mark monday's Reviews > The Silver Devil

The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys
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's review
Nov 09, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: romantika, all-fucked-up


Romance Is Horror! just as the little voice in the back of my head has often whispered to me during various awkward moments.

The Silver Devil is an historical romance with a twist. the twist: i loved it. the feverishly sweaty and grotesque atmosphere, the constant viciousness and savagery, the insanely operatic characters... incredible. and, surprise, the writing is highly accomplished. overall it was fascinating. the whole thing was so luridly gothic an experience that at times it became hard for me to wrap my mind around. in a good way!

okay i've read more about bodice rippers than actually experienced them. i understand that brutish man-boys are the standard. that women often fall into two categories: inexplicably independent (for the historical time period depicted) or - in the case of the The Silver Devil - virginal proto-nuns. this novel pitches these two archetypes of Man & Woman so beyond that template that the effect is genuinely surreal. the brutality and rapiness was extreme. normally this is something that would upset me. and yet... and yet... everything came together in such an intense fashion that i began to see it as an un-romance. a kind of extreme-relationship novel with a hair-raisingly demanding dom and a heroine who is so deranged in her passivity that she comes across as the ultimate subjugate-me-please sub. but in the end it was as i mentioned at the start: A Tale of Horror. that was really the only way i could take this seriously - and because of the strength of the writing, i did take it seriously. i did not read this with a droll sense of irony because this shit is good, man. the intensity sort of made me feel high at times.

the heroine is a young, sheltered, abused naif. and yet a glass-half-full sorta gal. so devoid of all maliciousness or need for revenge that she basically comes across as a severely developmentally disabled girl-woman. she moved from being a sad character to a pathetic character to a character who attained a bizarre transcendence in the extremity of her submissiveness. she is Pure Victim. and the genuine horror of her story is her unexplainable love for the worst, most evil hero i've come across since i don't know when. it is like she was hypnotized by a devil. The Silver Devil! once i began to see this as a story of extreme psychological terror and so rejected it as a romance, it really came together for me in a way i did not expect. i was on the edge of my seat constantly, just waiting for the next hellish trial that she would be put through. her terrorized first-person perspective on the world around her only strengthened the horror of it all. this is a deeply realized historical novel with a consistently grim tone. one that describes terrible smells of rot and death as a constant, castles as places of nightmare, appealing rascally types who turn around and laughingly engage in gang rape, sybaritic aristocrats who cover their faces in dead-white make-up as if they are miming the undead, irrational rulers who view their people as slaves to be used and killed, unending misogyny, devious deviants who love incest and pederasty, the works. this is a world of abominations and it is all brilliantly described as a genuine living hell.

ah, romance! ah, horror!

the hero is something else. and to me, entirely unattractive - and so the horror remained constant. this was not a remotely arousing novel and yet i was enthralled by the excessive perversity on display. it was easy to never sympathize with the twisted, sickening hero (just as it was easy to long for his punishment and demise) because the author portrays him as evil incarnate... he bullies and terrorizes and rapes and beats the heroine FROM BEGINNING TO END. all that plus he mocks and laughs at her on a regular basis too, exulting in her pain and the bruises he inflicts upon her. again, not romance: horror. imagine a Rupert Everett type (except with silver hair, 'natch): bisexual, mordantly witty, high-handed, suave, always fashionable, always cutting. now combine him with an emo thug from the hbo series Oz who goes violently berserk and throws insane tantrums on a daily basis, tortures people who look at his girl the wrong way, lives to inspire fear, and gets a boner over every one of his disgustingly callous, meaninglessly mean-spirited acts... imagine a petulant man-child who sets dogs on his oldest friend and former lover, and who in turn is depicted as either a kind of unreasoning, ravening dog himself or even more frequently, as a smug and self-satisfied cat who sharpens his claws on human mice... hey, that's our hero. or our villain. he stays this way FROM BEGINNING TO END. if you read this one, you are entitled to that warning. and this one too: this novel has a happy ending. a happy ending where he is not redeemed in any way except he has finally been able to declare his love. Teresa Denys stays completely true to her hellish vision of the time period, her beyond-repulsive characters, her version of "love". there is an admirable and rather fiendish purity to that.

so yeah, i loved this one. but it wasn't just the Ken Russell level of grotesque abandon that won me over. the writing was lush and beautiful, yet remarkably free of sentiment and consistently invested in showing life as one diabolic tableau after another. Teresa Denys has an uncompromisingly bleak world view. this is a dark, dark book. love as a trap for fools and villains. life as death. ah, romance! ah, horror!
"The darkness seemed to breathe, pressing down on me like a hot, thick blanket. Here and there were gleams of light from the last embers of the torches, and the blackness was peopled by innumerable small sounds. Sighs of lassitude, stertorous breathing, the rustle of garments and the kiss of flesh, quietening into a silence of exhaustion; the court's lust had spent itself in one hectic surge, and soon would come the bitter aftermath. I sat staring into space, seeing in the darkness pictures of the gluttony and debauchery to which fear of tomorrow had spurred the Cabrian nobles. The masque of the Seven Deadly Sins played before our faces, sung and chanted, with servants of each Sin's train engulfing the whole hall in a miasma of vivid colour: the spilling dishes, the flowing wine, the sighs and screams of the court as the torches were doused one by one."

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


'tis the season...


oh my God, what the fuck! i'm not sure i've read anything like this before. sweet Jesus this was crazy. so i think i have finally gotten the appeal of bodice rippers, thanks Teresa Denys. this was an intensely sadistic and violent gothic, and hey, i love that. IT THROBS. "romance" as straight up horror. and the writing was excellent. i need to think about this one a little bit more before i write a review because right now i feel like i'm having ptsd from some kind of violent assault. but for now here are some things to illustrate my broken mind after having read this nightmare:

(view spoiler)
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Reading Progress

02/13 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-33 of 33) (33 new)

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message 1: by Petra X (new)

Petra X Wow that spoiler was a real surprise.

mark monday i'm really trying to grapple with my feelings about why i enjoyed this one so much. i think i'm mind-fucking myself! but i will probably stick with the idea that i loved this because i love horror. that's my story and i'm stickin with it!

message 3: by Veeral (new)

Veeral That is the best spoiler I have ever seen!

mark monday glad you enjoyed it Veeral!

real review to come... sometime.

message 5: by Karla (last edited Nov 09, 2012 07:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Karla Great review, mark! Needless to say, I'm psyched that you enjoyed it. :)

a smug and self-satisfied cat who sharpens his claws on human mice...

Perfect description of Domenico! Brilliant. And I love that he's unredeemed at the end. He grovels, but he's the same psycho. Felicia goes over to the dark side, and it turns the blah typical Happily Ever After in Romance right on its head. I love it.

Denys other book is more standard romance, but still has a nasty hero and lots of gothic grotesquerie.

message 6: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Absolutely frikkin' hilarious review!

Ken Russell level of grotesque..

I don't know whether I'll read this one, but your review has given me that itch-I've-got-to-scratch feeling. Do I want to find out how romance as horror reads?... Yes! No! Yes!

William Herschel I'll be damned. I never thought I'd be curious about a book a like this.

mark monday Ruth & William... do it! you know you want to! then take a hot cleansing shower right afterwards to wash away the romance-is-horror grime.

Karla, love your comments. so true about the lack of anything approaching reasonable redemption. just one of the many things that makes this novel so distinctive. this one was such a find. now i need to find her other novel.

William Herschel Where did you find a copy of this? Abebooks has one for nearly 30 dollars, and then the rest are 75+. My interest only goes so far. :x

message 10: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday i actually found this one at a garage sale and had no idea of its rarity until i read a review of this one by Karla and then looked it up on amazon. score! i doubt i will be so lucky for Denys' other book.

message 11: by Karla (last edited Nov 09, 2012 03:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Karla They're both out there on the internet as PDFs and epubs (maybe other formats). Denys is dead and they're out of print. Just sayin'.

message 12: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday oh that's really good to know! i'm going to try to find that other Denys right now. well, maybe after work. the too much time on Goodreads guilt is setting in.

message 13: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Karla (Mossy Love Grotto) wrote: "They're both out there on the internet as PDFs. Denys is dead and they're out of print. Just sayin'."

Thanks for that Karla!!

message 14: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie Very intriguing review. Although this book might be way beyond my ken. The bullying and raping are bad enough, but then he mocks and laughs! that's harsh.

message 15: by mark (last edited Nov 10, 2012 06:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday Bonnie, i don't think you would enjoy this one. for you (and certain other GR friends like say Liberty or Sparrow or Daniel or the Kellys or Paul Bryant), i strongly recommend against reading Silver Devil. must protect Bonnie & others from Silver Peril!

message 16: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus One day you might want to read Edward, Edward by Lolah Burford. ...!!...

message 17: by mark (last edited Nov 10, 2012 06:51AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday i have just added that insane-looking book. thanks for the tip! have you heard of Danny 1.0 - Hope House by Chancery Stone? it looks equally nuts. i ordered it a while ago but the sheer length (it is doorstop-sized with a pretty small font) has made me put it off time and again. and so it sits like some perverse, gorgeous gay s&m bible on my bookshelf. waiting for me.

message 18: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Yowza! What fresh hell is this! I have never heard of it before, but it sounds like a treat. Thanks.

message 19: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy Love this review, mark! Let me know what you think of Chancery Stone. She scares me.

message 20: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday Nancy have you read anything by her? i understand she has something of a rep here on GR.

and thank you!

message 21: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy sending you a private message....

message 22: by [deleted user] (new) he rapes and abuses her, then realizes he loves her? And she is...I don't know, cool with that?

message 23: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday oh no, he realized that he loves her well before he has her kidnapped and then proceeds to abuse and rape her. the thing is is he just can't admit it verbally because of his confounded aristocratic pride. and he really, really, really wants his sweet punching bag to admit that she loves him. i'm not sure why the most traumatic loss of virginity ever plus many rounds of subsequent abuse, rape, mockery, etc don't make her eager to admit her own love for him.

ah, romance in medieval Italy - it's just so crazy!

message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

The poor guy. Sometimes it's hard to think of the right way to show someone you care.

Eyehavenofilter Yikes... No iron frying pans handy as weapons of mass destruction? Oops as ways to show how much she lives him back?

message 26: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday her trembling hands would never be able to hold onto any weapon long enough to put it to use. plus... she loves him!

message 27: by Alan (new)

Alan Sheinwald Great review! I love it when authors can paint a scene with their words.

message 28: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Alan!

Loederkoningin I've never been more interested in a book than after reading your review.

message 30: by Penina (new)

Penina Mezei The book is truly a modern day work of fiction. - Penina Mezei

message 31: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday indeed! I agree

message 32: by Kay (new) - added it

Kay I saw this after reading your review of Transcendence (which seems like unicorns and cotton candy now). Books with these levels of douchebaggery and rape make me squeamish and uncomfortable, but now you've gotten me terribly curious. Damn it.

message 33: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday it is definitely the exact opposite of a light read! one of the darkest books I've ever read. and it is still a "Romance" of all things.

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