Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Devil to Pay by Jeaniene Frost
Blake Turner had it all—until a demon decided to take residence in his soul. Plagued with constant black outs and a trail of dead bodies in his wake, Blake thinks vampire Elise is his best chance at ending the nightmare. It’s just too bad he’s fallen in love with the gorgeous vamp right before he has to die… Featuring characters from New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress world. (Originally appeared in Four Dukes and a Devil anthology)
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This was a very poignant story that will take you through a variety of emotions, though largely various shades of heartbreak, tinged at times with despair. While it doesn't seem to have any direct bearing on the main story of the Night Huntress series, we do see some of the characters from it. Cat and Bones play a significant, if relatively brief, role, and Mencheres features prominently. Even without these known characters, however, the new characters we meet here make it totally worth reading or listening to.
Elise has been living the life of a hermit in the tunnels under the subway system in Washington D.C. since the 1950s. Left to her own devices she'd only emerge for as long as it took her to feed and perhaps to acquire new reading material. At her sire Mencheres' urging, however, she's been making more of an effort to interact with humans, coming out of her hideaway and spending several hours each evening amongst them. Still, though she may spend time in the human world, she maintains her emotional detachment from it, not letting herself feel very much or take much interest in any particular human she meets--until she happens to meet Blake one evening. And as fate would have it, just when she's met a man who manages to pull her out of her shell, circumstances conspire to take him away from her and leave her with a heart that's more shattered than it was to begin with.
Blake has been living with demonic possession for months now, horrified at the things the demon has forced him to do and desperate to find a way to put an end to it, even if it means his death. Indeed, he's more than willing to sacrifice himself if it means innocent lives will be saved. When he meets Elise, and through her Mencheres, he's given more hope than he's had in months even though it is only the hope that he'll be able to put an end to the demon's evil once and for all. As he gets to know Elise better, he isn't immune from wishing things could be different and that they could have a future together, but his resolve to put an end to the evil within him trumps even love.
The story isn't long, and yet it has so much depth to it that it seems longer than it really is. Elise and Blake are both fascinating characters and we get pulled through an emotional wringer with them. Anyone who has suffered from unrequited love or who has been betrayed by one they loved will easily be able to identify with Elise's pain and perhaps with her desire to shut herself away from the world and from her emotions so that she can't be hurt again. Blake's nobility of character and readiness to sacrifice himself for the greater good will likely resonate with many as well. The emotional intensity lasts up until the very end, and it's not until the very end that we find out if their story will end in tragedy or if they'll manage to find a happy ending despite all the odds against them.
I'd recommend this story to anyone who enjoys the Night Huntress series or anyone who simply likes character and emotion driven short stories. It's certainly well worth the few hours it takes to listen to it or to read it. I'm usually a bit loath to give 5 stars to a short story, but this one does such a good job of presenting us with well developed characters and plot along with vivid emotional narrative that had me aching along with them, so I think the 5 stars are well deserved.