Review — Wicked After Midnight by Delilah S. Dawson

wicked after midnightPublisher: Pocket
Publish Date: January 28, 2014
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher

A contortionist and a rakish brigand navigate the cabarets of Paris to rescue a girl taken by slavers in the third steampunk-tinged romance of the Blud series.

Life as a contortionist in Criminy’s Clockwork Caravan should be the height of exotic adventure, but for Demi Ward, it’s total dullsville. Until her best friend, Cherie, is stolen by slavers outside of Paris, and Demi is determined to find her.

On the run from his own past, Vale Hildebrand, a dashing rogue of a highwayman, hides Demi from the slavers…but why? He pledges to help her explore the glittering cabarets of Paris to find her friend, but much to Vale’s frustration, Demi soon attracts a host of wealthy admirers. The pleasures of music, blood, and absinthe could turn anyone’s head, and it would be all too easy to accept Cherie’s disappearance as inevitable—but with Vale’s ferocious will and Demi’s drive to find her friend, they soon have a lead on a depraved society of Parisian notables with a taste for beautiful lost girls. Can Demi wind her way through the seedy underbelly of Paris and save her best friend before she, too, is lost?
*Blurb from Goodreads

There is something incredibly captivating about Delilah S. Dawson’s alternate world of Sang. I eagerly lap up each new installment as it is released, and Wicked After Midnight was no exception.

Sang certainly casts a spell. Part of what makes it so fascinating is that it is accessible from our world, but only if you are stupid or unlucky. Sang is the place where dreamers and coma-victims often come to a quick and sticky end. Those who survive have the opportunity to contrast and comment on the differences between our Earth and Sang.

Demi Ward is one such person. She died of alcohol poisoning, and woke up in Sang. (She seems to be the right age to be named for Demi Moore, too.) She had the fortune to have been found by Criminy Stain and made into a bludwoman before she died of exsanguination on Sang. (For more about Criminy and an introduction to Sang, read Wicked As They Come. Just do.)

His caravan has been her home for six years. As much as she loves the carnivaleros, she is bored with her life. Bored as only someone who is young and has never been forced out on their own can really be.

Criminy offers her a safe way to try her wings, college and an apartment in Franchia. It’s a place where it won’t matter so much that she is bludded. Instead, she sets out to have an adventure, and the first thing that happens is that her sister-of-the-heart is kidnapped and sold to slavers.

Demi spends the rest of the book getting herself lost in as many possible ways as a young and relatively naive girl never imagined. Demi is lost and very nearly not found, in the worst of all possible decadences in fin-de-siecle Paris.

She is saved by a brigand, and in turn she saves the daimons of the demimonde of Paris. But she seems more lucky than clever.

While I adore Dawson’s alternate world, this particular lens of the funhouse mirror seemed unrelievedly dark. Except for the charming rogue Vale, every person Demi meets in Paris who has any power is out to use her. Even worse, she never seems to see it. She always thinks she’s in control of the situation and she never actually is. She is spun around and disoriented at every turn, and only Vale’s influence keeps her from losing herself to drugs or prostitution. That’s even before the big evil comes into play.

Demi keeps walking into things with her eyes a bit too wide shut. For her to be a strong heroine, I was hoping she’d participate a little more in her own rescue.

Not that I didn’t love Vale. He’s the brigand who decides to help her at the very beginning of her adventure, and he keeps on helping, even as he watches her drown in absinthe and magic and false adulation. He’s defying his family to help her, but sometimes Demi is so far under that she can’t see what’s right in front of her face.

The climactic battle where Demi and the daimon girls perform one of the great takedowns of all time was absolutely awesome. It was one of those female empowerment fights that made my heart sing. I just found myself wishing that the story had gotten there about 50 pages sooner.

I’m looking forward to the next trip back to the carnival. The Blud books with more Criminy and more carnival have more of the right kind of wicked for me.

I give Wicked After Midnight a B

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