Welcome to Void City, where the vampires run the town, the cops are on the take, and the werewolves have found religion… for the last time. The series is coming to a close, and there’s hell to pay as Eric takes on the demon he made a bargain with for the soul of his beloved Marilyn. Let’s walk through the fire with Burned, by J. F. Lewis.
IMMORTAL. INGENIOUS. AND DOWNRIGHT INFURIATING.
Void City’s resident badass vampire has a secret to keep, everything to lose, and a plan to win it all. Eric has taken control of the city’s supernatural hierarchy, putting all the deals and contracts that allow Void City to function up for renegotiation. When he installs his insane vampire daughter, Greta, as Void City’s sheriff of the supernatural, bloody mayhem ensues. To further complicate things, the love of Eric’s life is back from the dead, immortally young, at a cost that has put Eric under the thumb of a very powerful demon. The mysterious mouser Talbot, morose mage Magbidion, and all of Eric’s thralls are trying to help him keep things under control . . . But with early onset Alzheimer’s, vampire hunters, demons, a band of chupacabra, a cursed cousin with a serious grudge, and Rachel as his new “handler” . . . there’s just not an app for that.
In a departure from the style of the previous books, Eric is now the man with the plan. In the past, he’s been passive to the point of apathy, reacting only when circumstances left him with no other choice. No longer: he’s determined to defeat the demon holding Marilyn’s soul over him, and that means going on the offensive.
Of course, by the narrative law of the Unspoken Plan Guarantee, if the plan’s going to work, that means we can’t be told about it in advance – a difficult prospect when Eric is the main viewpoint character. Fortunately, it’s a line the book walks well, giving us just enough tantalizing hints to keep things interesting without giving away the game. Of course, Eric’s long-running memory issues pay off here: it’s not a cheat for his internal monologue to keep us in the dark about the plan when he can’t even remember it himself half the time.
But for those absolutely pivotal moments where we really cannot be allowed to know what Eric is thinking, the book has another solution: it cuts to the Greta and Evelyn buddy-cop show. Greta’s in top form here, following in Eric’s footprints and trying to puzzle out his plan so that she can ensure she plays the most critical role in it in order to prove her love for him; and in the meantime, just causing general havoc as she stomps around town imposing her own warped brand of logic on things. Void City, beware: there’s a new sheriff in town, and violators will be eaten. Evelyn is the perfect foil, the good cop to Greta’s bad; and also a compelling character in her own right, a reluctant monster struggling to hold on to what’s left of her humanity and find her place in the supernatural world. Hell, I wouldn’t mind reading an entire series just about those two getting up to wacky hijinks.
Now, I can’t quite say that the book is perfect. For one thing, I felt like Tabitha was given short shrift. She didn’t even get an epilogue; the last we saw of her was Marilyn leaving her staked body behind while rushing off to the final showdown. I also question the decision of bringing Rachel back, given that she doesn’t actually end up doing much of anything; I personally found her end in Crossed to be extremely satisfying and would have been happy leaving dead villains lie.
Ah, but what the hell. It had an epic final showdown and fully satisfying conclusion, and that’s all I can ask for out of the final book of a series that has been consistently extremely good.
Final Rating: 5/5