5 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Working for the Devil

Title: Working for the Devil

Author: Lilith Saintcrow

Review Number: 13

Genre: Paranormal Fiction, Urban Fantasy, pseudo pulp-noir/futuristic?

Stand alone or series: First in the Dante Valentine series

Summary: (from lilithsaintcrow.net)
Necromance-for-hire Dante Valentine is choosy about her jobs. Hot-tempered and with nerves of steel, she can raise the dead like nobody’s business. But one rainy Monday morning, everything goes straight to Hell. The Devil hires Dante to eliminate a renegade demon: Vardimal Santino. In return, he will let her live. It’s an offer she can’t refuse. There’s just one catch. How do you kill something that can’t die?

Why did I read this book: I’m getting into the paranormal genre, and heard some good things about this series online.


You know sometimes when you read a book, and you get that choked feeling of frustration at wasted potential? The I-wanna-tear-my-hair-out kind of frustration?

This is exactly how I feel about Working for the Devil.

This book taps into the Anita Blake, badass paranormal heroine genre–which is totally cool. I’m a fan of the genre, and of badass heroines in general. BUT. Yep, there’s a big But.

The story is pretty simple. Dante Valentine is a freelance necromance, and is at home watching her soaps on a slow weekend. A big, hulking demon named Japhrimel lands on her doorstep, points a gun in her face, and lets her know that Lucifer himself demands an audience with her. Jaf drags her to Hell with him, and the Devil forces Dante into a job. A demon has stolen an egg from Hell, which could unleash some nasty shiz on earth. Dante, who has a history with said demon (he murdered her old lover), takes the job, and is assigned Japhrimel as her familiar.

I’ll start with the good stuff. I actually really like the cover art (which is exceedingly rare for me in this genre–usually the covers look like crap and I just can’t like them). It’s kinda pulp-y, in a good cheese kind of way. I love our heroine’s name: Dante Valentine (Danny for short). The Dante allusion, working for Lucifer, it’s just…cool. I was excited to get into this new leading lady.

Until I read the first chapter. (Here’s where the But comes in)

My initial impression of the first 200 pgs of the book goes something like this:

Growl! Chillfreaks I hate Chillfreaks!…slicboard…gene splicing…Growl!…sparkling magic…Anubis! Anubis et’her ka!…I was being rude! He was being rude!..f-bomb…chillfreak…Growl!

That probably doesn’t make sense to you if you haven’t read the book, but those that have know what I’m talking about.

Perhaps the biggest failing of this book was that there was nothing really to LIKE in Dante Valentine. She was, in plain terms, a bitch. Which is ok, but she had absolutely no dimension, or anything really relateable about her. She was a predictable, kind of boring bitch. Worse than that, she was just a cheap Anita Blake knockoff. Anita is a necromancer, Dante is a necromance. Instead of Anita’s trusty .9mm Browning, Dante has a Katana. The general tone of writing, the character’s thoughts and first person narration–all very Anita Blake. Right down to the “Bully for me”‘s, “Me and my big mouth”‘s, etc. At least early Anita had a sympathetic side (you know with her penguins). Dante Valentine? Not so much. I guess Ms. Saintcrow thought that the comparisons wouldn’t be as significant because Dante is Anita Blake IN THE FUTURE! On a SLICBOARD! GENE MAPPING!

The futuristic setting was a bit much for me. In a book that is pushing the fantastic with necromances, magi, witches and demons, it was a bit much to also throw hoverboards, plasguns and such on top of things. Though, to be fair, I probably would have been much more receptive to the futuristic, post-apocalyptic setting had things been better explained or described. The vague, half-cocked descriptions of “plugging in” to the net or medscanners just don’t quite cut it for me.

Things were exacerbated by the fact that the writing in this book is mediocre at best. Nothing ever really makes sense–these characters, Danny included, don’t have “real” reactions to anything. It felt like someone was trying to write a story, not like someone telling a story. Danny growled a lot, Jaf’s cheek twitched a lot, Eddie scowled a lot, and so forth. Ms. Saintcrow is at her best when detailing action sequences, and witty banter between Gabe and Danny (they curse fluently, which isn’t a bad thing). Unfortunately, everything else plain sucks. Non-existant character development, shoddy descriptions, weak dialogue…you get the picture.

About 2/3 through the book, I actually started to (finally) get into it. The action sequences were strong, building up to the book’s climax, and the unfolding love story between Japhrimel and Dante was sweet–it cut down on Danny’s sharp edges. I was even considering purchasing book 2.

Unfortunately, the ending of the book totally blew it for me. Any goodwill I may have developed instantly evaporated.

I put down the book frustrated, and honestly feeling a bit exploited and disgusted.

However, I just checked out Ms. Saintcrow’s site, and it seems that the ending for book 1 may have been a ‘fakeout’. I hate feeling exploited…but I might just pick up book 2 to see what happens. Might.

Notable Quotes/Parts: I liked that Ms. Saintcrow wasn’t afraid to show Dante had a mouth on her. Her fluency with cursing was cool, and probably the most genuine thing about her as a character. For example:

My emerald spat a single spark out into the night, a brief green flash making his pupils shrink. “I am going to find Santino and kill him. It’s my revenge. When I tear his spleen out through his nose, you can have your fucking Egg and go back to your fucking Prince and stay out of my life. But until then, quit fucking up my hunt! You got it?”

He stared at me for another ten seconds, that muscle in his cheek twitching. “As you like,” he finally grated out.

“Good,” I said. “Now follow me. And keep your goddamn motherfucking mouth shut.”

Additional Thoughts: Reading the favorable quotes from reviewers on the inside cover, I see that one recommendation is from Anne Bishop, author of the Black Jewels trilogy–an overhyped (in my opinion) defining series of wasted potential and pale characterization. Now that should have tipped me off.

Verdict: Read at your own peril. I have some hope that Ms. Saintcrow’s writing improves in the next book, and if the ending was indeed a fakeout, I’ll be glad. I guess I’ll give her one more shot…but she’s gonna have to do a lot to gain my admiration as a fan.

Rating: 5 Meh, take it or leave it

Reading Next: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

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  • Ana
    February 20, 2008 at 2:29 am

    I am so glad you test-drive these. I will keep far far away from this one.

  • jmc
    February 20, 2008 at 9:57 am

    On the cover art — the noire covers are reissues for the early books. My cover from the original print run of Working for the Devil? Ick.

    On the ending that destroyed your good will — I was spoiled, so I knew what was coming…and that it will magically be resolved in a later book.

    This was about a 7 for me — liked it enough that I’d be willing to see where LS goes with Danny Valentine, but not so much that I’m in a rush to go buy the follow up books of the series.

  • Thea
    February 20, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    jmc–I’ve seen those older covers…ick indeed *shudders* I really do like these new reissues. They have a cool vibe goin’ on.

    At this point, I don’t know when I’ll pick up book 2…meh. I’d like to see more of Dante and Jaf, but like you say, no rush.

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