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Friday, May 20, 2011


Author:  Ann Aguirre
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Publisher and Titles:  Roc
          Blue Diablo (4/2009)
          Hell Fire (4/2010)
          Shady Lady (4/2011)
          Devil's Punch (4/2012)
          Agave Kiss (3/2013) (FINAL)

     This post was revised and updated on 3/30/13 to include a review of the fifth and FINAL book in the series, Agave Kiss. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building, a brief description of books 1 and 2, and full reviews of books 3 and 4:

            BOOK 5:  Agave Kiss            
     Corine has several big problems to solve in this final book. Most importantly, she has to find a way to resurrect her lover, Chance, from the dead. In the meantime, she has to deal with Barachiel, an arrogant, self-proclaimed archangel who insists that she must fight on his side. Next, she has to save the life of her Internet friend, Ian Booke, who faces certain death after Corine helps him break the curse that has held him captive in his home for decades. Then there are the minions who have been sent to collect on Corine's demon debt that is left over from the last book. And don't forget the situation with Shannon (Corine's BFF) and Jesse (Corine's ex-boyfriend). They're in love, and the situation is awkward when the three of them are together. On top of all these problems, Corine faces a major, life-changing event that I won't spell out here. You'll pick up on it right away, thoughwell before the big reveal (at least I did). 

     The plot, as you can imagine, jumps from one of Corine's problems to the next, with the rescue of Chance looming over every scene. The story includes moments of joy, but it also includes some heartbreak as not all of the continuing characters make it through to the end. I'm going to keep this review short, mainly because I don't want to risk giving out any spoilers.

     This is a much stronger book than the previous one. Here, Corine is front and center, showing off her courage and intelligence as she fights to get back her man and protect her friends. Problematically, Corine lost some of her powers as a result of events in book 4, so she has to improvise and she has to learn to accept help from her friends, particularly Kelethiel (Kel), the Nephilim (half-angel/half-human) who has helped her out in the past. This is a great ending for a strong series. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Agave Kiss (scroll down a bit).
          WORLD-BUILDING AND BOOKS 1 & 2         
      As the series begins, Corine Solomon is a handler—a psychometrist. She can touch something and know its history and, sometimes, its future. She is not the usual gun-toting, smart-mouthed urban fantasy heroine. Instead, she dresses in hippie chic; likes to eat; runs an pawnshop; and has a dry, understated sense of humor. In the past, Corine and her lover Chance Yi earned their living by using Corine’s ability to find missing persons. Chance has his own supernatural power: his luck, which (so far) keeps him safe but not those around him, not even Corine. On their last job together, Corine was badly injured, but Chance escaped unharmed. When she recovered, Corine ran away, believing that Chance had been using her for his own profit. 

     In book 1, Corine has hidden herself away in a small Mexican town, where she owns a pawnshop and finally feels safe, but Chance tracks her down and convinces her to help him find his mother, who has disappeared. The plot includes demons, sorcerers, ghosts, witchcraft, black magic, and the Montoya mob. An additional love interest surfaces in book 1: Jesse Saldana, a sexy Texas police officer who has a supernatural gift of his own. 

     In book 2, Corine and Jesse go back to Kilmer, Corine’s tiny Georgia hometown, to learn about the details of the horrific death of her mother. They soon find that a dark force has taken control of the town. Corine learns a lot of new information about her early family life and has some major demon confrontations.

     Aguirre won the P.E.A.R.L. Award for best new author in 2008.  

            BOOK 3: Shady Lady            
     The third book reaches back to book 1 for the roots of its plot line. As the story opens, Corine is happily back at her pawnshop in Mexico City, with a romance-tinged long-distance relationship with Jesse, her cop semi-boyfriend in Laredo, Texas, and no relationship at all with her ex-boyfriend, Chance. When Corine finds an exquisite pair of silver salt and pepper shakers on her doorstep, she thinks she's in luck, but just as she reaches into the box to touch them, she is stopped by a voice from her pastKel Ferguson, who warns her that the shakers have been hexed with dark magica killing curse set specifically for Corine. The mysterious, fully tattooed Kel was an ally back in book 1, but he has always seemed a bit scary to Corine. Kel maintains that he is the Hand of God, "tasked with killing those who would push the world toward the end of days." (p. 3). So...Corine is probably smart to be a bit fearful.     

     As it turns out, the the curse was cast by someone working for the Laredo mob boss, Montoya, whose empire was badly damaged (again, back in book 1) by Corine and her friends. Now, Montoya is out to get (i.e., torture and kill) Corine once and for all. As Corine and Kel work together to defeat Montoya, their relationship changes, first becoming friendship and then becoming more. We finally find out more information about who—and what—Kel is—and was. But Corine's romantic life has never been easy, so we also have some momentous changes in her relationships with Jesse and Chance. One other thing: Corine learns the significance of her last name.

     The story line is compelling, with Corine's powers developing at a brisk rate, and her self-confidence growing right along with her powers. Corine's BFF  relationship with Shannon (a supporting character from book 2) is nicely, and heartbreakingly, developed and resolved, perhaps not the way we'd like to have seen it, but there is always a chance that the next book(s) will pick up their friendship again. If you've read book 2 (and you should do that before reading this one), you'll remember that Corine is still suffering from the aftermath of the battle in book 2 that nearly got her killed. She was saved by the demon "Maury," but she owes him a favor, which he collects in this book. Corine must face the dark effects that will come from paying off that demonic debt. This is a great story on all levels. The book ends on a sad note, when fate intervenes as Corine casts a spell, and that leaves two of her friends with long-lasting negative effects.

     There's lots to like about this strong series. The supporting characters are very well developed, particularly Chance and Kel. It's a treat to watch Corine grow in confidence as she learns that she is much stronger than she ever thought she could be. She is definitely one of a kind, not the usual over-the-top, clichéd urban fantasy heroine.

            BOOK 4:  Devil's Punch            
     This has been such a strong series up until this point that I'm very sorry to have to say that this book was a real disappointment. As the story opens, Chance has moved to Mexico as he tries to prove to Corine that he has changed and that he will do anything to get her back—to convince her to trust him again. The first few chapters are rather sweet as they begin to build a new, stronger relationship. Then, someone leaves a note on Corine's door threatening Shannon's life if Corine does not show up immediately at a specified location deep in the mountains. (Just to review, Shannon is the girl whom Corine befriended when she went back to her hometown in book 2,) Corine suspects that her enemy, the demon Caim (whom she defeated and humiliated in the previous book), is Shannon's kidnapper.

     When Corine and Chance arrive at the appointed location, a demon named Greydusk is waiting to guide them to Sheol (aka the Underworld). Soon after arriving in Sheol, Corine becomes possessed by the spirit of Ninlil, the former queen of Sheol. By this time, Greydusk is working for Corine, mostly because he recognizes that she (as Ninlil) is his true queen. This is where the story begins to fall apart. From this point on, Ninlil becomes the primary story teller and does most of the deeds. Occasionally, Ninlil allows Corine to surface, but it is sometimes difficult to tell who is in charge of the Corine/Ninlil body at a given moment. The longer she is possessed by Ninlil, the more demonic—and less humanCorine becomes. Chance, too, begins to change, becoming attracted to the Ninlil part of Corine and growing more powerful and bloodthirsty in battle. At one point, Ninlil reveals the identity of Chance's father to him, so we learn more about his godly status. So...both Corine and Chance are changing throughout the bookbecoming stronger and more cold hearted and viewing violence and death as necessary for the greater good. 

     Sheol has been without its queen for a very long time, and (naturally enough) not everyone is happy that Ninlil has returned. Very soon, Ninlil/Corine has a major rebellion on her hands. At one point, Corine and her friends are captured by Saremon demons, who are are skilled spell casters. During this brief episode, which has a heart-breaking ending, Corine meets a very important person from her past. The plot plays out as the enemy demons step up their attack, putting the lives of Corine, Chance, Shannon, and Greydusk at dire riskand the good guys don't all escape in one piece. Don't worry, though, because book 5 is just a year away, giving Corine plenty of time to learn enough magic to get things back to normal.

     The whole demon possession story line just didn't work for me. After the progression in the development of Corine's character in the first three books, her take-over by a cruel, pragmatic, demon queen was a huge let down. In essence, the Corine of the first three books disappears for most of this book, and probably forever. She is there at the very beginning and the very end, but in the bulk of the story, she is is replaced by an entirely different personality. Additionally, there are some illogical scenes in this story. For example, after just a week or two of training, Shannon, who has never used a weapon in her life, is able to wield a sword so skillfully against huge, armored demon warriors that she is killing them right and left and they're barely hurting her at all. Another problem is that the entire Sheol experience proceeds at a break-neck pace. When Corine steps into Sheol, she is almost immediately possessed by Ninlil, has a day or two of downtime for interior decoration and staff development in her castle, and then is quickly cast into the throes of demonic revolution. The continuous demon battles begin to blur into a homogeneous mass after awhile. The next book will follow Corine as she tries to bring back Chance, so there will probably be more scenes in the underworld. It's too bad that this once-great series has taken such a dive as it nears its end.

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