“Death came by slow degrees on the hard metal tables of the Confessional rooms. It was done with simple questions and endless patience. Unlike the depictions in protest flyers, the Houses of Inquisition did not flow with rivers of blood. The walls were not stained with gore or hung with rusted hooks. The Houses were holy places. They were quiet, clean, and bright. Even the Confessional rooms were subdued and calm. The Inquisitors and Confessors never taunted or screamed threats. They asked politely for everything. The silver knives, nails, and prayer engines were merely devisces with which they sought absolute truth. All they demanded was complete honesty.” – The Wicked Gentlemen, Ginn Hale
The first time I heard of this book was about a year or two ago. I don’t remember exactly when, but I remember that a customer had asked if I could order a copy for her. While I was searching for the book details I liked the sound of it enough that I wanted a copy for myself. Unfortunately, none of our suppliers at the time carried titles by the imprint (Blind Eye Books). I tried to put it out of my mind – no use longing for books I can’t get here – when I came across her Lord of the White Hellbooks when searching for titles for a promotion. I checked again, and found that I the circumstances have changed. I could order their books through our suppliers, and so that’s exactly what I did. Not only that – I was pleased to find that Ginn Hale had published two other books since then! I immediately ordered copies for the store. They arrived a couple of days ago, and I bought them immediately.
I’m on a self-ban on books right now; I’m not supposed to be reading for pleasure until my semester is over, so that I could catch up with my readings for work and class. But Wicked Gentlemen was hard to resist, so I started it the day I brought it back from work, and finished it by the time I punched in for work the next morning. I loved it, and am glad that I’m reading it for the first time at this particular time of my life, because I had just recently finished reading Sarah Monette’s The Bone Key, which isn’t really like Wicked Gentlemen at all other than the fact that it’s also a wonderful read, but it had put me in the perfect mood to read this book, I think.
You can tell that I really love this book from all the run-on-lines.
This book consists of two novellas set in the same steampunk-esque fantasy world, with the same protagonists. The first novella (“Mr. Sykes and the Firefly”) is written in first-person, from the point of view of Belimai Sykes, who currently is one of my favourite literary characters. Belimai is a Prodigal, one of the descendants of devils. He’s also a private investigator, a junkie, and occassionally a criminal or a sex worker. He seems pretty much set on self-destruction when Captain William J. Harper came into his life. Harper needed Belimai’s help in finding his missing sister, who’s a suffragette for the causes of women and Prodigals.
The case of Harper’s missing sister leads them to a string of murders, and on a personal level, a drunken one night stand. At this point I paused, thinking, (1) oh, is this one of those books? and (2) hey, this is kind of fan-fiction ish, yay. And it islike fan-fiction, kind of, in a very good way. Both Belimai and Harper are complex in their own way, and I loved the insights to their past woven in throughout the story. Despite the stumble at the beginning of their acquaintance, they actually take their time getting to know each other, and slowly shedding away their suspicions and doubts – the fact that Belimai is a Prodigal and Harper an Inquisitor, after all, means that they are supposed to be enemies.
The resolution to the murders came about in a simple manner, and the twist on what really happened with Harper’s sister is interesting. It also marked the end of the first novella, and had me really wanting to continue to the next. The second novella, “Captain Harper and the Sixty Second Circle”, is told in third-person, in Harper’s point-of-view. It started sometime after ther first story ends, where Harper was leaving for his family estate, a little reluctant and somewhat bothered that Belimai hadn’t asked him to stay. He missed his carriage when he runs off to save a dying girl – but arrived at the scene too late – and ends up tangled in a new case, while tying up lose ends from the first novella.
The romance in Wicked Gentlemen isn’t really its main focus, but it’s still one of my favourite romances, because I liked how different Belimai and Harper were, and how they suited each other, and I loved the slow, subtle development of their relationship. I also love the characterizations – even the minor characters like Edward (Harper’s brother-in-law), Joan (Edward’s sister), and Sariel (someone from Belimai’s past) were people I would like to read more about. But my absolute favourite thing about Wicked Gentlemen is the world-building. I liked the idea of the Prodigals, and the Inquisitor’s role as both priest and police is intriguing.
If I were to complain, I guess the only thing that bugged me is that it ended too quickly. I wanted to read more about Belimai and Harper. I wanted to read more about Hells Below, and all the people who lived there. And I really wanted to read more about Sariel. I read that there’s a sequel in the works (Lord Foster’s Devils), but without a determined release date I’m not sure if it’s really going to be out. But I have Ginn Hale’s Lord of the White Hell books, so I still have happy reading to look forward to.
~ originally posted on blogspot