Read Recently — October 2007

Wizards at War by Diane Duane

In the latest of the Young Wizards series, our heroes, having returned from their spring break on another world, are immediately handed a completely new, and much bigger problem: Dark Matter, the mysterious glue of the Universe, has been discovered by scientists everywhere in the Universe, at the same time. And in ever-increasing amounts. And it is causing the expansion of the Universe to increase in speed, which is changing the nature of magic. Older wizards are losing their ability to work magic, and may soon even lose their understanding of it. It is up to the youngest, and therefor most powerful, wizards to solve the problem, if they can . . . if, indeed, this is the real problem after all. Or is there something bigger out there?

By this point, Duane could probably write these in her sleep. Maybe she does. Every character in the series so far shows up for this one. If anything bugs me, it’s that at no time do the Wizards ever actually seem to be at War. There is a battle, but it’s basically a reprise of the battle in High Wizardry. Heck, A Wizard Abroad felt more like a war than this one. Still, if you’ve read and liked the rest of the series, this is more of the same. Recommended.

Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow

I didn’t expect much from this book for several reasons. First, Lilith Saintcrow is the kind of name that’s too good to be true. Second, there’s the name of the hero of the story: Dante Valentine. Someone playing a bit too much Devil May Cry, perhaps? Third, there’s the presentation: one of the cheapest, amateurish-looking covers I’ve ever seen. It looks like something put out by a vanity press, rather than pros. But, as the conventional wisdom has it, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, and my experience is beginning to teach me that you shouldn’t judge it by it’s author’s name, or it’s hero’s. Cause I really, really enjoyed this one.

It’s the future. How far into the future we don’t exactly learn, but it’s far enough for there to be flying cars, and there’s been at least 50 years since a great political upheaval that’s not even on our horizon, yet, so it’s a while from now. Psions, people with psionic/magickal powers, are an accepted part of reality. There are Magi, who control demons (did I mention the demons? We’ll come back to them), Necromances, who, as their name suggests, raise and communicate with the dead, Shaman, who interact with other spirits (including the Loa of Voudoun), and Skinlins, who . . . you know, I don’t think I can describe them.

Dante “Danny” Valentine is a talented Necromance who lives in Saint City. When she’s not raising the dead, she takes Mercenary jobs, usually bounty hunting. One thing she’s never done is work for Satan, but when a demon lord with a big gun shows up on her doorstep one morning she doesn’t really have any choice but to go along and see what the Lord of Hell wants. What he wants is for her to track down a long-missing serial killer, who is actually a demon who betrayed Lucifer and stole from him. He also killed one of Danny’s former lovers and escaped, something that has haunted her ever since. He sends along with her, as a guard and companion, Japhrimel, the demon who brought her to him. Japhrimel has his own agenda, but he helps Danny loyally as the hunt goes along and she comes to trust him. And she needs to trust him, because the hunt leads them to Nuevo Rio di Janeiro, the home of another of Danny’s exes, Jace Monroe, the man who loved her and then left her, going to work for the Mob, a betrayal Danny has never been able to forgive. Can she work with him again? Can she trust him? And is she really feeling attracted to Japhrimel?

Despite my misgivings, this turned out to be a pretty cool book. Danny is exactly what I look for in a hero (she whines a bit, but she’s got a lot to whine about, a complex and dark backstory that will continue to haunt her throughout the rest of the series, I’m sure), and her world is a complex, unusual, and clearly envisioned one. We learn about it in an organic way, avoiding infodumps except where necessary. The plot is tense, dark, and somewhat noir. And Lilith Saintcrow, real name or not, seems to be an interesting person.

Recommended.

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