Saint City Sinners
by Lilith Saintcrow
(Orbit, $6.99, Violence) ISBN 978-0-316-02143-2
After who knows how many months away, Dante Valentine is finally back home in Santiago City.  Unfortunately for everybody, it's not for good reasons.  Her best friend, Gabriele Spocarelli, has summoned her - and Danny knows going in that that can't be good; she and Gabe haven't spoken much since the Upper Flight demon Japhrimel Fell and changed Danny into a part-demon.  Dante doesn't understand her new life - only Japh and other denizens of Hell do - and doesn't expect Gabe too, either.

The bad news is this: Gabe's husband, Eddie, has been murdered, and she wants his killers tracked down. Gabe knows that, though Dante hasn't been a bounty hunter since becoming hedaira, Dante is her best bet for justice.  And for revenge.  Dante gives her word, despite her previous vow to the Prince of Hell to hunt four demons for him. Japhrimel, on the other hand, plans to adhere to their agreement with Lucifer; although Fallen (the demon version of anathema), he was Lucifer's Eldest son and fully understands the inner workings of hell - and the extreme danger to his hedaira should she break her word.  This only increases the issues between him and Dante, who feels left out of her own life by Japh's insistent silence.  Partly to help Gabe and partly because she's just plain fed up with her significant other, Dante bails on Japhrimel and his servants and strikes out on her own, happy to be on the hunt again.

Gabe winds up dead, however, and Dante's drive for vengeance becomes more of a thirst, a need, a weight around her neck. With the help of Lucas Villalobos and the Necromance Leander, she takes on pretty much every bad guy in Saint City - and a few from hell, plowing her way through to the truth.

This series is so complicated 500-700 words is not going to cover the fine details.  Saintcrow does a good job of injecting the past into the current novel, but a lot of the story is still told in Dante's lingo.  The author graciously provides a glossary, and many of the words are just bastardized versions of our English, but it would still be impossible to get the full experience of Saint City Sinners without reading the previous three books.  Not only does Dante's relationship with Japhrimel start with the first book, Working for the Devil, but the inner workings of Dante's other - and equally as complicated - relationships are a work in progress as well.  Dante's futuristic world takes a great deal of explaining that Lilith Saintcrow has spread out over the series, and she definitely likes her cliffhangers.

Dante is a strong character, both literally and literarily, and her faults are just as vivid as her strengths. Actually, this is the case with most of the characters, and the reader is rarely allowed the luxury of making a clean decision regarding the plot; Lilith Saintcrow writes a lot about things that are grey.  Along the same lines, Dante frequently makes decisions that you can realize are right for her in the moment, but are not necessarily good choices in the long run.

This series is extremely fast-paced, and often violent - though not usually gory; the impression is given that it is a fairly harsh world for the average citizen, which Dante and her acquaintances most certainly are not. Even without the action, however, Saintcrow's way with words would pull a reader along.  Some passages seem almost poetic, and she elicits very strong emotions, ranging from anxiety to heartache to amusement.

These books, though highly recommended, are definitely not for everybody.  The strong fantasy backdrop will put some readers off, and so will Danny and her lifestyle.  It's also not a romance.  The blurred lines of the relationship between Dante and Japhrimel features heavily especially in Saint City Sinners, but that plotline is less about the romance than it is about dealing with this new life as a pair - a supernatural pair, at that.  Not to mention there's that cliffhanger, and it'll drive you nuts.  So, suffice it to say that some readers will adore the Dante Valentine series (and weep over it), and others it will fail altogether to touch.

--Sarrah Knight

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