Working for the Devil (Dante Valentine, book 1), by Lilith Saintcrow

After last Friday’s odd Lilith Saintcrow book, price I thought it would probably be good to read one of her more mainstream publications. This is the first book in a five-book series; the story is apparently complete in those five books. Apparently Lilith Saintcrow is her real name. Seriously, did she have a choice? I think she had to be a writer. She lives in Vancouver, WA, with three kids and a handful of cats, after an army brat’s childhood. Her upcoming series for YAs, Strange Angels, I think was just sold recently and will probably come out in 2010 or so. Other than that, she’s written books in approximately six different series. I’m still waiting for the sequel to Steelflower.

Dante Valentine is a Necromance; she’s able to raise and talk to the dead. Her world is a future version of America, after the parapsychics come out of the closet, so to speak. One day, a demon comes to visit her, and he requests — with the implication that there is no removal — that she come to the Underworld to talk to Lucifer for a bit. She does, obviously, and it turns out that Lucifer wants to hire her to do a job. A demon artefact called the Egg has been stolen from Hell, and since the demon who has it can’t be killed by man or demon, they want her — woman — to go after him. Oh yeah, that, and he killed an old lover of hers. Does she really have a choice?

Apparently kick-ass females with tortured pasts are Ms. Saintcrow’s usual heroine; Dante (normally called Danny), like Kaia from Steelflower, fits the bill. She has the scars, the terrible childhood, and the nightmares. However, she’s also one of the most powerful Necromances around; she can raise the dead from ashes. Most can’t. Ms. Saintcrow also puts Danny through the wringer in this book; she’s dragged into Hell, attacked repeatedly, rarely allowed to get enough sleep, comes near death several times, has to meet an ex-boyfriend, and is stuck with a demon — albeit an attractive one — against her will.

I really liked Ms. Saintcrow’s world; while it had some of the normal futuristic things, like comm links, credits instead of currency, hoverboard-like things, and moving tattooes, it also had Necromances, Shamans, Skinlins (dirt/kitchen witches), vampires, and, well, demons. Apparently psis are human, but with special powers, and ‘normals’ are afraid of them. The government (the Hegemony) apparently trains all people with psi powers — well, the ones who live in their system. Others apparently are sold on the black market as slaves of various sorts. The world also has new drugs and tons of new music; I’m absolutely certain that Ms. Saintcrow had a blast making up new kinds of music and new and awesome band names.

Overall, I did enjoy the book; it had the same sort of hectic pace as Rachel Caine’s first few Weather Warden books. It was definitely darker, though, and the ending hit me pretty hard. The majority of the book was (with brief moments of down-time that were few and far between) one big adrenaline rush, and I finished it in record time. I’d say that fans of the Weather Warden books who don’t mind something just a tinge darker and messier would like this; it also held shades of Kim Harrison’s works. Fans of Patricia Briggs or Kelley Armstrong might enjoy it as well. I really look forward to reading book 2 (since she left a few loose ends hanging hugely). 4/5 stars.

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