Why I Read It: As a fan of Ann Aguirre, I jumped aboard this series early on, and while her space opera is still my favorite, Aguirre’s doing a lot of things I enjoy in her urban fantasy series, so there was no question I’d continue reading it with the latest and greatest release, especially after the shocker-ending of Shady Lady.
The premise: ganked from BN.com: As a handler, Corine Solomon can touch any object and learn its history. Her power is a gift, but one that’s thrown her life off track. The magical inheritance she received from her mother is dangerously powerful, and Corine has managed to mark herself as a black witch by dealing with demons to solve her problems.
Back home, Corine is trying to rebuild her pawnshop and her life with her ex Chance, despite the target on her back. But when the demons she provoked kidnap her best friend in retaliation, Corine puts everything on hold to save her. It’s undoubtedly a trap, but Corine would do anything to save those she loves, even if it means sacrificing herself….
Spoilers, yay or nay?: Yay. It’s a pretty epic book in terms of endings, so if you haven’t read it yet, just skip to “My Rating” and you should be in good shape. Also, expect spoilers through book three, Shady Lady. If you haven’t read that either, you should skip to “My Rating.” Everyone else, onward!
Discussion: Can I just say how tickled I am that every title in this series is named after an alcoholic beverage? If I lived closer to reader friends who were also fans of this series, I’d be throwing launch parties and making the drink in question to match the book coming out! Even better, Devil’s Punch actually comes with a drink recipe. I’m trying to convince my husband that we need to try it. He just sighs and tries to pretend I’m not talking.
I will try this though. I will!
So, Shady Lady ended on a rather odd note. Corine used a “forget me” spell but packed too much power in it, which meant she erased herself from Jesse’s and Shannon’s memories. The book ended with her hoping they’d snap out of it, but knowing it was going to take a while. And then, of all random things, Chance came back, which made me feel… not as excited. Kel’s been the most exciting partner Corine’s had, so the thought of her ending back up with Chance just didn’t have me chomping at the bit to see how things played out.
But Aguirre does well in showing the reader how Corine’s trying to get her life back on track, in showing us how Corine is taking it slow with Chance so that she doesn’t get hurt again, and how he’s going along. It doesn’t take very long to convince me that Chance really does want her back, that he’s changed. Of course, his luck hasn’t changed, which means her luck hasn’t changed, and we see the results of that as the book winds down and everything literally goes to hell.
What sparks the plot into motion though is Shannon is kidnapped by demons. I had to groan at this at first, because it meant another “let’s go to hell and rescue someone!” storyline. And by “another,” I don’t mean that Ann Aguirre does this all the time. No, not at all. But it’s becoming a common thread in horror and urban fantasy. Richard Kadrey’s Aloha from Hell has his hero go back to hell, and I was also reading Wonder Woman #8 the same time I started this book, and yes, Wonder Woman is going to hell.
So I was a little, teensy bit sensitive about this plot device. But then like Butch, I hopped aboard and got over it.
There’s a lot to like in this novel, despite the fact that due to my own business and tiredness, it took a long time to make any headway with this book. I had to force myself to put other projects aside on Sunday and just read, simply because it was getting too close to my book club deadline, and I hadn’t read In Great Waters yet and needed to get started. I say that in the event I overlooked something major and important, but really, I don’t think I did.
But it’s funny that everything that struck me as either epic or a letdown from Shady Lady gets turned on its head here. For example: Jesse and Shannon’s memory loss: not that big of deal. By time Shannon is kidnapped, the fog is starting to wear off, so when Corine calls Jesse to find out what happened, going along with the memory wipe, we learn that he’s starting to place her. Oh, and he and Shannon have hooked up, which is actually cool. I was tired of Jesse Saldana as a love interest, because while he was nice and normal, I really didn’t buy him and Corine as a couple. So Jesse and Shannon for the win!
Then there was the revelation that Corine descended from King Solomon’s line, which I really didn’t care for in Shady Lady. But here, in Devil’s Punch, it’s a major, super-important plot point as Corine stars to ascend and a new struggles with a new personality that’s been lying dormant in her body until she entered the gates of Hell, therefore waking that personality up. Hello, Ninlil. What a fascinating development. I really loved the tug of war between Ninlil and Corine, and the way they merged together but didn’t in the last quarter of the book was fascinating, especially in regards to what it meant for Chance. I’ll be honest, I’m still not sure what to make of that little love triangle, because while Chance wasn’t exactly cheating on Corine, he kind of was, if that makes sense? Yet I feel his love for Corine as Corine rather than Corine as Ninlil won out, which made his sacrifice at the end so powerful.
Of course, Chance coming back at the end of Shady Lady was something else I didn’t care for, but dang if Aguirre didn’t make me care.
But I also doubted on the way. With the revelation of Chance’s past, I thought we were going to meet his ex in Hell somehow, and that Chance would have to choose between his first love and Corine. That didn’t happen. And now that he’s gone, but not, I can’t wait to see how that develops. After all, we do learn that he’s a godling. So while his mortal half is dead, does that not mean he can’t manifest into some kind of godhood and come back? This will be fascinating to find out. Ann Aguirre may be ending her space opera series, but the end of Devil’s Punch has me chomping at the bit to learn what happens next. This was a HUGE book for Corine, who learned about Chance’s past and origins, who discovered the truth about her father (oh, that was a powerful moment), and who discovered the truth of her heritage, and that almost destroyed her (literally, not figuratively, though I say it’s left some pretty psychological scars).
At any rate, the book ended up being utterly enjoyable. Welcome Greydusk, and R.I.P. You were a lovely addition to the cast. Yay for Butch the awesome chihuahua! One day, I will have a dog at least half as cool as you.
I’m glad the memory fog is gone though. I liked it when Corine had a female friend, and the report she has with Shannon is great. Glad that little subplot is over with.
My Rating: 7 – Good Read
Once I was finally able to sit down and really commit to reading (harder than you’d think, these days, but that’s not the book’s fault), I found myself pretty engrossed by Corine’s journey. All the things that I didn’t think I’d like coming out of Shady Lady ended up being super powerful developments in Devil’s Punch, giving me an ending that has me gasping for more. I find myself wondering how this series will read once it’s over and done with and I can go back and read each book back-to-back, and that I’m even considering it is a mark of high praise. Still, this book takes several dramatic shifts in terms of characterization, and while those shifts make sense, they’re also tough to swallow. Everything straightens out at the end, but not without scaring those we’ve come to care about. I have no idea where the next book in the series will go, but I do know that I can’t wait to find out.
Cover Commentary: I love this to PIECES. Of all the Corine Solomon covers, this by FAR is the best. Don’t believe me? Look here. The first cover was okay, but I felt it failed by not actually being blue. The second cover had Corine in a really weird pose, and her head looked slightly too small for her body. The third cover I just didn’t like. Obviously a new model, and the mid-riff action wasn’t doing anything for me.
This cover’s perfect. Sure, it’s the dreaded pose, but I adore the coloring, the over-the-shoulder look, the messy hair, the way she’s more front-and-center than she’s ever been, while she’s marching into Hell. The coloring is what really sells it for me, so it’ll be interesting to see if future covers will measure up now.