The Devil's Right Hand (Dante Valentine Novel) by Lilith Saintcrow

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The Devil's Right Hand (Dante Valentine Novel) by Lilith Saintcrow

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A misfire of a genre piece, that would probably be most enjoyable to fans of the series. Any other Bookbag user who feels swayed should only start the series with volume one, and not this third book.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 432 Date: November 2007
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841496733

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Dante Valentine is not too keen to wake up one night to find her lover missing from her bed. He's been a long-term frustration, as perhaps befits a 'fallen' inhabitant of Hell and Lucifer's one-time right hand man. Dante, to help her career of bounty hunter and death-dealer to the undead extraordinaire, has been researching as many aged, coded texts about demonology as she can, but the one chap who can help her most - the demon she calls partner, Japhrimel - refuses to explain anything.

Dante is left in the dark a lot through this book, especially when it turns out that Japh has been summonsed by Lucifer, and Dante is being called upon to replace him as the Devil's Right Hand. What her bargaining with the Prince of Darkness means for her own health - as a part-demon from Japh's hand the deal might well affect that - their relationship and indeed her whole life, she will have to find out.

There is also a lot of finding out for me, too, coming in to this series at the third book. The back-story was left scattered very lightly in a way that would please returning fans, but I could think of more welcoming ways for the newcomer to fit into the whole saga. It took a long time for me to work out the whole world used here (a world set a couple of centuries ahead of ours, for one), the standing between Danny and Japh and how that was becoming relevant, and a lot more. As a result I was only too aware that when the mission was outlined in any satisfactory way for Dante, we were a disappointingly long way through the book.

But there is a lot of the slow-burn about this volume, and it soon becomes clear that the four demons on her hit-list will not face the expected closure by the end. I have to say that my appetite was not whetted enough to read the extract from book four, or to look forward to it at all.

I was certainly at a disadvantage, as I say, about the whole mythology. There are a lot of categories of nasty, and an equal number of types of human who can interact with them - some even resembling swans. The range of gods and religions sampled really add too to the dark fantasy feel of the book, although I could never actually call this book as a horror, as the publishers do. However many denizens of Hell arrive in the story, there is no gore, no squirming, no looking over the reader's shoulder.

The sci-fi I felt was done a bit on the cheap, manifesting itself mostly as a simple adaptation of current geography (America will be known in this future as Merica, and so on) and with new computer hardware and material sciences the only addition to the language (plasteel, synthcoal - we get no further than twenty-year-old 2000AD strips). So while the book is distinctively on a genre tip it does not fall handily into any one camp.

That then might be the appeal for many, but for me the book never failed to engage, and the plotting was not exciting enough. There was a thriller element to the whole mission - who really is in charge, who to be believed, and so on - but I never felt compelled to learn as much as I should have been. I also frowned at the faux-European settings, feeling a lot more could have been done and a lot better in that regard.

I could certainly never recommend this book as the place to start - the fan of the series I am sure will find this just what she or he wants as it swings the reader on towards volume four, but the fresh arrival should definitely start at the beginning, as intended.

Ultimately I was reminded too often of Once Bitten, Twice Shy which does all this book intends to do, with much greater clarity, style, and even a lot of added humour. The female protagonists are poured from the same mould, almost - hard-hitting, weapon-toting experts you never can imagine in any great peril, despite the protestations of their undead male partners, that also share the habit of bursting into inappropriate giggles when threatened. That book I found refreshingly different, while this remained - while never exactly bad - lumpenly in a middle ground, both as regards genre use and exploration, and quality standard.

I would still like to thank Orbit for sending the Bookbag a copy to sample.

Buy The Devil's Right Hand (Dante Valentine Novel) by Lilith Saintcrow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Devil's Right Hand (Dante Valentine Novel) by Lilith Saintcrow at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Devil's Right Hand (Dante Valentine Novel) by Lilith Saintcrow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Devil's Right Hand (Dante Valentine Novel) by Lilith Saintcrow at Amazon.com.


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