I loved parts of this book. Scarlet was a marvelous character – a woman of common sense who spends idiotic amounts of money on shoes and purses (her Louboutins are mentioned several times); a lesbian who is not defined by that tag; a wife and mother who has been very good at both those jobs in the past but has faltered lately; an apparent workaholic who does not hesitate to kick her work responsibilities to the curb when more important things – like her life, and those of her wife and daughter – come to the fore.
That last is something I’ve seen done very badly in the past. A non–millionaire character has to have a job in order to provide grounding for the nuts and bolts of her life, but when the events of the plot pick up she ignores that job with absolutely no regard for what will happen when everything’s over. I kind of understand an author forgetting about how a character is going to pay for her home when she gets fired because she was busy dealing with a demon – but, living paycheck to paycheck as I have as often as I have, I have a hard time swallowing the character forgetting. And Scarlet doesn’t forget. She probably wouldn’t have a money problem for a while (failing all else she could always sell the Louboutins; one pair would almost pay my rent for a month), but she does have a position of responsibility, and she is shown to give consideration to that fact. It’s a small thing, takes only a paragraph if that – and it grounds the character and allows me to keep believing in her as a human being.
I mentioned above too that Scarlet is a lesbian without necessarily being the poster child for lesbians. She’s a woman who happens to be married to another woman. This circumstance is not waved like a banner; the only impact that her gender orientation has on her presentation as a character is that it colors her interaction with and anticipation of her interaction with the Catholic Church – the reader is not battered with this aspect of her life any more than with the fact that she’s black, or almost fifty, or whatever her job is. And … well, isn’t that kind of the way things should be, that gender orientation, while important, is not what should determine how someone is treated or perceived? I really enjoyed Scarlet’s relationship with her wife.
There are a few things, though, that I didn’t enjoy as much. Kelton, the assistant in the exorcism game, was almost a complicated character. As stolidly prejudiced against Scarlet as the most clichéd of Catholics (and, seriously, it is a cliché that writers should be ashamed to lean on), he is devoted to the priest, he lets his strong convictions cancel out any compassion or impulse to duty he might feel – and he has his secrets. Come to find out, he is in an apparently abusive relationship with his wife. To be clear, she seems to be abusing him. This could have been a really interesting thing to explore, even if only as a B-plot (or C-plot) … but it isn’t. Even a chapter – or even part of a chapter – more digging into that situation would have been great – but no.
And, finally, the resolution of the plot bothered me a great deal. It wasn’t Scarlet’s fate that bothered me, though – that worked. Without spoilers, the way this book was fitted into the author’s universe was, I felt, unfortunate. The story of Scarlet’s impending possession was fascinating – until the end and the revelation of more information, at which point I just got annoyed. And the whole “Fearmorph” thing annoyed me even more – after the serious jeopardy throughout the whole book, this just sounded silly.
Up until the last few chapters, I was all in. I had a great time. But that resolution undid a lot of it. Pity.
The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.