The Devil’s Concubine by Jill Braden
Brief Summary: QuiTai, the Devil’s concubine and crime mastermind is already playing a dangerous game—simultaneously placating the Devil while also scheming for the freedom of her people the Ponongese. But when Thampurian spy Kyam Tul comes to her about a deadly Ravidian plot, the stakes are raised.
The Tsundoku Scale: Top of the Pile, 8 out of 10.
The Good: QuiTai is that appealing, hard-to-go-wrong character trifecta of sassy, sexy, and smart—traits that go a long way to making a character engaging and exciting. And did I mention that she’s a venom wielding snake hybrid in a world with jelly lanterns, corruption, and werewolves? QuiTai is a fantasy version of a hard-boiled detective, a woman of wits and expertise in a world that we the reader are totally unfamiliar with, and thereby intrigued by. What’s more, however, is that QuiTai’s richly complicated, a dark hero who on one hand takes care to make sure a little boy attends school while on the other hand she unabashedly seduces a mass murderer to get what she wants. And I love the character of Kyam, the “good-guy” Thampurian that always exasperates QuiTai, but manages to hold his own just the same. The constant banter and quips between QuiTai and Kyam are priceless, and it adds charm and humor to the tale. What’s great about this story is that it never takes itself to seriously. While the character are absolutely important, there is always a larger sense of being told a story and listening to the grand scheme of how the world changed from Kyam and QuiTai’s personal relationship, to the Ravidian plot, to the entire political situation between the Ponongese and the Thampurians —you don’t have to question motives or situations, you simply just sit back and enjoy and see where it goes.
The Bad: There are werewolves and vampires (sort of). Ever since the whole Twilight series came out, I’ve been adamantly against seeing werewolves and vampires in any story because I hate the obsession it spurs. It ruins the fantasy to me when the characters are always mesmerized by what these creatures do, and not who they are. Fantasy is about making a new world, but normalizing it, so that it becomes somewhat expected to see a flying car or a talking book or even a werewolf. When the characters are still gaping at what’s “normal” halfway through the book, it’s really annoying. To be fair, QuiTai is technically not a vampire at all, she’s more like a snake, but she still has fangs. Nevertheless, despite my dislike of werewolves and vampires, the story really did avoid the above stereotypes that I dislike—the book just happened to have those creatures and there was nothing more to it. Yes, they had special abilities, but that was it—no extra drama or irrationally drawn-out romance. Speaking of romance however, I did feel that QuiTai’s romance with Jezeeret is a little over-played in the book, if only because I cannot imagine the daring, intelligent QuiTai being so manipulated by a drug-riddled woman. It does, however, add another level of depth to QuiTai’s already interesting character.