elfscribe5 (elfscribe5) wrote,
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Wicked Gentlemen

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.
Tags: book reviews
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