Necromancer-for-hire Dante “Danny” Valentine is at the peak of her career. But even she doesn’t expect Lucifer - or rather his number-one assassin, the demon Japhrimel - to come bearing an unrefusable job offer. Through a rip between worlds, Japhrimel takes Dante to the hot bowels of hell where a calm but sinister Lucifer promises her untold fortune and good will if she will find and eliminate the demon Vardimal, who has escaped Hell with something precious that belongs to Lucifer and is now roaming freely on earth. Although reluctant to do the Devil’s bidding, Dante immediately agrees when she realizes Vardimal is none other than Santino, a serial killer who killed her best friend when she attempted to save Dante from him.
Three things stand in the way of Dante’s resolve. One, no one knows where Santino is. Two, he is a demon, which makes him virtually un-killable as far as Dante is concerned - which brings us to the third obstacle, Japhrimel, whose orders are to be Dante’s shadow until such time as Vardimal is found. Living with a demon while trying to find another has Dante more than a bit antsy. Hostile at first, they soon become comfortable with each other and grow increasingly close. Dealing with a host of other magical creatures and assorted non-humans while riding an airborne skateboard and brandishing her sword, Dante plunges into a venture that holds certain death for her, something a concerned Japhrimel is determined to prevent, as is Dante’s ex-lover Jace.
Readers unfamiliar with Saintcrow’s futuristic world will be sucked into a story set on an Earth not far from now where a new civilization has emerged from the aftermaths of the Seventy Day War. Here magic has replaced all other religions and people with psychic powers are the norm. Their varied abilities are much in demand in various fields - particularly Dante since she is one of the best necromancers around and can easily raise the dead, whether to find a murdered person’s killer, to settle the issue of a will, etc. This new world has all the vices of our own world (including the mafia) only bigger, with more sophisticated devices and infinitely more dangerous.
A loner with a prickly attitude, smart mouth, powerful sword and an unique job, Danny Valentine is one kick-ass heroine who effortlessly holds her readers captive whether struggling to mask her hidden sorrows, smart-mouthing the Devil himself or bent on a suicidal mission to kill a serial killer/escaped demon. She is never at a loss in a verbal or physical encounter with friend, foe, or demon. This awesome fearlessness is at once laudable and darkly hints at an escalating rate of self-destruction. Saintcrow lures readers by revealing tantalizing glimpses of Dante’s pain-filled past, which explains her attitude as well as her motivation, but only just.
Secondary characters are many and interesting, chief among them the demon Japhrimel, whose thoughts and motivations Saintcrow keeps readers in suspense about until the exhilarting, action-filled finale. The emotional upheaval with which the story ends leaves a lot of questions unanswered, paving the way for the aptly named subsequent story in this series, Dead Man Rising, due to release in September 2006. Without a doubt, Lilith Saintcrow has penned a fabulous, unforgettable story that will have readers lining up to buy her previous releases and waiting with bated breath for her next book in this outstanding new series.