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Wicked Gentlemen

Posted on 2010.01.22 at 18:06
Current Mood: awakeawake
Last night, I read a marvelous m/m book called Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale. I had vaguely heard about it before and so had it on my Amazon to-buy list for a while. A Christmas gift certificate allowed me to treat myself. Very glad I did. The story is set in an AU world that feels like Dicken's London in which Prodigals, an underclass of beings descended from demons, co-exist uneasily with humans. The Prodigals are often hauled off to the Inquisition where they are tortured for various offenses, including manifesting aspects of their nature. The first part of the book is from the point of view of a Prodigal named Belimai Sykes(what a great name), who has undergone "correction" in one of these facilities, resulting in psychological damage and an addiction to an opium-like substance. He makes his living turning tricks and doing odd jobs. Belimai has a rare gift even among Prodigals. He can fly. The description of his flight through the smoggy city is positively lyrical.

The story opens with the arrival of a high-ranking member of the Inquisition, Captain Harper, who hires Belimai to help solve a missing person case with a twist. The missing woman is his sister and someone is killing Prodigals associated with her by ripping out their bellies ala Jack-the-Ripper. In his self-destructive way, cynical Belimai is drawn to the Inquisitor, who is not what he appears at first.

From the description above, this may sound like a sort of typical vampire or underworld type story, which is not usually my cup of tea. However, from the first page, I was intrigued by this world, largely due to the superior quality of the writing, with pithy observations and sights, sounds, and smells that draw you in. Here's the opening:

The night hung in tatters.Gas streetlamps chewed at the darkness. Candles cast dull halos through the dirty windows of he tenements across the street.Heavy purple clouds pumped up from smoke stacks and patterned the sky like ugly patches on a black velvet curtain.A few fireflies blinked from what corners of blackness remained. A pair of them invaded the darkness of my rooms.I watched them flicker, darting through their insectile courtship.They swooped past my face, circled, and then alighted inside the fold of my shirtsleeve.They crept close to one another, brilliant desire flashing through their tiny bodies.Their antennae touched and quivered. The female firefly reached and stroked the male.He rushed into her embrace.Holding him close, she crushed her powerful mandibles through his head.Their flickering bodies blinked in perfect unison as she devoured him.

And with that wonderful metaphor, you know you're in a cruel place. Unlike some stories I've read, the author doesn't feel a need to explain this world up front. Instead she feeds us information as the story progresses so that we get it effortlessly. She knows how to create suspense (something I need to study more), and I loved the two main characters, both of whom grapple with their own demons. I enjoyed their slowly blossoming and strangely innocent affection for each other in the midst of their dark, violent world. It's an m/m romance of a different sort, with a few discreet sex scenes, which rather ache for fanfic. I heartily recommend it.


aglarien1 at 2010-01-23 01:20 (UTC) (Link)
I've added it to my cart - thanks for the recommendation!
elfscribe5 at 2010-01-23 01:35 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I think you'll like it Agie.
aglarien1 at 2010-01-23 03:02 (UTC) (Link)
I'm looking forward to it - always looking for good books of the genre to read.
just_ann_now at 2010-01-23 01:47 (UTC) (Link)
elfscribe5 at 2010-01-23 02:03 (UTC) (Link)
Worth reading for sure.
malinorne2003 at 2010-01-23 08:08 (UTC) (Link)
From your description it seems a bit too dark and explicitly violent for me, but I fell in love with the language and writing style just from the small sample with the fireflies. I might pick up courage and read it eventually!
elfscribe5 at 2010-01-23 17:55 (UTC) (Link)
Hi Mal! You know the violence is not terribly graphic, although its definitely there. If anything, I thought that actually she slides away from emotionally difficult scenes, both the sex and the violence. I would have liked her to go there more. I don't think it would squick you. And yes, I really enjoyed her use of language.
malinorne2003 at 2010-01-24 14:56 (UTC) (Link)
An author who slides away from violent scenes sounds good to me :) Thanks, I might give it a try!
chaotic_binky at 2010-01-23 09:13 (UTC) (Link)
I am glad you reviewed it because when I was looking to buy books and saw this one advertised they did not give any type of review that would encourage me to buy it. Vampire and underworld stories are not my cup of tea either and this is possibly why I did not give it a second glance.

Hugs Binky xx
elfscribe5 at 2010-01-23 17:58 (UTC) (Link)
Right, the description didn't immediately appeal to me either. But Ginn Hale's world is well thought out, the writing is strong, and her main characters who unite against the injustice of their society are very appealing. I think you'd like it.
nelyo_russandol at 2010-01-23 10:51 (UTC) (Link)
Always looking for interesting reads, and such recommendation can't be ignored! Looked around, Amazon.co.uk does not sell it cheaply. Might treat myself and order it from your .com directly. Problem is, I'll be waiting for ever! ;-)

elfscribe5 at 2010-01-23 17:59 (UTC) (Link)
Oh gad, how long does it take for them to ship a book over to you? Worth the wait, even though I assure you, you'll devour it in one sitting.
nelyo_russandol at 2010-01-23 21:30 (UTC) (Link)
Sometimes it has taken 3-4 weeks. Anyway, it's ordered, so we'll see this time...
Thanks for the review!!
ex_fimbreth at 2010-01-23 11:41 (UTC) (Link)
Oh yes, Wicked Gentlemen is a wonderful story! In fact, I'd read it first about a year ago, and JUST reread it earlier this week. What a timely post!
elfscribe5 at 2010-01-23 18:05 (UTC) (Link)
Funny how events may coincide that way. g* The book does bear rereading, which is usually my test. I started in on it again last night. In addition, it made me really want more at the end, you know that mental, oh no, it's over. In fact I read a review from someone else on Good Reads who said she didn't like it because she wanted more at the end and felt cheated she didn't get it. To my mind, that's a good sign, not a bad one. I've been thinking about how it could have been better. I do think she slides away from scenes I would want to see. I think it would have been important to see them in bed together at the beginning of the relationship and later on, to see the dynamic. It needn't be graphic at all, but here's a case where the sex scenes are important to understanding the relationship. She hints at it, but yeah, I think having it is justified, and not just for prurient reasons. Also, I would have liked more between the first half and second half of the book. I wondered about her choice in changing pov, but realize it's necessary because Captain Harper is the active agent in Part 2. It's almost like the novel is two short stories put together. I think she could have racketed up the conflict more, maybe had Belimai think Harper had betrayed him or some such, but hey, I would be way happy to have written something like this.

Edited at 2010-01-23 06:12 pm (UTC)
thrihyrne at 2010-01-27 05:22 (UTC) (Link)
Hey there! So, so wonderful to chat with you this afternoon! And I know someone else on my flist recommended Wicked Gentlemen, but to have your endorsement makes it even more appealing. I've now requested it via interlibrary loan. ;)

((((hugs)))) and thanks again for the long talk and this recommendation.
elfscribe5 at 2010-01-27 05:54 (UTC) (Link)
Hi sweetie. Dito for the talk. I can't wait to talk to you about this book. I can really see you writing fanfic for it.
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