up to and who the Devil really wants her to kill.  

For someone who has trust issues and is presented as a bright and with-it woman, Dante Valentine is a poster child for women who pick the wrong men.  Demon lovers?  Deals with the Devil?  What is she thinking?  She has trust issues, but so would I if my lover was a demon.

While the action is fast paced, the weaponry is fierce, and the monsters are kind of cool, this book left me wondering why I should care about a woman who whines at her demon Japh, "'Just give me a minute, okay, and tell me why.  That's all I'm asking.  That's reasonable, Japhrimel.  It really is.  Just fucking tell me.  I need to know.'"  As though demons are ruled by rational thought.

And then I realized that in the end that my expectations were wrong.  I approached this as a horror fantasy novel, but it's not.  This is a romance novel, plain and simple.  A little rougher around the edges — with magic, demons, and imps abounding — than your typical Harlequin selection, but generally the same.  Girl falls in love with tall dark stranger, gives up humanity, makes deals with the devil, and still worries about whether she's being lied to and when he's coming home.  I expect more from my bounty hunter protagonists!

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About Lynda Lippin

  • http://blogcritics.org/ Phillip Winn

    Interesting review. It’s funny how some genres blur the lines so easily. Thanks!