Like all things that are good in this world, they are finite. Lilith Saintcrow’s Jill Kismet series is just such a good thing. With the release of Angel Town on November 1st, Saintcrow brings to a close her exceedingly blood-soaked urban fantasy six-parter. While I’m sad to see Jill go, Saintcrow has done what few serial writers know how to do. Call it quits on a good note.
Angel Town neatly bookends a six-story arch tying up loose ends but doesn’t answer everything. Leaving just enough to the imagination and resulting in me feeling okay about the end to a fantastic series before it wore out its welcome. Something that I thought was as rare as the chupacabra. Most writers beat the proverbial dead horse long after the characters are developed, long after you really care, and long long long after it’s a good idea. Saintcrow’s restraint kept the series fresh and the characters developing.
As a word of warning. Don’t read this book if you haven’t read any of the prior novels. It won’t make a lick of sense. For that matter, you might want to read Heaven’s Spite right before reading Angel Town. It picks ups on the heels of its predecessor (that I had to bust out the prior book just to remember what was going on).
Now to the nitty gritty.
It’s not often a writer can resurrect a character from dead and make it work. The first few scenes of Angel Town are graphic and bring to mind, bordering on too much detail, how awful it would be to have to claw your way out of your own shallow grave. Jill Kismet is a survivor. So much so that even a bullet to the dome can’t keep her down for long. The real chemistry of this book (and the whole series) is the visceral and in-depth sensory descriptions that Saintcrow uses heavily. She does spend a hell of a lot of time describing feelings, senses and abstract stuff, but I think that’s where you find the horror. It’s not just stating that the main character found a murder victim that’s horrific. It’s all the in-depth, gross descriptors that make it horrific. The smell and the sound of squelching blood. You get the idea. Saintcrow is really, really good at that.
All of the major players of the past novels have their cameos and those appearances move the story. Saintcrow isn’t just taking a stroll down memory lane to say goodbye to the near and dear. Each character serves a purpose.
I adore films and books that embrace the fusion of religion and the supernatural. Even better if it has a little of the occult. Magic and demons have been standard fare for the Kismet series, but little has been done with the flip side of that coin. For every action there is reaction. Counterbalance in the universe if you will. So where are the absentee landlords in Heaven? Angel Town brings our favorite antagonist, Perry, the other half of his coin. Saintcrow, smoothly enough, doesn’t directly spoon feed us angels, God, or Good vs. Evil. What she does is leave a decidedly ambiguous area that we fill in ourselves.
Warning: You could consider the next part a bit spoilery.
My only solid complaint is the handling of Perry, Pericles, Hyperion. For me, Perry was a major driving force for my love of the series. His mannerisms, his mystery, and how Jill interacted with him. He was complex, smarmy, fascinating, and despite how uncomfortable it was, still horribly attractive like only a truly evil villain can be. His love for Jill was corrupt, twisted, and a perfect foil for Jill’s mate Saul’s wholesome and pure love. Perry was temptation embodied. The serpent to Jill’s Eden and I loved him for it. So as his great moment came at the climax of the novel, it felt kinda numb.
That was it? That’s the “big moment”? This is Jill’s completion as a character and Perry’s final bow out and. That… just didn’t hit me in the gut. It didn’t feel monumental. Maybe, that’s the point? Maybe when something so big happens to someone it’s so overwhelming that it leaves the character and the reader numb. But for me it didn’t feel like that kind of epic numbness. It felt kinda like… it just ended and I didn’t get the emotional climax I was looking for. I wanted more for Perry.
Angel Town on its own has a healthy dose of fantastically written action scenes, some disturbing emotional deconstructions, and plenty of gore. As a series, Jill Kismet is a highly entertaining fall into a distinctly gray area on the black and white of Good vs. Evil.
For more on the series check out Jill Kismet – A New Woman in Horror