the blog of a librarian, book reviewer, and pop culture fiend
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Kissed by the Devil
It wasn't supposed to work.
When I heard about The Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda (Hyperion, 2009) during Book Expo, I had my doubts. A book about a girl Templar? I'd already read three Templar books this year and none of them were terribly appealing. A girl who spends her days training to hunt ghuls, as the job of the modern Templar is to protect humanity from the supernatural? Eh, I'd seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It sounded like a recipe for disaster, but I was so very wrong.
It works. Oh my, does it work. It's absolute proof that good writing can conquer all.
The premise: Billi (short for Bilquis) SanGreal has trained all her life to be a member of the Knights Templar, who work underground in the 20th century as demon hunters. Billi is nearing the point where she will swear fealty to the Templars forever. Despite the Templar training, she is still completely recognizable as a teenage girl at odds with her strict father after her mother's death. Billi's oldest friend is Kay, a powerful Oracle who couldn't fistfight his way out of a paper bag. For the past year, Kay has been honing his psychic powers in Jerusalem, and he's come back with some pretty annoying abilities. Billi, frustrated with Kay and wanting to get away from the Templars, falls for Michael. Michael is smart, hot, and interested in Billi. In fact, he's almost too good to be true.
Kay and Billi discover that Kay has drawn the Angel of Death to earth via a cursed mirror, and that means trouble for humanity. Kay is a great psychic, no doubt, but we're talking the Angel of Death, bringer of everyone's favorite of the Ten Plagues. It's the biggest, most evil thing Billi and the Templars have ever fought, and they don't know if this is a battle they can win.
Why you'll love it: With a girl who can kick some serious demon booty at the center of the plot, it would have been easy for this to be another sassy supernatural book with a pink cover. Chadda instead takes a more serious tone, crafting a stubborn and admirable character in Billi. There's barely a technology reference to be found; there are mentions of a cell phone but this book could take place anytime after 1999 or so. I was very impressed by Chadda's use of language, too. He's foregone slang in favor of plain yet effective dialogue, classic plot lines, and well-paced action scenes. The names of the Templars are a tribute to Arthurian legends: Gwaine, Percival, Kay, Arthur, etc. Templar history is covered without being dumped on the reader, and it's delivered in a way that might even inspire readers to learn more about the Templars. In terms of topic this is a timely book, but it's one that's going to last. Diversity, adventure, sexual tension, some pretty good insults, and family angst never go out of literary style.