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Belimai Sykes is many things: a Prodigal, the descendant of ancient demons, a creature of dark temptations and rare powers. He is also a man with a brutal past and a dangerous addiction. And Belimai Sykes is the only man Captain William Harper can turn to when faced with a series of grisly murders. But Mr. Sykes does not work for free and the price of Belimai’s company will cost Captain Harper far more than his reputation. From the ornate mansions of noblemen, where vivisection and sorcery are hidden beneath a veneer of gold, to the steaming slums of Hells Below, Captain Harper must fight for justice and for his life. His enemies are many and his only ally is a devil he knows too well.
Aah, Wicked Gentlemen …what a treat this is. Brutal murderings, a dark and gritty world, mystery, violence, demons, vengeance and addiction. Tis just my thing.
Ginn Hale’s imagination and inventiveness is, as always an awesome thing to behold. She creates a world where demons or prodigals now live under oppression in a city of night built under the city of men – she calls it Hells Below, and the atmosphere is repressive, dark or at best, gas lit. The streets above are crooked and the smell of piss and baked bread, vanilla and horse tweaks my nose such is the realism of her descriptive wording.
Wicked Gentlemen is a story in two books; the first is about a set of gruesome murders and an investigation, told from Belimai’s POV. The pace is fast and the thrill of the mystery is, well …thrilling (sorry, Ginn Hale I am not). The second book is told from Captain Harper’s POV and it’s about vengeance, healing and romance.
Belimai is a self-exiled prodigal demon who is called on by Captain Harper to help with an investigation into the murders of other prodigal demons. His self-flagellating dispirited character with nuance of demon is magnetic. I loved his darkness, his cynical snark and his flaws; plus he has the coolest demon ability ever! Harper is light to Belimai’s dark – a perfect if somewhat hesitant match.
To me, the strength of this novel is the joy of reading the words of a true wordsmith. Hale builds worlds and people with such scope and depth that it’s no effort at all to fall into them head first; just like you would if presented with a vat of cherry chocolate mousse and not, in reality, the filthy smelly streets of a foreign world inhabited by demons and madmen. Her writing enthrals and excites me because there is always something between the lines to discover.
Just read this from the demon Belamai’s POV, see how subtly Hale reveals his personality, delicately exposing his wickedness…
“I held the shot glass up and watched the way the liquid distorted the image of Captain Harper’s face. There was something fascinating about the way it flawed his features. It only took a tiny shift, just a curve of glass, to ruin him.”
An innocent observation, jealousy, admiration or a subtle threat? Either way, it lends itself beautifully in revealing the darkness within Belimai… it’s beautiful to me.
So why not five stars? As much as I loved this world and its characters something in the romantic development between book 1 and 2 was missing, I felt like I missed its evolution into the something more. I found myself disappointed that the ending reached such a logical, slightly anticlimactic conclusion. I didn’t want it to end so neatly, I wanted more of something else, something like Wow! But still; Ginn Hale is a Goddess and I shall continue my eternal worship of her talent.
Recommended for everyone, even if you don’t read fantasy or paranormal. Read it because it is a rare author who can give you this…