Monday, October 10, 2016

Devil's Daughter (Lucinda's Pawnshop #1) by Hope Schenk-de Michele, Paul Marquez, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

Lucinda is the owner of a pawn shop which has the power to appear anywhere in the world. Only those who are going through some kind of moral conflict can enter; once inside, a dark object calls out to them. This object will have the power to greatly influence their lives.  As the devil's daughter, Lucinda collects these objects at the behest of Satan.  Because she is also the daughter of Eve, Lucinda still has a human soul and heart and this means that sometimes she's able to cast wrench into the devil's plans. Lucinda has been playing the long game for quite sometime but when Dominic makes his way to the shop, Lucinda finds herself tempted by a human for the first time in a long.  The fact that he is able to enter means that despite is apparent goodness, there's something dark about him as well.  Will Lucinda have the courage to explore her feelings or will she get caught up once again in one of her father's demonic schemes?

I honestly had by doubts about this book.  I read the description several times and because I kept coming back to it over the course of several days, I decided to read it.  It's a decision I absolutely do not regret.  There have been lots of tales about Satan and his evil plans for this world and so it wouldn't be fair to say that the Devil's Daughter is unique but yet, I found it a compelling read and simply could not put it down.  I love the idea that the devil can not act directly and so is forced to create far reaching plans, moving people around like pawns on a chessboard, instead directly influencing humanity.  Free will in this universe is paramount, making the evil that we do entirely of our own creation.  Yes, each person reaches a critical moment when they must choose between right and wrong but the choice at the end is always theirs.  It is however worth noting that there are times when the authors stray and become somewhat didactic as it relates to things like pre-marital sex and the importance of believing in the divine.

This notion of free will and the potential intrinsic evil of mankind only really becomes a problem for me when the authors bring up the holocaust.  The authors claim that Hitler was influenced by the devil and this is what lead to the holocaust.  Lucinda blames herself in part because she didn't see the plan coming together until it was too late.  Appropriating an atrocity in this fashion is never going to be acceptable because it reduces human lives to a plot point. Given that intrinsic evil is something the authors explored there's no reason supernatural machinations needs to apply to Hitler.

On some level, I found each of the characters interesting.  Lucinda and her self doubt about her own goodness based on her parentage reminded me of the question of original sin.  Even Eve, who didn't physically appear in this book finds redemption when the writers suggest that Eve isn't the one was cast out of heaven, nor did she eat fruit from a forbidden tree.  Eve chooses to join Adam on earth after being raped by the devil.  The authors didn't directly paint what happened between Eve and Lucifer as rape because it is rape by deception but at no point did they imply that this act isn't an extreme violation. Nathaniel, the enigmatic angel fascinated me the most.  He's a fallen angel and yet he promises to watch over Lucinda.  I very much get the feeling that he was assigned to fall to guide and help Lucinda.  I really want to know his backstory more.

There are several side characters who while not really developed, end up having an important role in the story.  Part of Devil's Daughter is set in Kuwait on a military base. This leads to the authors introducing racism against the indigenous population.  Gene in particular is found of using racial slurs, as well as implying that Muslims are somehow worth less than he is.  Unfortunately, there are far too many people in this world who feel like Gene.  The writers however didn't allow the racism and Islamophobia to go unchecked because not only does Rowdy push back against every slur, he makes a point of humanising those who Gene seeks to dehumanise.  What I find interesting is that the authors chose to use Rowdy's religious belief as a Christian to explain why he sees the Muslim population as equal and worthy of consideration.

There weren't any LGBT characters in this novel whatsoever. Given the difficult topics the Devil's Daughter deals with, I really don't understand the erasure.  There isn't a reason that a single character couldn't have been explicitly LGBT, especially given the large cast of characters the authors chose to work with.

As aforementioned, the concept itself isn't really original and yet I felt compelled to keep reading through until the end. The authors left a lot of loose ends, leaving me wondering what's going to happen next. We know for sure that the devil has not stopped plotting and now that he views Lucinda through new eyes, what comes next might well be even more dangerous.  Nathaniel certainly is a mystery that needs to be fleshed out.  For me, the sign of a good book in many ways comes down to how I feel about the ending. Am I just relieved to get to the last page or do I want the story to keep going? In the case of Devil's Daughter, I definitely want to know what happens next even though I am slightly annoyed with the idea that goodness can only really be found in divine belief.   I do however like that the definition of the divine seems to encompass all religious beliefs so I suppose that's something.

Devil's Daughter may start a little slow but once it gets moving, it's very difficult to put down.  Even when you get to the end you might find yourself thinking about the nature of man, how this relates to the divine or even what our role in the universe or creation is.  It deals with some very heady issues and still never loses sight of its narrative.  The Devil's Daughter is a great book and I am glad I decided after some thought to pick it up.

Editor's Note: A copy of this book was received from the publisher through Netgalley