I’ve been down on my luck before, sure. We all have, at one time or another. And I’ve played the game too many times of “Okay, so how am I gonna pay mI’ve been down on my luck before, sure. We all have, at one time or another. And I’ve played the game too many times of “Okay, so how am I gonna pay my rent this month?” I’ve sold things and taken on extra work, but I’ve been relatively lucky. I’ve never had to cook for demons.
Matt Wallace’s Envy of Angels, the first novella in the Sin du Jour series published by Tor.com, starts just there. Out of work chefs Lena and Darren get lucrative offers of employment from Bronko Luck, a presumed-dead celebrity chef, to cook at the mysterious catering company Sin du Jour. As they’re introduced to the unusual crew and wander into dark pantries stocked with some very bizarre ingredients (“do not open” really does mean DO NOT OPEN), they are left to wonder if they’re up for the rigors of fine dining for creatures of the underworld. However, even six-foot-tall insects, severed arms and dogs fluent in demon-speak aren’t going to deter this duo of derring-do from rolling up their sleeves, slipping out their knives and trying to get a handle on this mess hall from hell.
Wallace sets the table with a deft skill, laying out course after course of delightful scenes and dangerous characters. We meet the members of the Stocking and Receiving Department, a crack team tasked with tracking down the rarest of supernatural additives needed for the out-of-this-world dishes. And then there’s Mr. Allensworth, the enigmatic government spook with a penchant for track suits who provides the ethically-questionable main course ingredient, thus providing the main conundrum for everyone involved. Plot, character development and backstory are so tightly woven and quickly spun-out that I was left breathless, and desperately turning the page for the next delectable sentence.
There’s no shortage of sass and snark, either. Ryland, the alcoholic alchemist (because really, would there be any other kind) made me chortle with glee, and Ritter, the leader of Sin du Jour’s answer to the A-Team, has no equal when it comes to sarcastic retorts. Throw in a clown named Redman Britches, terrifying and absurd in equal measure, and I was enchanted by Wallace’s quirky sensibilities. But the funny doesn’t just come from the characters: it permeates the whole delicious dish. I found myself in wonder at the kind of mind that would take such twisted and imaginative paths. In the Sin du Jour world, magic, technology, and religion co-exist, and are all a bit messy and wholly surprising.
The sense that lingers, however, is that of enormous heart. At several points, Wallace took my heart, showed it to me, and cleaved it in two. But in such a way that I knew it was a necessary thing, and thanked him for the cut. This is where rare skill is shown, when a writer can make you grateful for the pain. There is a sort of brightness that is distilled through tragedy, and a gentleness that rises only from wounds of the worst kind. This all informs the rich world that Wallace has crafted, and it left me gloriously full and hungry for the next meal.
Envy of Angels is, quite simply, ambrosia made up of equal parts beatific wonderment, barking laughter and so, so much nightmare fuel. Each bite of this book is perfectly balanced; action, intrigue, heart and humor. Whet your appetite, because Matt Wallace’s Envy of Angels delivers....more
Nothing about this comic is real. I should clarify. Everything in this comic is hyper-real. It is a space opera in the classical sense; melodramatic,Nothing about this comic is real. I should clarify. Everything in this comic is hyper-real. It is a space opera in the classical sense; melodramatic, fraught with peril and complete with chivalric romance. But it’s also a rip-roaring story that somehow manages to rip a hole in all your preconceived notions. Are there space battles? Yup. Plenty of ships doing fighty-chasey things. There are also space whales, dispensing hard-hitting wisdom between colliding with planetoids. Are there villains? You betcha. King Thulu rules with a maniacal laugh and squiddy appendages, a megalomaniac for the ages. But there is also loneliness, perhaps the greatest destroyer of all, lurking in all the dark places between, permeating the pages with depth and a visceral despair. Is there a damsel in distress? …Yeah, not really. Captain Wyan is a three-eyed Thulu lady soldier who corrects course and joins forces with our misunderstood hero, seeing truth and goodness where everyone else cowers in fear and hatred. And then there’s Cosmos. Born of a singularity, bursting into being already armed with a cape and crippling guilt, we can’t help but root for him from the beginning, before we even “hear” him speak. He embodies us, as we journey through the dark matter of our lives, searching for acceptance, doing the best we can to find ourselves among the detritus of the space around us.
This volume is nothing less than a work of art. D.J. Kirkbride has crafted a story that manages to be lush and stark simultaneously; every word, each interaction, either serves to move the story forward or provides intriguing context. Only the necessary words are used, creating a seemingly simple yet quite complex multiverse of meaning. And the artwork is incredible. Vassilis Gogtzilas dashes each page with deliberate abandon, rendering each panel a mini masterpiece. This is the promise of the hyper-real made marvelous. Limbs are lengthened, lines are hatched and squiggled and spattered, creating the most delightful and dynamic sense of immediacy. And Frank Cvetkovic displays superb skill in deftly navigating the disparate dialects of this universe, employing every weapon in his letterer’s arsenal and gifting each race, every character with a distinct voice that is immediately translatable, echoing in your eardrums in precisely the way it’s meant to.
There were sections of “The Bigger Bang” I read several times, just to squeeze every atom of beauty out of them. This collection looks and reads unlike any other comic I’ve picked up; it’s so fantastically full of pretty for the eyes and meaty for the soul. It’s really, rewardingly good. I plan on going back into it several times, but not before I run to pick up “The Biggest Bang #1,” which promises to launch me even deeper into the unique universe created by such a talented team. I’m already strapping myself in. There’s only one thing that I don’t understand. Why don’t you have it yet? Why? This is a journey you definitely want to take. A Cosmos is waiting for you....more
A sultry lounge singer, curvy and red-haired and running away from love with a vengeance. A millionaire hotelier, nicknamed “Golden Boy” who has a wayA sultry lounge singer, curvy and red-haired and running away from love with a vengeance. A millionaire hotelier, nicknamed “Golden Boy” who has a way with the ladies but yearns for something deeper. No, this isn’t the opening scene in a film noir. It’s the set-up for Jennifer Gracen’s “More Than You Know,” that left me wanting to know a whole lot more. And Gracen doesn’t disappoint. The story swings into action in the first few pages. Dane Harrison is looking for just the right headliner for his new luxury hotel, and he’s set his sights on Julia Shay. But she’s a lot harder to convince than he anticipates, intriguing him and the reader as well. Who is this mysterious woman with so much to give and so much to lose? And how will a man with the wrong kind of past find the right way to win her heart?
The first installment of The Harrisons series, the book is a fast read. The plot moved along at a breathless pace, with just enough turns to keep me guessing until the final pages. It’s unusual for me to find a contemporary romance that is so deft in weaving a dark story with such a light touch, giving the characters depth and quirks and reasons for why they are so broken, and so hopeful, and so desperate and deserving of love. That being said, the book is also full of lines that made me laugh out loud. Gracen has a quick wit, and it shines throughout the story. Her delicate and devilish sensibility is also evident during love scenes. What happens behind Gracen’s locked hotel room doors is borderline criminal. But as steamily as she writes of frenzied unbuckling and fingernails raking, she hits the sweet spot as well with soft, lingering kisses and quiet moments of joy.
Gracen has hit a high note with “More Than You Know,” a silly, sweet, sensual symphony of love and desire. And it has me vibrating with anticipation for “Someone Like You,” the next story in The Harrisons series. I have a feeling I’ll be singing its praises as well....more