Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Devil's Kiss

Billi SanGreal is the only girl in the Knights Templar. At fifteen, she doesn't have time for a social life - or for homework. Her life is a rigorous and brutal round of weapons practice, demon killing, and occult lore – and a whole lot of bruises. It doesn't matter that Billi doesn’t want to be a Templar. She doesn't have a choice. Her father is the Grandmaster of the Order and when she was ten, he forced her to take this path. There is no sacrifice he will not make in his war against the Unholy. And Billi hates him for it. Originally an official Church-sanctioned crusading order, The Knights Templar were officially disbanded and declared heretical in the thirteenth century. Now they exist in secret, based in London and charged with protecting humans from the Unholy: vampires, werewolves, and demons possessing dead bodies.

Billi's already fed up with her life when it takes a turn for the worse: her childhood friend, Kay, who is also a part of the Knights Templar returns home from Jerusalem. He plays a different role in the Templar - he's an Oracle, a psychic, and he's gone from a skinny and timid kid to a gorgeous and confident guy with a dangerous chip on his shoulder. He's ready to reclaim his place in Billi's life, but she's can't get over the bitterness she feels about the fact that he left her with no word for over a year. And she's met someone new: Michael, who seems to understand her like no one else.

But the Templars are called to duty before Billi can enjoy the pleasant new twist to her life. One of the order's ancient enemies, the Angel of Death, has resurfaced, searching for a treasure that the Templars have protected for hundreds of years - a cursed mirror powerful enough to bring down the Tenth Plague on humanity and kill all of London's firstborn. To save her city from catastrophe, Billi will have to put her heart aside and make sacrifices greater than any of the Templars could have imagined.

First check out the two covers. Which do you like better?

This one?


Or this one?
The Devil's Kiss opens with a bang and the first chapter is excellent. Billi SanGreal is facing The Ordeal, her last test before she can be initiated into the Order of the Knights Templar and all she has to do is kill a six year-old boy, who despite his angelic innocent appearance is demon-possessed. Sarwat Chadda opens with this tense and hauntingly written passage and marks a dazzling beginning to what proves to be an enjoyable read.

After the great opening, the pace slows down for the next hundred pages or so, weaving the interesting backstory of the Knights Templar and Billi's character and her history with Kay into the present day drama. The lead characters are strong and memorable, and they come alive. At times, Billi's thoughtfulness turns to angst, but she's still a feisty heroine, her father is stern and demanding, and the mysterious Michael is larger than life. On character that annoys me is Kay. At times, he's too bitter and too arrogant and even too whiny.

The narrative is compelling and Sarwat Chadda makes modern day London seem mysterious and otherworldly, bringing a unique and superb atmosphere to life. I did find myself mystified as to why all the Knights except Billi were named after Arthurian figures (Arthur, Percival, Gwaine, Bors, Balin, Pelleas, Kay, Elaine)? I know there are, apparently, some modern conspiracy theories connecting the Templars to Arthur, but neither these theories nor King Arthur are mentioned in The Devil's Kiss, so it became a curious mystery to me.

I saw Sarwat Chadda speak at BookExpo America in New York this summer before The Devil's Kiss came out, and he mentioned his life-long love of the Crusades gave birth to this book and his two daughters inspired the character of Billi. What he came up with is a cross between Buffy, The Bible and The Da Vinci Code - a fast-paced, action-packed and thought-provoking novel with clever, subtle and balanced use of religion.

12 comments:

Sara said...

Great review... I want to read this book so badly!

I like the second cover much better than the first!

Jenn said...

Great review! And I like both covers, but they're so drastically different that I thought they were different books the first time I saw them. I think the second one's better suited to YA books though, while the first one is like an thriller cover.

pepsivanilla said...

I prefer the 2nd cover, the first one looks more like a murder mystery to me.

brizmus said...

Contrary to what others seem to be thinking, I prefer the first cover. Although the 2nd does seem more suited to YA. Anyhow, great review; this book looks awesome!

~The Book Pixie said...

Originally, I would have said second cover hands down. But now, the first has kinda grown on me. I think I like them both about the same for different reasons.

Great review. I have an ARC of this I need to read. First time I've heard this book referred to as a cross between Buffy, The Bible, and The Davinci Code. lol. Can't wait to read it.

~Briana

Melissa said...

At first I liked the second cover more, because a girl with a sword will get my attention every time, but in some ways, I think the first cover is better artistically. I'm not an artist, I can't explain why, it just catches my attention. I think it's the big red 'X' with the figure underneath.

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said...

I read the opening sequence of this and I have to say I think it is one of the best I've read. I love action and creepy and this one does a great job of hooking you into the story. Can't wait to read the whole thing!

The covers? Funny, because I usually don't like to see an actual person, but between these two, I'd go with the second one.

Mechelle Fogelsong said...

If you put an X through something, doesn't that usually mean "stay away"? So somewhere in my subconscious, the first cover makes me not-so-interested in spending my hard-earned money, since my B&M gift card ran out last June.

The second cover has a shadowy male figure in the background. I love a good romance--which the male figure seems to imply--and I'm with Melissa on the girls-with-swords thing (since I'm also a fencing instructor), so the second cover wins hands down for me.

Mechelle Fogelsong said...

Oops. That was supposed to say B&N. Aargh.

suzie said...

I have to say while the first cover is striking, the romantic in me is drawn to the second one.

Joanna said...

Agreed on the second cover--it catches my romantic and adventure-type interest. The first one definitely reminds me of a thriller.

I have this ARC too! Must. Read. ASAP.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I have this book, can't wait to read it! I prefer the first cover, so that's the one I bought, but I like them both.

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?