It’s taken us a little while to get there, but another chapter in Jhada Addam’s excellent Vengeance Cycle is certainly welcome to hit the scene whenever it wants to. With the first book in the series, It Never Ends, Addams crafted an erotica-horror hybrid that easily had the depth and style to be much more than just be a fix of either genre for the truly desperate. Devil’s Gambit is more of the same, and that’s not a bad thing by any means. Addams never doubted her talent, characters, or story for a second in It Never Ends. Here, she writes with even more confidence in them. The first book did an excellent job of setting the scene, introducing us to the characters, and getting our attention. Devil’s Gambit continues what she started, takes us nicely into new territory, and doesn’t forget for a second what made the first book embrace, and then stand above the constraints of trying to combine horror and erotica.
Devil’s Gambit also succeeds at getting us right back into the heart of the world Addam’s has created so well. Her characters exist in a concept of humanity that Addams constructs quickly, vividly, and without dwelling on details that would otherwise bog down the strength’s of the novel. Those qualities include crisp, natural dialogue, another fine mix of sex and horror, a story that doesn’t have a single weak character in the bunch, and the ability to display humor as easily as the story can exploit moments of page-turning tragedy. One of the most satisfying aspects of the book is the perfect level of attention Addams pays to the relationship between main protagonists Jilah and Argent. It’s the fundamental core of the book, the heartbeat that pumps life into everything else the book touches upon, but this time, it doesn’t have that occasional lag that it did in It Never Ends. Perhaps, this is because Addams doesn’t have to spend a certain amount of space establishing things. The scene is set, and it was set extremely well in It Never Ends. There is nowhere to go but up.
The novel does indeed go up. The pulse of the story might be the relationship between Jilah and Argent, but by no means is that the only place the book goes. Addams has a lot more room in the second book of The Vengeance Cycle to exercise her ambition to tell an even larger story this time.Devil’s Gambit rarely disappoints when touching on such things as love, loss, feminism (the undertones of this are pretty damn clear, but Addams knows how to make her points without sacrificing plot and character development), the intense physical and emotional connection between two beings, vengeance (obviously), and the kind of regret that can consume an individual whole. Through the eyes of a character as well-defined and intriguing as Jilah, Addams is able to express more than most writers ever could. She is yet another reminder of the versatility that exists within even the most specific genres. That’s another point in which Devil’s Gambit is even better than It Never Ends.
How does Devil’s Gambit leave us? There’s not a lot of fun to be had in revealing that. You can instead have the consolation prize of knowing that the book is almost impossible to not finish as quickly as possible. The pace stays quick, and Addams makes sure we never forget that it’s in our best interest to keep reading. When it’s over, it’s a good, satisfying ending, and we’re left with the perk of wondering where Jilah and Argent are headed to next.