Friday, June 7, 2019

Wicked Gentlemen

Ginn Hale
Completed 6/7/2019, Reviewed 6/7/2019
4 stars

The title of the book is deceiving.  To me, it invokes a farcical plot of British gentlemen doing dastardly things, or at least being ironic and smug.  Well, the plot is certainly about evil men, but it is not farcical at all.  It’s dark, it’s about humans and the descendants of demons, there are mysteries, but no one is foppish.  The setting invokes industrial age England, but it is much more than that.  Author Ginn Hale has created a very intriguing world with protagonists doing the best they can in deprecating circumstances.  I really enjoyed it despite the title, having gotten a taste of this world in her contribution to the last book I read, the anthology Devil Take Me.  The book won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for positive LGBTQ content in genre fiction in 2008.

This book is about Belimai Sykes and Capt. William Harper.  Belimai is a Prodigal, the descendant of demons who repented and returned to earth, only to live as second-class citizens in an underground city.  Many of these beings still retain some magic, although many of these traits are being diluted in the generations.  For example, Belimai can fly, and can smell minute scents and taste the air around him.  Harper is a human priest in the order of the Inquisitors, a police force that keeps the demon spawn population under its thumb.  They meet when Harper and his brother-in-law Edward seek out Belimai to help them find Harper’s sister/Edward’s wife who appears to have been abducted.  In addition, there has been a rash of murders of Prodigals that Harper is investigating. 

The book is divided into two stories.  The plot of the first one is detailed above and it is told in first person, Belimai’s point of view.  The second one continues the relationship between Belimai and Harper but is told from Harper’s point of view, third person.  In this story, Harper happens upon the murder of a girl, apparently by her uncle, but the Abbot of the Inquisitors and another captain conspire with the uncle to cover it up and blame it on a flying Prodigal.  Since there are only a few flying Prodigals left, including Belimai, Harper must whisk him to safety and save the suspects and suspected consipiring humans from the powerful grasp of the Abbot. 

Hale’s prose is lovely, with just the right amount of description and dialogue.  It makes for quick reading but still provides for great world building and characterization.  Belimai and Harper are wonderfully drawn.  I felt like I was in the heads of both characters in their respective stories.  I particularly like Belimai’s sardonic wit.  Harper, though fighting for good, is hardly a saint, and has his own secrets and inner demons.  He reminded me a little of a strong, silent type noir-ish detective, not unlike Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner”.  And the chemistry between Belimai and Harper is very nicely developed, starting in fits and spurts, and smoothing out as the book progresses. 

I give this book four stars out of five.  I had the good fortune of leaving work early today and getting to read this relatively short book in a day.  It was an entertaining experience, being able to read it all in one sitting, and being able stay in the gritty world that Hale built.  I understand there are two short story sequels besides the one I’ve already read.  I’ll probably look them up and give them a read as they are apparently available for free as a lot of short fiction is these days.

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