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Author: Jocelynn Drake
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Series Name: Asylum Tales (Book 2, but there are also some novellas)
Reviewing: Advanced Reader's e-Proof
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Reason for reading: I like Jocelynn Drake's vampire series, and was offered the eARC via the Avon Addicts program.
The Short Answer
While I had a few doubts about Angel's Ink, I really felt like Drake hits her stride with Dead Man's Deal - the voicing is stronger and I love the multitude of characters.
Reprising from my review of Angel's Ink:
In the tradition of Kim Harrison's Hollows, and Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, we have a world where the paranormals are "out" and live alongside the mortals. It's a bit unclear how long the world has been this way; perhaps forever.
There is a distinct hierarchy among the paranormal races, and the Wizards and Witches are at the tippy top. Unfortunately they apparently never had the wise guidance of Spiderman's Uncle Ben*, and their great powers are used in a world-wide tyrannical rule. Everyone is afraid of them, and within their own ranks, no one seems to like anyone else very much either. Confession: I just finished reading the entire Harry Potter series quite recently, and I have to say, this might be how the world would look had Harry not defeated Voldemort. Seriously.
Gage has opted to leave the Towers, which are both a literal place - or collection of places - and Drake's term for the general society of witches and wizards. It's their Council, or UN, or gang headquarters; depending on how you look at it. He's a rogue, and living on borrowed time as far as the Towers are concerned.
Character and Point of View
There's a thing that some of my favorite authors do with a first person point of view that I really enjoy: as a reader, you get an implicit understanding of how the point of view character feels and thinks about themselves, but a really great author can also reveal how the world views that character, and that difference can be really, really interesting.
Gage sees himself as this average guy, just trying to get along, who had the misfortune of being pulled into the Towers. It so happens that he's a pretty powerful Wizard, but he'd really just as soon forget all that. He wouldn't even have to use his powers if the Towers would just leave him alone. But they won't, and when they come after the people he cares about, well, you can't fight a flamethrower with a blow-dryer.
In the first book, I think the reader is expected to generally agree with Gage's hapless, reactive assessment of himself, but here we start to understand that he isn't just any average Wizard. That if he had remained with the Towers, he would have been a force to be reckoned with. And that--maybe-- he still is. Only now he has his own rulebook.
The Plot Thickens
Here in the second book, Drake picks up a few threads from the first book, revisits a number of prominent characters, and introduces more of them. Gage's innate integrity wins him uneasy allies in some camps, enemies in others, and it's all juicy anticipation to see the layers and possible directions this series can go. The character-driven nature of how this all unfolds puts it in my DO WANT column.
There's no lack of action though. In fact, Gage spends a real lot of time here getting physically -- and magically -- beat up. Good thing he knows healing charms, is all I can say.
Thanks to the popularity of the Special Ops subgenre of romance, I am qualified to recognize and define Gage's specialty in Dead Man's Deal: extraction. First, he must extract his girlfriend from a tricky arranged marriage (sort of), 300 years in the making. Second, he extracts his brother from the crossfire between a bad-ass elf mafia and the Towers. There are a couple more, too, but they are more about series-arc setup and I will leave them for you to discover. And this is where we see that while Gage can roll with the punches - literally- he's also a thinking woman's hero. One of my favorite things about the plotting of both books is the twisty, puzzley aspects of how he outsmarts his opponents. Hmmm. Perhaps the title hints at this.
Speaking of the title, I thought it was slightly misleading. Gage enters a bargain in Angel's Ink that's going to cost him a year spent in the Underworld, á là Persephone, and I was rather expecting that particular story. Which this totally wasn't. So while tensions build and the skies darken on the horizon for Gage's world, he also has this sword hanging over his head, to drop at any moment.
Bits and Pieces
One of my favorite passages in the book is when Gage meets Gaia. The whole chapter is deliberately paced differently, colored differently, textured differently. Gage does not behave out of character, but it's like you've opened a whole different book within a book, which is exactly appropriate for what is going on there. It's gorgeous.
Stupendous giggles for Drake's romance-industry not-so-insider tribute in the naming of a defunct factory. Oh lady. So many levels there. Love it.
That cover. Damn. That's one thing I really miss about p-book* reading-- the shiny, shiny covers. That one is almost worth just buying and framing the cover. Yum.
I really like this one, and I'm looking forward to the continuing series. In the meantime, I'm going to check out the two short stories: one about Bronx, and one about Trixie.
Around the Blogosphere:
Heroes and Heartbreakers
A Book Obsession
Mad Hatter Reads
As always, if you have reviewed this book, please feel free to leave your link in comments or let me know and I'll edit it in.