Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Imp Forsaken (Imp #5) by Debra Dunbar

Near death, Gregory is forced banish Sam to hell.  Unsurprisingly, it's not a great homecoming for Sam, who is immediately captured by elves. Once again, Sam cannot help but empathize with the humans who have been slaves to the elves for centuries.  Sam quickly finds herself embroiled in an elf war with the future at hell at stake. If that were not enough, Sam must fulfill her breeding contract with the ancient demon Ahriman, who wants their offspring to have the ability to devour - a skill that could very well bring about the end of creation.  How will Sam survive this time?

Imp Forsaken is easily my least favourite of the Imp series to date.  Because Sam is banished to Hell, there is very little interaction with Wyatt and Gregory and absolutely none with her friends.  These interactions are what have drawn me so deeply into this world and I sorely missed them. Sam has changed so much that I barely recognize her anymore.  In Imp Forsaken she was so caught up in freeing the humans and avoiding capitulating to Ahriman for much of the novel, she didn't do anything Imp like.  Why does developing a sense of morality mean that Sam has to give up her trouble loving ways? Other than chucking chickens at an elf, Sam has no wild antics in this novel.

Much of this book focuses on the angel Gabriel's investigation into the island that Sam blew up and the activities of the dead angles and their unauthorized visit to earth.  The problem with this is that before Imp Forsaken, Gabriel has always been a side character at best, making it hard to really relate with his struggles to understand what is happening and why.  He has a slight shift from contempt for humanity to tolerance but it's hardly enough to be interesting.  Gabriel's change of heart is very much married to Angel politics but I found myself not caring in the least little bit.

 We also learn that though higher vibration angels are supposedly largely androgynous, they are beginning to appear in their preferred gender, and only some retain the ability to appear as either.  Uriel for instance, despite presenting as female by choice is alternately referred to by both male and female pronouns. I did however find it interesting that Gregory express a desire to be female but for some reason not having the ability to. Hmmm...this however did cause me to pause.  Unfortunately, Dubar didn't expand on angels and gender beyond this statement by Gregory and Gabriel's affirmation that while he has changed his gender, he now chooses to present as male.  These changes were unfortunately blamed on Sam and I wish Dunbar had taken it one step further to maybe perhaps discuss more in depth why these formerly gender non-conforming angels are suddenly so determined to uphold gender norms and the gender binary.

Sam is still the bisexual protagonist who does not have sex with women.  Once again, Sam who is clearly not monogamous is propositioned by Leethu.  In an earlier novel, Sam rejects Leethu because she feels  that as a succubus, Leethu is not be able to survive good demon sex.  This explanation quickly became ridiculous because Leethu then sleeps with their brother Dar.  I wonder if Dubar realised the ridiculousness of having Leethu be to delicate to sleep with Sam and not Dar because this time, she justifies Sam's rejection by having Sam not want to be tied (forced to desire Leethu sexually) for eternity.  Just as Imps can own beings, Succubi can tie beings to them it seems. Yep, I smell backpedaling.  Unfortunately, just as with the first excuse, Dar is quick to volunteer for sex with Leethu. Dunbar really needs to pick a good reason as to why Sam and Leethu will not or cannot have sex and simply stick to it.

In Imp Forsaken, I am happy to say that Leethu has moved beyond the cowering succubus.  Leethu has power that Sam didn't know about and is not afraid to stand up for her sister.  It turned into a bit of relief because in previous books, Dubar leaned far too heavily on the racist Lotus Blossom stereotype for Leethu's character.  I really want to see Leethu continue to grow and flex her muscles, particularly given that Leethu amounts to 50% of the cast of colour.

Imp Forsaken is certainly not my favorite of the Imp series so far and as aforementioned, it's largely because Sam is separated from Wyatt and Gregory.  Though Sam spends a lot of time with Dar and Leethu, I am not heavily invested in this incestuous relationship.  I really missed Sam's imp like behaviour and hope that it returns in the next book.  Sam is always more fun when she is looking for trouble, getting thrown off a horse and simply being the cockroach readers have come to know and love.