Monday, March 7, 2011

Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda

 (Billi SanGreal Book #1)
Genre: YA fantasy/horror
Pages: 327 (paperback)
Published: 2009 by Hyperion Books
Recommended for: paranormal readers who're in it for the paranormal rather than the romance; Mortal Instruments fans

Bilquis SanGreal grew up knowing she would have to make sacrifices to be in the Knights Templar.  Sacrifices like losing her mother to the Templar's ongoing battle against the Unholy; sacrifices like trading her childhood in for relentless training; sacrifices that keep her completely  isolated from the world of a normal teen girl.
Billi's lone wolf status is challenged when her childhood friend, Kay, returns from his psychic training in Jerusalem.  Kay manages to stir things up quickly -- he's gorgeous, arrogant, and wants to slide right back into his old place in Billi's life.  Billi is skeptical, but interested, until she meets Michael -- an ethereally handsome guy who seems to understand her like no one before him, and effortlessly stakes a claim in her heart.
Just as Billi's starting to enjoy this pleasant new twist to her life, Kay ruins everything.  In a moment of bravado, Kay uses the last of the Templar's treasures, King Solomon's cursed mirror, drawing the attention of one of the most dangerous of the Templars' enemies -- The Angel of Death.  Only with the mirror can the dark angel unleash his full powers, and now that he's heard the call of the mirror, he'll stop at nothing to get it.  To save London from catastrophe, Billi will have to make sacrifices greater than she'd ever imagined. 

My Take:  

Devil's Kiss is one of those YA books whose back cover summaries try to fool you.  (And also one of those that give away half the plot in a few paragraphs, so I'll leave the summarizing to the lengthy synopsis above.)  Judging from the description, I'd pin this book as another slightly fluffy, fun paranormal romance with a love triangle dominating the pages.  I'd really like to preface this review by saying none of that's really true: Devil's Kiss is a novel both dark and rivetingly emotional.  The love triangle isn't half what it's cracked up to be, either-- romance was never the key factor in this story, it's just part of how our MC Billi is struggling to balance being a normal teenager and a member of the ancient Knights Templar at once.  

The Templar-- I love 'em.  Always have.  The creatures and denizens of hell Billi and her Order of modern-day knights (who're sword-wielding and mystical, yeah, but also broke, mostly middle-aged guys whose round table would fit in perfectly amongst the wares of an old pawn shop) face aren't your typical Buffy villains.  They're closer to demons than vampires, but still very unique amongst the usual paranormal suspects.  I really enjoyed the mythology-- which is flawless as well as just freakin' cool-- and the gray, rather dreary London setting.  There's something emotionally raw and morbidly beautiful about Sarwat Chadda's version of a fallen angel-- Mike, aka Micheal. (No, he's not just an 'amber-eyed' stranger, but the aforementioned very bad-ass Angel of Death whose hell-bent on bringing a plague of death down on all of London's firstborn.  I told you the synopsis was majorly misleading, and feel no regrets 'bout the little spoiler. ;)  

Billi herself is a protagonist I cheered for the whole time-- she's very real in her troubled relationship with her brutally distant Templar father, and her relationship with Kay was really fascinating, too.  Kay's an Oracle, see-- a boy who has been trained since childhood to use his second sight to aid the Templar in their crusades against the Unholy-- and Bill's oldest childhood friend.  He returns from his Oracle training in Jerusalem endowed with new psychic power-- power beyond anything the London Templars have ever seen before, and more than ready to reclaim his friendship with Billi... and perhaps more.  I liked how the Christian lore was intertwined with undead and Templar mythos, and I also liked each of the Templars in their own right.  The story actually draws more Mortal Instruments comparisons than paranormal ones, for me, because there is that same sense of otherworldly darkness blended seamlessly in with the modern, urban world.  I guess I'd describe it as a 'dark, urban fantasy'.  The twists and turns of the plot keep a reader guessing, and the ending leaves everything wide open for a sequel-- I can't wait to get my hands on book two, Dark Goddess.  The only thing that really bugged me were the few 'school' scenes scattered throughout the early pages of the book.  The whole mean girls angle has been hacked at so many times, and I really didn't think any of it did more than deplete the plot a little. (Not drastically-- just enough to be slightly annoying.) All in all, though, I give this one much applause for a truly awesome fantasy world, great writing, and a heroine I can't wait to see more of.  

Cover: 4/5 
Premise: 5/5 
Characters: 5/5 
Plot: 4/5  
Overall Rating: 4/5


Kayla said...

I'm glad you liked it, I have this on my shelf to read! Great review.

Stephanie said...

Nice review! I've really been going back and forth about whether to pick this one up. Based on the description, I just haven't been sure, but your review has convinced me I should check it out!

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