Friday, May 22, 2015

Satan's Sword (Imp #2) by Debra Dunbar

Samantha is an imp who has been bound by an angel.  The upside of this is that it will allow her to stay on the earthly plane; however, the downside is now she is forced to follow Gregory's tough rules.  Imps and rules do not go together.  If that were not enough, Samantha's brother Dar, is in huge trouble and is absolutely desperate for Sam to pick up a magical artifact for him.  Somehow, Sam has to help Dar out, avoid angering anyone in hell, and follow all of Gregory's rules.

This is the second book in the Imp series and I am absolutely in love with it.  It's the kind of book that you stay up late reading, promising that you'll go to bed after just one more chapter and then end up pushing forward until the end.  As a protagonist, Samantha is absolutely great.  She's an imp and kills without any kind of regret, gets excited by serial killers and is not adverse to eating body parts, even if they belong to her. Being an imp, Sam loves her mischief and is not beyond cursing people to crave hot wings.  The entire book is filled with Sam's little antics which had me roaring with laughter.  I tend to agree with Sam that eating copious amounts of cheesecake falls under the sin of gluttony but it's so worth it. Sam has a tattoo on her arm which connects her to the angel Gregory.  A smart person would leave that alone but Sam cannot stop herself from masturbating with it because it produces orgasmic feelings.  The bonus for Sam is that every time she touches it, Gregory becomes aroused as well.

Satan's Sword greatly progressed Sam's character.  Not only did Sam get an increase in power, she began to get in touch with her feelings for her boyfriend Wyatt, Gregory the angel and even her female friends.  Sam initially scoffed at the idea of love, relegating it something angels and humans experience, yet she was more than willing to kill the woman who beat Wyatt at his favorite video game.  It takes time but Sam finally does come to the truth of her feelings.  The same applies to her female friends whose skill she respects.  It isn't until she thinks that they might have been killed by another demon that Sam acknowledges that she cares. Sam is still a demon but her time on earth has helped her to evolve into something more. Straddling being a demon and having a relationship with humans is something Sam is continuing to work on.

Being a demon, Sam does not feel guilt.  She has sex with her brother Dar, Wyatt her boyfriend and even angel sex with Gregory.  Sam simply does not have human hang ups with sex, which leads Wyatt to have to explain that he would prefer her not to flirt with other men in front of him.  I like however that he doesn't demand Sam be monogamous - which would be unnatural for Sam.  Where Wyatt and Sam have problems, is her occasional lack of understanding of human culture and the ways in which it differs from demon culture.  Sometimes these misunderstandings are hilarious like Wyatt having to explain that being her favourite human does not entitle Sam to kill a woman who beat him at a video game.   Wyatt in particular always wants to get involved in the action, though as a human he is fragile and this causes some stress to their otherwise happy relationship. 

In the first novel, though Sam had women around her, she was very much isolated.  Things have changed a lot since she took on the rebelling angel.  Sam actually goes for regular runs with Candy the werewolf and Michelle, her property manager, even helps Sam choose a costume for Halloween.  More importantly however, Michelle tries very hard to talk Sam into investing in an area populated by people of colour to help improve the neighbourhood.  This is something the old Sam would have rejected out of hand but Michelle's feelings go a long way into helping her understand that the poor need resources close by and how having more affluent society turn it's back on poor communities is a recipe for trouble.  That said, none of this stops Sam from renting out her nearly condemned building to the homeless for two dollars per night - she is after all a demon.

Gregory continues to be my favourite character and I simply love it every time he calls Sam a cockroach. This however doesn't mean Sam and Gregory's relationship isn't problematic.  On one hand, Gregory is clearly attracted to Sam, so much so that not only do they have sex, he makes her a sandwich (a big deal for an angel). Gregory is limited by what he is and acts as an enforcer which obviously makes his interactions with Sam fraught with issues.  At times, this means that Gregory actively helps Sam grow her powers and others he is actively threatening to lock her up.  Sam knows that she is playing with fire each time she interacts with Gregory but cannot seem to resist. For now, I am buying the fact that he is an angel and she is a demon as justification for how Gregory treats Sam but if the relationship moves beyond sex into a clear romance, Gregory's actions could easily be seen as abusive.  Dunbar is walking a fine line with this relationship.

As I mentioned in my first review, Sam is a bisexual protagonist.  In Satan's Sword however, the only sexual interaction with women comes when she meets up with her sister Leethu, the succubus. Unfortunately, Dunbar decides that in her world, succubi will have the power to overcome sexual orientation.  I am happy however that this is not acted upon.  Sam mentions being aroused by her sister but does not engage in sex with her because Leethu, being a succubus, is deemed fragile and demon sex, as we saw with her brother Dar is active and violent.  Thus far we have heard a lot about Sam's sexual attraction to women but she has yet to act on it, though she has slept with Wyatt, Dar and Gregory.

There are several minor characters of colour in Satan's Imp.  Of course we have the property manager Michelle, who is black, and there is Leethu, who takes the form of an Asian woman, Jay the CEO whom Candy is seeing (who doesn't actually appear in the book), and Mario, the vampire who distracts the demon assassins long enough for Sam to get away. At this point, I would really like to see the characters of colour move from side characters to having a more central role in the plot.

All good things have their flaws and the Imp series is not exception.  The largest two problems are fat phobia and ableism.   Throughout the novel there are constant small snipes regarding weight.  Dar even Owned (read: possessed the soul) of a fat man but reduced the body size being to vain to walk around with a "pot gut and love handles." In terms of ableism, it basically comes down to the neurologically atypical being able to sense Sam for what she really is and following her around trying to send her away.  Sam finds them largely to be a nuisance.

I loved every single minute I spent reading Satan's Sword. Who wouldn't love a book with a demon horse, an imp who cannot stay out of trouble, and a hellhound with two heads, who enjoys eating serial killers.  Satan's Sword gets off the ground pretty quickly and just doesn't stop until the last page. Even though I know that Sam is going to survive because she has plot immunity as the protagonist, I still find myself hoping that she gets out of each scrape unharmed.  I want to see what she does next.  I want to know what she has up her sleeve.  Even as I write this, I am already thinking about the third book in this series and am absolutely anxious to read it.  I love the world building and sense that we have only begun to see what trouble Sam can get herself into.