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Monday, March 5, 2012

'Burned' Void City #4 by J.F. Lewis

 From the BLURB:

Immortal. Ingenious. And downright infuriating.

Void City's resident badass vampire has a secret to keep, everything to lose, and a plan to win it all. Eric has taken control of the city's supernatural hierarchy, putting all the deals and contracts that allow Void City to function up for renegotitation. When he installs his insane vampire daughter, Greta, as Void City's sheriff of the supernatural, bloody mayhem ensues.

To further complicate things, the love of Eric's life is back from the dead, immortally young, at a cost that has put Eric under the thumb of a very powerful demon. The mysterious mouser Talbot, morose mage Magbidion, and all of Eric's thralls are trying to help him keep things under control...

But with early onset Alzheimer's, vampire hunters, demons, a band of chupacabra, a cursed cousin with a serious grudge, and Rachel as his new "handler"... there's just not an app for that.

** warning, this review contains SPOILERS for the last three ‘Void City’ books **

When we left him in Void City, vampire bad-ass Eric had just made a deal with hell to get back the only woman he has ever loved . . .  now he’s unwittingly King of the city’s vamps and tasked with completing a series of torturous hellish missions to keep his lady-love, Marilyn.

If The Plan goes right, Eric might just get everything he has ever wanted – both before and after he turned vampire – but if he fails, everyone he cares about might pay the price.

‘Burned’ is the fourth book in J.F. Lewis’s rollicking urban fantasy ‘Void City’ series.

This is my fourth rodeo with J.F. Lewis, Eric & Co. You’d really think that by now I'd know the name of the game – that ‘Void City’ is a rude & crude series, delighting in gross-out horror and a tantalizingly jerky protagonist. But in his fourth venture, J.F. Lewis sweeps the rug out from under readers and gives his series a revamp (har, har!).

At the end of third book, ‘Crossed’, Eric was offered the impossible . . .  having his true love returned to him from the bowels of Hell. Never mind that at the time he was married to his vampire child, Tabitha, or screwing around with her little demoness sister, Rachel. Put aside the fact that Eric learnt not too long ago of Marilyn and Roger’s betrayals when the two were alive and human. Eric was offered the one thing in life he has ever cared about – returned to him, immortal and young again – and that was one temptation he refused to pass up. So he made an open-ended deal with Hell, agreed to complete some Demon’s ridiculous mission objectives, all in the name of love.

Thus, when ‘Burned’ begins Marilyn is back – no longer the cantankerous old lady chain-smoker of first book ‘Staked’ (well, still a chain-smoker) but this time immortal and impenetrable (even by Eric himself, no matter how much he moons after her). Marilyn is like Joan Harris in ‘Mad Men’, all red hair, curves and wicked smoulder – with a braying laugh and endless reams of guilt for the tasks Eric is having to accomplish, to earn her back from Hell. With Marilyn’s addition to the ‘Void City’ cast, the entire series has undergone a total game-changer.

From the start of ‘Void City’, Eric has never pretended to be anything other than a stone-cold killer. He makes no apologies or excuses for his murderous streak – except to say, ‘I’m a vampire. Deal with it.’ He is as ruthless with his human dinners as he is with his lady loves – the various women who have come in and out of his life, tepid imitations of his one true love, Marilyn. Even when he married Tabitha he was screwing her sister on the side – and in his wedding vows promised to cheat on her and be an all-round terrible husband. The only woman in Eric’s life of late, who he hasn’t royally screwed over, is his adopted vampire child, Greta. But, with Marilyn entering the scene as a new main character in ‘Burned’, it seems that Eric’s stead-fast stance of morally ambiguous anti-hero revelry is being flipped on its axis, and all in the name of true love. . .
“Whatever it is, I’ll do it.” Yeah, I know. Not so smart. But since Marilyn was alive, okay, nearby, and even young again . . .  Why should I care about the bad things that happen in the world as long as they don’t happen to her? I'd seen her die with my own eyes, watched her soul get sucked into hell, and then . . .  in spite of everything . . .  I got her back.
I won. I won. I fucking won! I still wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

That’s not to say that Eric and Marilyn don’t have ‘issues’. She’s uneasy with the Hell tasks he is carrying out in her name, and she flat refuses to start anything up with him. But Eric lives in hope, and it’s a different (dare I say, crushing?) side of Eric that we read in ‘Burned’.

Of course, amidst all this talk of love and glimmering redemption, there is still plenty of ass-kicking. Void City’s police force needs a spring clean, and as Eric carries out his missions from Hell there are enough limbs, blood and weregeckos to go round.

But ‘Burned’ does feel like a bit of a rebirth for ‘Void City’. New characters are entering the scene, while a few old favourites are being slowly pushed out. As well as Marilyn, a new vampire cousin of Eric’s joins the cast of quirks. Evelyn is a vampire with a detachable head, who has a vendetta against Eric, but unwittingly becomes Greta’s sheriff side-kick. Greta and Evelyn sometimes steal the show in ‘Burned’ – their repartee is often garish and gruesome mixed with random hilarity, and some of their scenes are Tarantino-esque (picture the sedate ‘Royale with Cheese’ conversation in ‘Pulp Fiction’, right before a bloody shoot-out). Greta and Evelyn have great chemistry, and while their scenes showed a whole new level of craziness to the already mad-as-a-hatter Greta, I also laughed the hardest with these two. Like when they were trying to decide on ‘special cop names’;
“Pinky and the Brain is more like it,” she grumbled, letting her head drift higher so we were almost looking each other in the eye.
“Hmmm.” I thought that over. “I don’t know that it fits.” I narrowed my eyes at her, flashing them red for a brief moment.
“Try saying ‘Narf’.”
“Narf,” she said without enthusiasm.

Like I said, these new characters are wonderful additions to the ‘Void City’ crew, but I did feel a slight twinge of disappointment that two old favourites seem to be getting shuffled out. Rachel and Tabitha – the disastrous sister pairing are actually two of my favourite characters. Rachel, because I love to hate her and Tabitha because I've enjoyed my frustrations with her. In ‘Burned’ both of these girls have much more diminutive roles than in the last three books, and it’s a bit of a shame. Rachel, I can understand had to have a slightly less demanding role since her nefarious plans were revealed in ‘Crossed’. But Tabitha is being kicked aside as Eric faces up to his affections for Marilyn. In ‘Burned’ he urges Tabitha to forget about him, move on and do something with her life. And that’s a great bit of advice for Tabitha – because as he (and readers) knows, Tabitha is a lot smarter and funnier than anyone gives her credit for. And for that reason I do hope that her smaller role in ‘Burned’ is not an indication of her being slowly clapped off the ‘Void City’ stage. I still think she has a lot to offer – and some of my favourite scenes in the book were between all the women; when Evelyn, Greta and Tabitha had a heart-to-heart, and even more when Tabitha and Marilyn nutted out some pressing questions. Brilliant!

‘Burned’ is a game-changer of a book. Just when I thought I had Eric and all his bad-assery all mapped out, J.F. Lewis goes and reveals new facets to Eric’s soul, and shines a burning glimmer of hope on his redemptive path. Marilyn’s addition to the cast has spun the ‘Void City’ series into a whole new stratosphere of awesome, and not since Starsky & Hutch has there been such a good cop pairing as in Greta and LEGO-head Evelyn. I didn’t think it was possible, but with ‘Burned’ I have fallen a little bit more in love with J.F. Lewis’s ‘Void City’ series. Now gimme, gimme, gimme the fifth book!

5/5

1 comment:

  1. what a great review, Danielle! I'm a big fan of the series, and now I'm even more desperate to get the forth book. I've never warmed up to Rachel, but Greta was my favorite, and I'm glad she continues to entertain :)

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