Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Ginn Hale - Wicked Gentlemen

Belimai Sykes is many things: a Prodigal, the descendant of ancient demons, a creature of dark temptations and rare powers. He is also a man with a brutal past and a dangerous addiction.
And Belimai Sykes is the only man Captain William Harper can turn to when faced with a series of grisly murders.
But Mr. Sykes does not work for free and the price of Belimai’s company will cost Captain Harper far more than his reputation.
From the ornate mansions of noblemen, where vivisection and sorcery are hidden beneath a veneer of gold, to the steaming slums of Hells Below, Captain Harper must fight for justice and for his life.
His enemies are many and his only ally is a devil he knows too well. Such are the dangers of dealing with the wicked.

Comment: I've added this to my TBR years ago, after some positive reviews by some people whose taste in books I share. I liked the story but the writing style is definitely one to get used to.

In this story we find an alternate reality where Prodigals, descendants from ancient demons, live among humans, more or less liked or respected, but certainly feared and often persecuted. Belimai Sykes is such an individual and he joined human society with hopes and dreams, sadly quickly dashed. Now he is someone without much hope but sometimes accepts work investigating subjects related to other Prodigals. That is how captain William Harper finds and contracts him, he wants to know if Prodigals were responsible for his sister Joan's disappearance. However, as they join forces to investigate both the human and the Prodigal sides, they can't help but noticing the other is someone special, indeed... but can they put personal feelings aside and discover what has been going on?

There is no doubt this is a cleverly thought plot and the author had plenty of imagination to devise such a world, not too far from any historical type of world, but with enough differences to make it interesting to know more about and to see what would happen next.

I think the true worth of this novel was how the characters were developed and depicted but I must say that this element still came second, in terms of how my attention was grabbed, to the writing style. It's just something I couldn't ignore and I'm not certain my impressions were always all that positive. The idea of how this is written is, I think, to offer enough details and information, with each sentence, so that the reader can judge what is happening and what everything can mean to the characters but it was often quite a struggle to stay focused when so many things were simply... alluded, referenced or mentioned without a real emotional connection or inner thoughts to justify their importance. I assume this was meant for us to read between the lines, but I'm not certain this style really worked out for me.

The characters are truly special. The story is divided into two segments, the first as Belimai and William investigate Joan's disappearance and the second, with the aftermath of that investigation and what it meant fore their lives.

William is a natural protector, he is a good man, wants to do the right thing but he is not so strict that he doesn't see the good in others or in how they can be flawed. He wanted to know how he could help his sister and I must say I must not be paying enough attention because when we learn what happened to her being gone and why, it was quite a surprise. Still, he did his best to do well for everyone involved and that means his fellow police officers weren't always the right side just because they are lawful enforcers. I liked how William was presented as a quite fair man, trying to gain justice for all, even if that included defending Prodigals, often used as scapegoats.

Belimai is a Prodigal, making him having a different way of living and seeing himself, physically speaking what I remember the most is how his nails are always black, but he and other Prodigals aren't that much different from humans. He has a terrible past, especially since he was tortured by the police while trying to not betray a friend and why he is now addicted to drugs. However, he can't help but appreciating William's personality and need for help, even if he thinks that might lead to more disappointment. The first segment is told by his POV and his personality is unique and a lot of what we learn is aided by what he shares.

The second segment is told by William and he doesn't feel as special, personality wise, but of course this is why these two make for an interesting couple. I liked knowing they were developing feelings but the clues are really subtle, and while I don't mind slow nor subtle, I think here everything was a bit too inferred, and I wish there could have been more obvious details, or conversations, instead of the just expected finale with them deciding they could be together. It's almost as if, sure I know this is the intention, but how did they go from one scenario to this one?

Still, I liked reading this, it's not a big book, it can easily read... and I've seen the author wrote two short stories, accessible on her website and which can sort of complement what we read in the book. I liked this world and story but I must confess I wanted to be even more captivated.
Grade: 7/10

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