March 27th, 2008


Devil's Cape draws us, like a glittering treasure dangling from a skeleton's beckoning hand.

This latest addition to my 2008 reading list is being posted concurrently with the Horror Reader review.

Devil's Cape by Rob Rogers. (2008, Wizards of the Coast Discoveries, 384 pages).
For Horror Reader, I've had to look at the book through a certain lens and found it lacking (while dark, this is no horror story). However, here in my livejournal, I am free of such restraints. Let me tell you about the book I just finished.

Devil's Cape, Louisiana has been plagued with violence and corruption since its origins (the city was founded by a pirate, no less!). This novel (undoubtedly the first of a series) recounts its origins, as well as the origins of several key players in the city , including... Superheroes, super powered villains, and a mysterious (and masked!) criminal mastermind.

Now these are not the superheroes of the Rated E for Everyone Marvel Universe. They do not seem to be in such abundance that a person can't walk down the mean streets of a city without bumping into someone in tights, who happens to wield the powers of gods. This work's superbeings are limited in number, they are still rather powerful, and (most importantly) they are fallible. Mortal.

When the savage murder of the world's most beloved superteam occurs, the world mourns. It is up to three as yet untried heroes to try and find justice in a city where such a concept is nearly impossible. Devil's Cape, you see, uses up a lot of people. Super powered and otherwise.

The novel builds up to this momentous murder, and then rockets along through the days afterward, as our heroes seek justice. In a lousy writer's hands, such a concept could get pretty hokey pretty fast. Luckily, this author has a talent for telling a compelling story.

The end, while not resolving all the plot threads, does a great job of closing the door on several big questions, offering a sense of resolution while leaving things wide open for a sequel or two. This reader looks forward to reading them.

As an aside (and an added bonus!), the gamer geek in my head was certainly intrigued by the extensive city background and build up. The novel offers GMs a great location to run a down and dirty, dark (but not too nasty) superhero campaign with such games as Silver Age Sentinels, Aberrant, Champions, Mutants and Masterminds, etc.
there!, Hello

Wicked Dead #1

26) Wicked Dead: Lurker by Stefan Petrucha and Thomas Pendleton. (2007, HaperTeen, 214 pages).

Four ghostly girls inside a decrepit Georgian mansion (a former Oprhanage) roll bones to determine who will speak. They tell stories to each other, you see, tales of terror. They hope to find their own story, which will free them… However, a mysterious and threatening figure known only as The Headmistress haunts them… Tonight, Anne has gotten lucky and gets to tell the tale…

The story she tells, alas, begins in rather uninteresting fashion...

Prior to the story's beginning, the extent of problems in seventeen year old Mandy’s life is catching her boyfriend (Dale) IMing another girl and subsequently breaking up him… Then, Mandy's classmate Nikki is gruesomely murdered by a mysterious figure known as the Witchman. Subsequent to this awful deed, Mandy’s problems begin to multiply as Dale tries to worm his way back into her life, she discovers an exciting New Boy (Kyle) online, goes through the trouble of setting up her friend to go on a date, discovers how casually cruel some of her classmates are, &cetera. This is punctuated by occasional eerie elements so the book might remind readers (and perhaps itself) that the cover image of a nasty looking arm holding a butcher knife was right: this is a horror novel.

As the finale approaches, the number of seemingly supernatural intrusions increases, and they are effectively creepy. When that familiar teen drama has been delightfully ruined, the story becomes full blown engaging. A surprisingly grim finale comes as a welcome shock, and then, Anne’s penny dreadful complete, we return to the really interesting part of the book: the framing story featuring those four ghostly girls in the ruined Orphanage.

Thus, if I were to chart the book’s progress, it would go from intriguing ghostly/gothic, to a brief dalliance with a Scream-style slasher movie (though the murder is actually off screen), to an eye rolling Dawson’s Creek episode punctuated by occasional eeriness, to a surprisingly scary finale, back to the intriguing ghostly/gothic bit. Or, in teen terms (well, from when I was a teen anyway): it’s awesome interrupted by an unfortunate stretch of mostly suck.

The teaser for the next book in the series (Wicked Dead: Torn) sounds like trashy fun… A band on the rise dealing with a deadly creature that might have been summoned by their latest song??? Sounds like a popcorn classic to me!
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