Thursday, June 6, 2019

Devil Take Me

Jordan L. Hawk, et al.
Completed 6/6/2019, Reviewed 6/6/2019
4 stars

This is an anthology of gay urban fantasy with demons or the devil.  Most are about men who have sold their souls.  It features authors I’ve never heard of before, save one, and they are all women.  I really enjoyed most of these stories.  They’re all a little twilight zone-ish in their urban-ness, with their twists and surprises.  They are well written and entertaining, despite having similar plots and/or themes.   The book is a very different from what I’ve mostly been reading, edging closer to the horror side of the fantasy genre.  It was well worth the diversion. 

Infernal Affairs by Jordan L. Hawk is about a crossroads demon, that is, a demon who offers something in exchange for your soul.  But the demon in this story, Ralgath was tricked into giving superpowers to a non-binary person of color, Chess, who wanted to hunt monsters.  Demoted for giving an unauthorized gift, this demon is later given the chance to redeem himself by investigating who on Earth is capturing other crossroads demons.  Ralgath employs Chess to help him with this investigation by offering to return their soul.  This was a great, tight story, full of humor and intrigue.  Ralgath is a really colorful character, trying to prove himself after the debacle of letting his emotions get away with him.  It was an awesome beginning to the anthology.

Collared by T.A. Moore is about Jack, a former priest, who investigates mysteries that the regular police and PIs can’t or won’t figure out because of their demonic nature.  Jack has sold his soul to Math, a demon with whom he has an unhealthy sexual relationship.  The town in which the story takes place is full of demons who have left hell and settled in South Carolina.  This story was a very terse read.  It’s written like a noir PI mystery, but its prose was heavy which made the plot very confusing.  Even the torrid sex scene between Jack and Math was difficult reading.  It was a disappointment after the fun Infernal Affairs.

Counterfeit Viscount by Ginn Hale is about Archie, a man posing as a viscount after he returns from war.  He has sold his soul to Nimble, a Prodigal, that is, a class of people who are descended from devils who are treated as less than and live in an underground city.  Archie and Nimble become embroiled in a mystery where Prodigals keep disappearing and all evidence points to a fighting club that admits regular people and Prodigals as long as they are sponsored by a regular person.  Archie and Nimble are secretly in love and their relationship is put to the test as they investigate the disappearances.  It was a good story set in the world of Hale’s award winning “Wicked Gentlemen” which I just bought.  I had a little trouble understanding the world Hale built at first, but really enjoyed the characters.  I think I’ll enjoy her full “Gentlemen” novel based on my positive feeling towards this one.

11:59 by C.S. Poe.  Asuka sold his soul to the devil in exchange for being able to fight the monsters that have been invading the world.  In a strange reversal, the devil offers him his soul back if he can find a way to keep the monsters from eating the souls in the underworld.  With his new found boyfriend, Merrick, he tries to put an end to the monsters and the nightmares that have been afflicting the world for the past five years.  This was a short story, but very engaging.  It pulls you in at the beginning and holds you through its surreal ending. 

Wonderland City by Rhys Ford.  Another soul selling.  This time, Xander lives through the looking glass in Wonderland City where no one cares if he’s gay.  However, another little girl has slipped through.  We all know what happened the first time when Alice was in Wonderland.  Now, the devil offers Xander’s soul back in exchange for finding the girl and keeping her from unraveling the fabric of existence.  I thought this was an interesting take on the Alice story.  It had a lot of action which I found not tiresome, but riveting.  It had a similar feel to 11:59 but felt original nonetheless.

Dark Favors by Jordan Castillo Price.  One last soul selling story features Johnny, a bar owner who sold his soul when he was very young.  Nearly twenty years later, the devil returns to ask Johnny to kill a famous TV personality, but not harm her bodyguard, Adam.  This was a very well written, fast-paced story with a protracted steamy scene between Johnny and Adam.  The prose and dialogue was magnificent, with chapters alternating between 1961 Johnny and 1979 Johnny and Adam.  It works really well, with great character development.

I give this book four out of five stars.  I found most of the stories very gripping.  Anthologies with a single theme can get a little tedious, but this one didn’t.  Each author had a different take on the devil concept, even though there was a noir-ish feel to most of the narratives.  This book was one of those Kindle deals of the day.  Normally, I only buy those books I’m familiar with, but I wasn’t with this one.  I just took a chance on it and it paid off really well.

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