Title: Devil Take Me
Authors: Jordan L. Hawk, TA Moore, Ginn Hale, C.S. Poe, Rhys Ford, and Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: DSP Publications
Length: 450 Pages
Category: Horror, Paranormal
At a Glance: 4.5 Stars overall, Devil Take Me is a wonderful anthology.
Reviewed By: Jovan
Blurb: Temptation lurks around every corner in worlds sometimes dark, sometimes lurid. Giving in is both dangerous and satisfying, though never in the ways one expects. While these enticements offer a vast range of benefits and boons, the cost is a soul and the devil expects his due. Sometimes suave and charming or calculating and cruel, these devils have schemes and desires of their own. They can be creatures to run away from… or toward.
Join the most unique and celebrated authors of LGBT urban fantasy and paranormal fiction for a fast-paced and unpredictable ride, from a city on the other side of reality, to a world suspended in dusk, to a twisted version of the 1960s and 70s.
Meet devils in top hats and waistcoats, a defrocked motorcycle-riding priest, and a genderfluid antihero—among many more. Full of humor, romance, horror, action, intrigue, and magic, these stories have one common element….
They’re one hell of a good time.
Review: Devil Take Me is a wonderful anthology, featuring very well-written novellas that, while all based on the premise of doing a demon/devil a favor to get what you want, illustrates the range and creativity of the authors.
Infernal Affairs by Jordan L. Hawk:
The anthology kicks off with the lightest in the group, and tells the story of Ralgath, a demon demoted to the Customer Service Intake department after his first day as a crossroads demon goes sideways when he is outwitted by his mortal target, Chess. Ralgath gets a chance at redemption when he is tasked with finding two crossroads demons that have gone missing in the mortal realm; however, he must team up with Chess to do so. In the course of their hunt, the reader learns more about Chess and Ralgath’s very similar motivations and the depth of the connection they forged the night they fuc—met. This story was the most romance-centric and sweetest, with the human and demon realms really only distinguishable by the look of the demons. Hawk definitely upended my expectations of Ralgath, and I’m still not sure how I feel about a crossroads demon being so bent out of shape for being used. Upset that a human got the upper hand—absolutely—salty and hurt for being used. . .jury’s still out on that one, but Ralgath’s hurt feelings fit with the tone and conceptualization of the supernatural world in this fun mystery caper with its very human demons who catch colds and who will do anything to escape their crappy jobs.
Collared by TA Moore:
This is a great story that almost does itself a disservice by being jam-packed with potential. Jack, an ex-priest turned supernatural PI, has been offered the return of his soul if he finds an invaluable item stolen from Math, the demon who owns Jack’s soul. . . and his heart. Collared drops you into the world, leaving you with the sense of watching episode three, season four of a serialized show, with conversations, body hopping and past sins discussed as if the reader should know the lingo, rules and history. So, for most of the story, the reader is left to follow along with Jack and to puzzle out a general sense of the rules, but once you do, you can focus on this grim, literally godforsaken town and Jack’s quest to retrieve the stolen treasure. By about ¾ in, there aren’t any more side-stories or hints that distract from the episode in progress and you can finally give Jack and this adventure your full attention and by the end, you just want more. Unfortunately, there are no more episodes to watch, so you’re left a bit dissatisfied because so much of the story includes excerpts and memories from a past that is not explained or explored. Collared is definitely rich enough in potential to be expanded into a full-length novel. . .or two.
Counterfeit Viscount by Ginn Hale:
This story was the most balanced of the group in the sense that the worldbuilding was done in such a way as to incorporate the supernatural element into the everyday world of the characters, and that the mystery and emotional elements are equally important. The supernatural beings, called Prodigals, are descendants of fallen angels from the armies of Hell, who “had ascended to accept salvation and conversion at the hands of the church,” and are now an exploited and marginalized population. During the war between this England-esque country and another called Nornia, Archie Fallmont sold his soul on the battlefields to the Prodigal Nimble Hobbs for the power and wealth to destroy his uncle Silas. After years of meeting Nimble one day every three months to pay his debt, Nimble offers Silas a clean slate if he can help Nimble with his investigation into the disappearance of several Prodigals. With the end of his dealings with Nimble close at hand, Archie is forced to face that getting his soul back will break his heart. This is a slow-paced, full on mystery with enjoyable, well-developed characters and an interesting plot. However, it may be too heavy in the mystery genre and too light in the supernatural genre for some.
11:59 by C.S. Poe:
In this story, where deities of mythology and our modern world collide, and monstrous nightmares chase their victims from their dreams to become flesh, Asuka Kawashima, when faced with death, sold his soul for the ability to protect people from the monsters.
“But the Devil is sly, and while he takes Asuka’s ability to dream, making him immune to nightmares, it also removed Asuka’s abstract sense of dreaming. Now life is gray, hopeless, and without wishes.”
After five years of fighting a battle he has no hope of winning, and without the ability to even have hope, Asuka meets Merrick Grace, a bright soul who, despite having lived with fear, death, and loss, has enough hope and dreams of a better world for Asuka to briefly touch a peripheral glimmer of his lost possibilities. So, when Asuka is offered his soul if he undertakes a hero’s quest, the potential to stop the nightmares at their source and a chance at a future with Merrick are worth risking it all. The incorporation of the Greco-Roman mythological elements and symbolism into the the New York City environment and the characters is excellent. As Asuka and Merrick are more symbolic archetypes and a product of the reality they live in with its truncated possibilities, there is not much focus on their personalities or their development. However, this actually fits well with the type of story Poe is telling as well as the theme. As with who Asuka and Merrick are as characters, the story is very much about hope and possibility, so the romance between them is also more of a promise than a reality, but again speaks to the theme in this well-crafted and enjoyable tale.
Wonderland City by Rhys Ford:
In this dark homage to Alice in Wonderland, Xander Spade has even bigger worries than Az, the devil to whom he sold his soul and shoved him through the looking glass into Wonderland City. After years of bloody, tortuous servitude to the Queen of Hearts, Xander is free of the mad Queen’s tyranny and working as a bounty hunter. He doesn’t have much, but the life he’s carved out on this side of the glass is his own, and he won’t be a possession for anyone, including Jean Michel, the former prince and Knave of Hearts. However, when Xander is offered the return of his soul and a ticket back home, if he can find a little girl who came through the glass, he is forced to team up with the man who wants nothing more than to make Xander his. Written in Ford’s trademark imaginative and detailed style, Wonderland City is a mad mix of cheeky, outrageous, darkly-funny, and just plain ol’ dark. The story was definitely more focused on the adventure and worldbuilding, as Xander and Jean Michel’s relationship and history is only marginally discussed. Given from Jack’s viewpoint and his limited perspective and knowledge of Jean Michel’s motivations, until near the end, the reader gets a better sense of and connection to Xander’s assistant, Dana, who only appears briefly, and Xander’s glowing blue dog, than to Jean Michel. For me, however, this does not detract from the scope and narrative that the story is telling nor my enjoyment of the mayhem and madness that the power of a child’s imagination can bring to an already chaotic world.
Dark Favors by Jordan Castillo Price:
In this delightfully dark end to the anthology, there are two kinds of people—the Chosen and the sheep. The Chosen have sold their souls and are able to see behind the curtain to the machinations of how the world works—a system of favors and power granted by the Devil and spread into the world by the Chosen. Foolish and young, Johnny becomes a Chosen, and spends the next half of his life bitter and angry about his choice, and refusing to play the game by depriving himself of any form of pleasure or anything that could require the currency of a favor, thereby amassing a huge reservoir of power by granting favors, but never asking for anything in return. When the Devil offers him a deal he can’t refuse, Johnny finds himself tasked with killing a TV celebrity, with strict instructions not to hurt her head of security, Adam. Confronted with an attraction and connection to Adam he has never experienced before, Johnny finds himself trapped in a web with even bigger stakes. Johnny is a man who “lived off spite and regret,” while Adam revels in the dark influence he wields, and the course of Johnny and Adam’s relationship is as swift and darkly compelling as the power that courses through the city. The resolution is not your typical HFN, but it’s definitely true to the story and offers a devilish end to an anthology that delivers on its promise as “one hell of a good time”.
You can buy Devil Take Me here:
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