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Friday, December 17, 2010

Lilith Saintcrow: JILL KISMET SERIES

Author: Lilith Saintcrow 
Plot Type: UF
Ratings: V5, S3, H2
Publisher and Titles: Orbit
    Night Shift (2008)
    Hunter’s Prayer (2008)
    Redemption Alley (2009)
    Flesh Circus (2009)
    Heaven’s Spite (2010)
    Angel Town (2011) (FINAL BOOK)

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 11/26/11 to include a review of the sixth and final book in the series: Angel Town. That review follows this synopsis of the series: 

     Jill Kismet ("Kiss") is a psychic and a demon hunter in Santa Luz, a city in the American Southwest. Trained by her late teacher, Mikhail, Jill works as an occult consultant with the local police department. As the liaison between the paranormal community and the police, Jill’s job description includes exorcism and spiritual extermination. Jill’s police department contact is Montaigne (“Monty”), who provides human backup and tries not to know too much about the dark side of Jill’s supernatural adventures. 

     Jill’s nemesis is Pericles (“Perry”), the powerful hellbreed (demon, aka 'breed) who runs the supernatural part of town. On her right wrist, Jill wears Perry’s hellbreed mark (in the shape of puckered lips—a kiss), which gives her demonic strength and near immortality, but also tries to pull her to the dark side. Jill accepted the mark with Mikhail’s blessing to attain strength enough to make her town safe from even the most powerful dark forces. 

     Jill’s love interest is Saul Dustcircle, a Native American were-cougar, who arrives in Santa Luz in book 1 in search of his sister’s killer. Although Saul is a powerful supernatural, he is also a house husband, doing all of the cooking, cleaning, and decorating of the couple's homealmost too gentle for a fierce heroine like Jill. 

     Each book focuses on the rise and fall of an evil and violent creature in Santa Luz, including a rogue were, several psychotic hellbreeds, and a wendigo. (The author includes a glossary of demonic terms in each book.) Battle scenes are graphic and brutal. Although Jill is nearly immortal, she sustains an incredible number of horrible injuries and spends many conscious and unconscious hours healing from various traumas. 

     This is a great series, with well-developed world building, strong characters, and action-filled plots that play out perfectly. Jill is a truly great UF heroine, torn between her dark and light sides and always conflicted as to what path to take in her life. She is driven to protect her city, but she doesn't always make the "right" decisions as she does so, and she must live, or die, with the dark consequences of her actions. Perry torments Jill constantly, always rooting for her dark side to surface, so Jill's life is always fraught with danger and uncertainties

     In Heaven’s Spite, Jill learns some very disturbing facts about Mikhail and has a life-changing experience that leads directly and shockingly (in mid-word, no less) into Angel Town, the final book in the series. Don't read the ending'll regret it! 

     As Angel Town opens, Jill awakens in the desert, with no memories. Here, she takes a good look at herself: "My forearms were pale under the screen of filth. On my right wrist, just above the softest part, something glittered. Hard, like a diamond. It caught the moonlight and sent back a dart of brilliance, straight through my aching skull. The sight filled me with unsteady loathing, and I shut my eyes. Start with the obvious first. Who am I?...Who am I? I tilted my head back and screamed, a lonely curlew cry. Because I didn't know." (p. 10)

     Jill (and the reader) wonder about that mysterious and ominous wrist jewel that seems to make her much more powerful than she was before. As Jill makes her way back to Santa Luz, she remembers her name, and thenvery graduallyother memories begin to return, but not before she makes a few wrong decisions. After a reunion with Perry, which ends violently, Jill finds Saul and her friends and tries to make sense of what has happened to her. While she was gone, the 'breeds (under Perry's command) started an all-out war against both the were-community and the voodoo community, so by now, the supernatural citizens of Santa Luz are either dead or in deep hiding. Jill soon realizes that Perry has some big plans that involve using her to achieve his ascension to power, and she is determined to stop him. The finale is extremely violent (as usual), as a wide assortment of forcesboth good and evilall come together in a huge clash that brings this great series to an exhilarating and most satisfying conclusion. (Keep the title in mind as you read the book.)

Here is Jill as she muses on the different ways people react to monsters:
     "Some hunters say it's not the big weird that wallops you the hardest. It's the just-slightly-off, the subtly wrong. Because it echoes inside your head and builds until you want to scream. I've lost civilians to both. Some people crack....Some go screamingly, eye-clawingly, gratefully insane when faced with something that breaks all their base-level assumptions about how the world works. Still others take the whole enchilada, seem okay, then walk home and ventilate themselves. You just can't ever tell. You can only visit the grave afterward and feel the horrific tightness in your chest that means you didn't do a good enough job protecting them." (Angel Town, p. 150) 

    As one reviewer elegantly and accurately states, "Nobody writes visceral, blood-and-guts-and-ichor, guns-and-knives-and-silver bullets, heaven-and-hell, demons-and-werecougars, dark urban fantasy like Lilith Saintcrow." He's absolutely correct. I highly recommend this series to all lovers of urban fantasy. The best way to read JILL KISMET is to start with Night Shift, and work your way through the books in order. Please don't start in the middle because you'll hate yourself later

     If you enjoy reading about light/dark conflicted heroines, here are two other series you might enjoy. Both are high on my top-ten list of all-time UF favorites:
   Click HERE to read my review of Stacia Kane's DOWNSIDE GHOSTS series.  
   Click HERE to read my review of Kim Harrison's THE HOLLOWS series.

     Saintcrow also writes stand-alone paranormal novels, including The Demon’s Librarian (ImaJinn Books, 2009), in which a motorcycle-riding librarian teams up with a half-demon to battle the forces of darkness. 

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