[Book Review] When the main character moonlights as a story framing device

[Book Review] When the main character moonlights as a story framing device

Devil’s Daughter by Hope Schenk-de Michele, Paul Marquez, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

If there’s one thing you need to know, it’s this: Devil’s Daughter reads closer to Christian fiction than Urban Fantasy. While the story takes some liberties with the religious mythology, it stays true to its themes of redemption and love, what it means to be a good person, the danger of good intentions and shortcuts, the power of choice. You know, the works.

With that out of the way, back to the story:

“Lucinda is as old as humanity itself, yet perpetually young, beautiful, and endowed with supernatural powers. She lives a double life human and immortal.

In her human guise, she manages Lucinda’s Pawnshop & Antiquary, the doors of which can open to any street anywhere in the world at any time. Mortals who have arrived at a moral or spiritual crossroads are drawn into the mysterious shop. If they acquire one of its cursed artifacts, they may find themselves drafted into Lucifer s service.

Born out of a betrayal of trust between the first woman, Eve, and father Lucifer, Lucinda has worked covertly and subtly for millennia to be true to her mother’s love by subverting her father’s schemes.”

After reading that blurb, you’ll be forgiven for thinking this story is all about Lucinda’s struggle against Lucifer and quest to figure out where she stands, all culminating in a grand standoff during which she singlehandedly saves the world.

That’s what I thought too, so let me stop you right there.

This story isn’t really about Lucinda at all. Yes, she’s the main character (sorta), but not much happens where she’s concerned. Thing is, Lucinda’s story has already happened – when the book starts, the ~6,000-year-old immortal has already lost her mother, questioned her upbringing, been betrayed, decided who she can trust, rebelled, taken risks, grown into her own, and now, is more than a match for her father. All the questions asked later on in the book blurb?

“How deep does Lucinda’s humanity go? Where do her true loyalties lie? Is she her father’s ally, or her mother’s child? And if the Devil’s daughter will not love a man he can control, can Lucifer control the man she loves?”

Not a single one is a real source of conflict.

As befitting an ancient immortal, Lucinda’s powers are unmeasurable, her self-composure and convictions unwavering, her appearance gorgeous. She’s our guide through other people’s journeys. The book follows Lucinda as she visits with her father, Lucifer, and his plotting flunkies, and as she tracks the lives of the humans touched by Lucifer’s dark artifacts. Through her aloof observations and subtle interventions in the lives of humans, Lucinda shows the reader how easily it is to fall on the wrong side when teetering on the high wire between good and bad choices. She is a framing device with a subplot.

The most thoughtful and well-built parts of the novel were the ones that followed the human characters – the wife struggling with a resentful husband, the lawyer set up to take the fall for her firm’s misdeeds, the loyal marine who is pressured to sell his convictions so he’d have enough money to take care of his mother, a group of teens playing with witchcraft in the forest and a young religious man who gets caught in the fallout…These compelling parallel storylines provided much needed eventfulness amid Lucinda’s placid story arc. In fact, in this 277-page book, when Lucinda’s plotline kicked into high gear around page 220, I still cared more about finding out more about her aloof guard(ian), Nathaniel, than I did about her.

If you’re looking at the dramatic cover and the blurb and expecting over-the-top romantic angst and sword-wielding angel battles, you’re going to be confused and a little disappointed. As an urban fantasy, this delivers a two-canary. As a more general (and more complex) piece of fiction about the subtle cosmic struggle between the forces of good and evil, this one hits closer to four-canaries for its storytelling.

I’ll split the difference and give it a three.

Book received from the publisher for review.

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