Saturday, April 14, 2012

Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow - review

Heaven's Spite
Lilith Saintcrow
{6 out of 6 stars}
urban fantasy {dark UF}

cover - This is one of the few series that keeps the style or theme for all the covers of the novels. They're simple, stark, monochromatic {sure hope I spelled that right} and dramatic. Works for me, I like the look of this cover.

As you can tell by my rating, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Heaven's Spite.

Lilith Saintcrow does not write happy characters living pleasant lives in easygoing situations containing happily ever after endings. Her characters tend to be damaged, flawed, angry yet spirited and keep themselves going almost in spite of themselves. Her villains are never straightforward, typical villians either - they are definitely evil {they are hellbreed, after all} and yet will sometimes be caught doing good deeds even if it's all for the wrong reasons.

That being said, Heaven's Spite is another very strong installment in a dark urban fantasy series. There is a strong horror aspect within many of Saintcrow's novels and this is no exception. People are getting ripped up and murdered left and right. There are evildoers, middle of the road people, desperately poor clawing their way through the day, the obscenely rich, and to balance things out there are the Hunters - the characters that are fighting a seemingly losing battle against the bad ones - the hellbreed and hellspawn that are preying on the innocent and not so innocent. These characters, Jill Kismet is the main character, never give up. They aren't angelic, they aren't wonderfully well behaved people; they are flawed and damaged but they are doing their best.

In this fifth novel of the series, Jill Kismet is trying to stay out of Perry's way {Perry is the hellbreed that she traded with during her training for added strength and other abilities to help her fight others of his kind. Other hellbreed and hellspawn - ironic, in a way} and Perry continues to try to make Jill go over the line to the dark or darker side, constantly testing her to get her to screw up, void her contract and lose her soul to him. Bodies that seem to be booby trapped, or have something OFF about them {something besides the fact they've been killed, that is} are popping up all in increasing numbers all over her city - and Jill is being kept in reaction mode, back and forth, never having the time to rest, eat or to simply stop and think over what's going on. It's as if she's being played.... People from the past are also popping up - the murderer of her teacher among them. There are others that always appeared to be one thing, and suddenly seem to be something else - something mysterious. And even after the horrific climax of the main plot there's yet one more twist - a shocking cliffhanger of a twist...

There are some books that I will try to read, yet end up putting aside because they are so bleak, so full of consistantly dark situations, sad and angry people and mindsets, and the characters seem to always be struggling to survive. Heaven's Spite is saved from being this type of book, because even though the running theme is so dark and yes - bleak, the end of the world seems to be hovering ever closer - the sheer talent of Saintcrow's writing keeps me interested. Her books are very dark, her characters are rarely happy, things frequently seem hopeless or doomed and yet she keeps things alive and vibrant with her action scenes, the constant atmospheric touches {i.e., the tinkling of the charms in the hunter's hair, the throbbing of the demon mark on Jill's wrist that changes with the situation and mood of Perry, the smells and sounds described throughout the book, etc}, the angry yet dark humor, thoughts and the unexpected snarky comments of Jill and crew. The very things that I've seen complaints about are the very things that, for me, add character and atmosphere to Saintcrow's novels. Not many writers can pull this type of thing off - the combination of despair and triumph, the building of scenes and moods with words, the feeling that you can not only picture in your mind what's going on, but you can hear the different sound, the charms and feel the sensations throughout the book, with every different scene - but Lilith Saintcrow sure can. Added to the atmospheric touches - even though her characters, plots, subplots and situations can seem bleak, hopeless or doomed, the fact that her characters are fighting against seemingly impossible odds and never ever give up makes me want to keep reading to see what is going to happen next - see if they make it. Jill Kismet and her allies and friends just pick themselves up, get angry and determined and keep going; sometimes out of sheer bullheaded stubborness. I enjoy this very much because I think on a smaller, or different scale this is what millions of human beings do the world over. In one way or another a lot of us just keep going out of sheer bullheadedness, whatever our situation may be.

The ending - the abrupt, shocking twist of a cliffhanger was genious. I was glad that I had saved up the last four novels for a marathon of reading. Now I've had reading marathons with other series before, and I've found myself a bit irritated at repeated phrasing, the kind of phrasing that wouldn't bother me if the books were read a year apart. This happens with many series, {even by my favorite authors} and I end up skipping small sections to avoid these recaps or "remembrances". But the only thing I found a bit disenchanting was when Jill would be thinking about something, it would turn into a sort of dark pun and she would think to herself "get it, Jill? arf, arf, arf". Seriously, the "arf" was the only thing that got to me, because it felt awkward, which of course, might have been the intention. That's the one thing I wouldn't have minded going without - those sentences would have read better for me if the "arf, arf, arf" were left completely off - but then, this is Saintcrow's book, her choice as a writer, her style, her preference. It's ultimately the writer's decisions - the style they write. That's a teeny, tiny complaint in the entire novel - not bad - especially when you consider the rest of the read. {it just felt so awkward to me, *G*} Ultimately a very enjoyable and readable novel, and a series that I will end up re-reading in a few years.

Lilith Saintcrow's Heaven's Spite was an extremely enjoyable read for me - the action, horror, suspense, fight scenes; the dialogue, utter lack of info dumps {Halleliujiah!}, the spirit of characters, the flawed and damaged characters, dark humor and twisted plots all combined into a hell of a read for me. The Jill Kismet series is the type of book/series that I like to keep around so I can relive the stories - in this case, the world of Jill Kismet and her hellbreed adversaries. The next - and final - book in the series is Angel Town.

**there are three excerpts of this review - one of them under the cover**

other books by Lilith Saintcrow:
you may already know this, but just in case: Lilith Saintcrow has written quite a few series and standalone novels. She writes Young Adult under the pen name of Lili St. Crow - most notably the Strange Angels series (her first YA work)
  • new release Fantasy The Hedgewitch Queen - e-book only at the moment with a sequel out in June 2012
  • an alternate history fantasy The Iron Wyrm Affair - first of the Bannon & Clare Affairs series. Available in print and e-book August 2012
  • There is a list of Saintcrow's/St.Crow's books on the sidebar of Lilith Saintcrow's website, which seems to have been revamped while I wasn't paying attention {i.e., playing Castleville, *g*}, go visit, play around there; interesting stuff on her site. I dare you. *G* at least check out the other novels.
  • also writes under the name of Anna Beguine - some of her earliest work.

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