Review: Dante Valentine


The Dante Valentine Series by Lilith Saintcrow:
Working for the Devil
Dead Man Rising
The Devil’s Right Hand
Saint City Sinners
To Hell and Back

Dante Valentine has a new boyfriend. He’s got laser-green eyes, dreamy wide shoulders, and more power than anyone she’s ever met.

Oh, yeah. He’s also a demon.

In fact, he’s the Devil’s assassin.

Let me say first of all that I like these books a lot. I do! The bones of the book, the idea, the world, some of the characters, are very good. But the execution of the book is bad enough to make me a little ashamed of how much I enjoy them. When I first started reading Working for the Devil, I glanced surreptitiously at the people sitting near me on the bus to make sure no one was reading over my shoulder. The writing is that bad.

But the basic concept is so good that I wish Lilith Saintcrow would rewrite the whole series to make Dante more likeable, to make the plot more comprehensible, and to edit out all her little authorial tics that make the book read like a first draft.

Let me take that back. For the sake of the story, I’d rewrite it myself if that wouldn’t make me a creepy fanfic loser.

Basic plot: Dante Valentine , a Necromance, is “hired” by the Devil to track down and kill another demon who escaped from Hell. OR SO IT WOULD SEEM. After her demon familiar (Japhrimel) falls in love with her and gives her part of his power, she finds herself smack in the middle of a demon rebellion. She also has to face all her worst nightmares and darkest secrets along the way. And everyone dies. In short, everything bad that could possibly happen to her does.

For example:

  • As a child, she was raped and branded by her EVIL sado-masochistic school master.
  • The ghost of the same school master then psychically rapes her years later.
  • She is raped by the Devil, who implants her with some sort of X-files style worm-demon-baby.
  • Her exboyfriend is murdered before her eyes.
  • Her best friend and the friend’s husband are gruesomely murdered.

So why, you ask, do I enjoy these books?

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, like the heroines of all these dark urban fantasy novels. Or maybe I’m smitten with the demon who would give up his power and position as the Devil’s Right Hand for love of a mortal. And unlike Dante, I would trust the demon who did that, not the one who dresses herself up as my ex-lesbian-lover, claims that I and/or my ex-lover are her mother, and uses me time and again. There are dozens of times in the series that I just want to slap Dante for being so blind, so stubborn, and so childish. The girl needs a decade of therapy and some serious Prozac.

And as for the writing, Saintcrow spreads the overarching plot unevenly across the books. Books one and two seem fairly episodic, except for the relationship with Japhrimel, while nothing really happens in Book 3, but by Book 4 you realize something BIG is happening here, but you get no answers at all until Book 5. It almost seems that Saintcrow herself had no idea where she was going until that final book. When you finally get to that plot, however, you’ll say, “Ohhhh! I get it!” and then wish she would go back and rewrite the whole series so that it makes more sense.

Have I talked you out of reading it yet?

I think I keep rereading the books out of sheer frustration, hoping that this time they will be better. That this time, Dante will trust Japhrimel, that she won’t blame herself for everything that happens. And the fact that the story itself is compelling enough to make me feel that way, in spite of all the reasons I gave you NOT to read this book, says something about the fundamental quality of the books.

In the end, 4 stars for the whole series. (The quality of the books is pretty uneven.) Read them for Japhrimel and the fun of riding flying skateboards and killing a lot of demons.

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