One of the great things about fantasy is the sheer range of themes that can be tackled within the genre (see previous post – Would you like politics with that?)
Dark fantasy is not usually where I’d expect to find an exploration of grief and self loathing, but that’s what I found in Dead Man Rising, the second in Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series.
(This five-book series has been around a few years, but I’m only just now working my through it…)
Dante Valentine – Danny – is a necromancer/bounty hunter in a bleak, futuristic world where those with psychic and paranormal gifts are licensed to legitimately use them in a post-Awakening society.
In the first book, Working for the Devil, Danny teamed up with the demon Japhrimel to seek revenge for the brutal death of her best friend. The pair became lovers, changing Danny at a genetic level, before Japhrimel lost his life to the Devil himself.
In Dead Man Rising, Danny’s not coping well with the loss. She’s distanced herself even further from her friends, submerging herself in the violent world of bounty hunting, and testing the bounds of her newfound skills as a part-demon.
The novel covers some pretty dark and disturbing territory, with a series of horrific killings forcing Danny to relive memories of her time at Rigger Hall – a training ground for orphaned psis, where she barely survived years of torture and abuse as a child.
There’s plenty of action as Danny faces her past, but this story is also about rage, guilt and self loathing. Danny is angry at the world (seen and unseen), but mostly, she’s angry at herself and her inability to protect those she’s loved – and lost.
The Power of her neon-lit world is fuelled by sex and violence, which she embraces with far more ease than the idea she’s worthy of love.
To be able to write from such a perspective takes a certain level of understanding.
I’m not suggesting Lilith Saintcrow has shared the same sort of experiences as her narrative character, but she definitely has empathy for Danny.
The Dante Valentine series is probably a tad darker than my usual reading fare, but I really admire Lilith Saintcrow for creating a character who’s more than just a tough chick with superpowers.