Review: Devil’s Punch (Corine Solomon #04) by Ann Aguirre

Book info:
Form: e-book, Kindle format
Genre: Urban fantasy with some romantic elements
Target audience: adults
It is the fourth part of a series – you can read it as a stand-alone (there is plenty of info from previous books mentioned in the plot)  but still you’ll be missing many details so I don’t recommend starting with this one.
Chance has moved to Mexico to be with Corine Solomon, his ex-girlfriend. Although their relationship is progressing slowly toward the right direction they simply lack enough time to make it work. Soon after they settled down and bought some furniture Corine gets a note saying that her best friend, Shannon, might have been captured. Being a practitioner of arcane arts Corine knows immediately that something paranormal must be involved – after all touching any object she can ‘see’ its history and the stories behind the people who handled it so she can ‘read’ much more than just ink on paper. She also knows that when demons are involved there is hardly anybody else she can turn to.
Shannon, an orphan girl and a very special friend, is also somebody who has been suffering because one of Corine’s spells went wrong; that’s why our witch is prepared to put everything on hold to save her. She even drags along Chance and Butch, the wonderful chihuahua which understand American English and can communicate using Scrabble tiles. The rescue mission will take them straight to Sheol (a Hebrew name for Hell) where Corine will have to deal with thousands of demons and demon-like entities, especially one very old, very angry queen. And rule them or perish. Is she going to return alive? How much will it cost her personally? What will she discover this time about her family and her lover?
What I liked:
Corine Solomon is a friend every boy and girl would like to have by their side when the chips are seriously down. She is truly unstoppable. Would you go to Hell to save your best buddy? Honestly, would you? Plenty of people would balk at the very idea but not Corrie. She is so motivated that she can persuade Chance to follow and she befriends her demonic guide, Greydusk, who joins her side. I enjoyed the fact  that such an aspect of Corine’s personality was so emphasised here – a loyal friend to the very end, that’s my girl.
Her character changed radically as well but it was explained and justified in a logical way. I admit the influence of a certain demonic queen was something Corine and Chance needed the most, maybe especially Chance who, in previous novels, treated his ex-girlfriend in a slightly condescending manner, getting on my nerves from time to time. Seriously dude, if you are so supreme, beautiful and great why are you still hanging around? Anyway here Chance gets to know another Corine and it serves him right.
The setting of this installment is rather different from the previous three books as it takes place mostly in Sheol, where demons dwell and rule. I found the world building rather original although from time to time I got strange flashes from the old Dune film (1984, no less, directed by David Lynch), as if the author watched it while writing. Well, such a radical change of scenery is a very bold move and I praise Ms. Aguirre for not being afraid of taking such a risk. However, I would be more than ok if the book showed us a bit more of Mexican/ Tex-Mex lifestyle.
What I didn’t like:
After a while (like in the second half of the book, maybe even a tad earlier) I felt as if I was reading a screenplay for a computer game – I mean too many things happening too fast to be registered properly, the ending being mostly about who would be able to kill their opponent more quickly and escape. Or not.. The situation with the demons deteriorated very quickly but no surprises here, you deal with bad, big devious devils after all, not a bunch of fluffy bunnies. However, I would prefer a closer look at Sheol and its castes so more halcyon days for Corine and her team, more bonding and planning, more fun.
Also most of secondary characters from the previous parts were either completely absent (Kel) or just hovered on the outskirts of the main plot (Jesse). I know, Greydusk was one fine demonic specimen and queen Ninlil was simply devilicious but somehow I felt they couldn’t make up for all these absentees. Not really.
My ramblings concerning the future of this series (please highlight and read only if you don’t mind major spoilers, have read the book or you like ramblings too much for your own good).
The ending was a big surprise – Chance’s sacrificial suicide was really a punch in the gut. Ok, ding-dong-dell, the main male lead is dead. What can be done in the next installment? There are basically two ways of dealing with such a situation.
First: the author resurrects Chance. I could see the foreshadowing of such a move- Chance’s last words promise Corine he wouldn’t leave her even after death. Chance was a demi-god, the son of a Japanese  luck deity so I wouldn’t be surprised if there were different rules concerning such beings, like a second go at life. Of course after meeting the right conditions and providing an appropriate payment I suppose – it must be logical and coherent with the rest of the story and so far you got nothing for nothing here, like in real world. 
There have been fictional characters’ resurrections which fell flat to say the least of it- one of them was committed by Chloe Neil in her Chicagoland Vampires series (Ethan the vampire was revived by a failed/incomplete spell after spending two solid months in an urn in the form of dust; mind you he emerged as a fully functional, sentient being, even capable of taking to bed his beloved Merit – nuh-huh, not buying it, sorry). To sum up: in my humble opinion it can be done in a satisfactorily way but I would recommend proceeding with caution.
Second: Chance is hovering around as a ghost or he is born in a different body. Hmm…I admit the second option would be very interesting indeed but I suppose it would exclude any sexual relationship between Corine and the new reincarnated Chance. No one would dare to make your heroine a baby snatcher. That’s why I am willing to place my bet  on solution number one. We’ll see next year (hopefully).
Final verdict.
The next part of this series, Agave Kiss, will be released in March 2013. I hope it will make Devil’s Punch more understandable, explaining several issues in a good way and bringing all the good stuff from previous installments back. I believe Ms. Aguirre is up to the task.
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