Hellsbane by Paige Cuccaro was not quite the book I thought it would be. It didn’t have near enough romance to make the mark as a paranormal, and was neither gritty enough nor did it have enough of an urban or detective-y enough feel to be an urban fantasy.
The premise was interesting enough. In Jane Hellsbane’s world, there are a few people who are the offspring of human women and fallen angels. Those children are called nephilim. Our heroine, Jane, is one of those chosen few.
Jane has always been a little different. She’s psychic. For real. It’s not that she can see the future. It’s that she can see people’s emotions, especially if they are sitting in the room with her. So, she uses her gift to tell people pretty much what they want to hear, and they pay her. It’s a living.
Occasionally, she feels something really, really strong in the vicinity. What she doesn’t know is that it’s either one of two things. If it’s a good strong, it’s another person like herself. If it smells like rotten eggs, it’s a demon.
When Tommy Saint James knocks on her door when evening, battered and bleeding, of course she lets him in. Eight years ago, Tommy was the high school golden boy. Every girl had a crush on him, including Jane. Tommy didn’t let her see how badly he was wounded until after he got inside her house.
But Jane didn’t listen to Tommy when he told her not to let the mailman in. And Jane didn’t listen to Tommy when he told her not to pick up his sword. But if Jane hadn’t picked up that sword and chopped off the mailman’s head after it turned into a demon, Tommy would be dead.
Except by picking up the sword, Jane committed the conscious act that changed her from just a nephilim into a full-fledged illorum, a fighter against the demons and their masters, the fallen angels. And it’s a job that Jane isn’t permitted to refuse. According to God, her act of free will committed her to the cause. If she didn’t want to become an illorum, she should have let Tommy die. Now she’s a soldier for the light, until the demons kill her.
Unless…There’s only one way to resign and live to talk about it. She has to find the fallen angel that seduced her mother (and then wiped her mother’s memories) and kill him. In other words, Jane has to kill her father.
Meanwhile, she has to keep the angel that is responsible for training both her and Tommy from falling for her. And then just falling. Period. But when Tommy is killed in the line of duty, all she and Eli have is each other.
Escape Rating C-: The description of this book was better than the execution. I wanted it to be more than it was. Either Tommy should have lived so that this was about their developing relationship while they fought evil, or there should be a way for Jane and Eli to have a relationship without him becoming a fallen angel and becoming evil. The whole thing about the “sins of the fathers being visited on the children” until they kill their sperm donors is way too melodramatic for me.
My willing suspension of disbelief started slamming the walls when it turned out that Eli’s only previous female illorum was Joan of Arc, and everyone started fearing for his soul because Joan tempted him so much that he broke most of the rules for her. And there is foreshadowing all over the place that Jane is some kind of incarnation of Joan.
Jane Hellsbane can be kick-ass without channeling Joan of Arc. I think it would be a better story if she were. Or if that is a necessary plot element, let’s not go there until Jane is established in her own right first.