Dante Valentine - Series by Lilith Saintcrow
Dante "Danny" Valentine lives in a gritty future world where humans with magic psi powers have finally found some legal protection, if not exactly acceptance.
Danny is a Necromance; she can see and communicate with the dead, raise and lay ghosts. And she's a damned good Necromance - maybe one of the best of her generation. Small comfort for the brutal life she's led, maybe, but it's what she's got.
And then a demon shows up on her doorstep, come to escort her to an appointment with Lucifer, Prince of Lies and ruler of Hell. Lucifer just needs Danny to do a small job for him ...
However brutal Danny's life may have been up to this point, it's guarenteed to get a whole lot worse.
Review & Comments
This series is my favorite, bar none. I was considering making a 7 Star category just for it.
The characters will always stand out in my memory, but it's the writing style that smacks me under the breastbone every time. The stories - the themes, the locations, and most especially the characters - have a mythic quality that gives the entire series the feel of a fever dream: too sharp, too vivid, too lurid to be anything but unreal.
And yet the writing is never over-the-top. Magic flies, weapons flash, blood splatters and we confront the primal font of evil ... and somehow it's not too much. It's not silly overblown. It is, in fact, visceral and real.
A major hat tip to Lilith Saintcrow: it's a true talent who can pull off a trip to Hell and a meeting with Lucifer in the first couple of chapters of the first book and make it feel not just terrifying but terrifying in an elegant, alien way.
On the flip side, one of the most understated threads of the series is also the one that keeps me coming back to read it year after year: the romance. There are few happy endings here, little to no explicit sex, and not even a lot of romantic tension in the way I would usually define it. But the relationships ...
Oh, the relationships. Suffice it to say that while the personal connections between the characters, living and dead, are just as mythically satisfying as the themes, it is also true that the page-by-page details of those relationships are just as real as the fist-fights.
In fact, if I have any hesitation about recommending this series at all, it's the fact that every time I read it I end up spending three days locked in my room because I can't stand to stop reading - half of those days in tears - and I come out after I'm done an emotional wreck. This series affects me.
I will also mention in passing that I am fascinated by the world of Dante Valentine. It feels deep and logically self-consistent even when we only see it through the snippets of Danny's life. I'd love to see more stories set in this world ... although I admit that I'd be even happier if they involved someone like Japhrimel.
This series is complete; it ends with the book To Hell and Back.