meilufay’s #CBR4 review #40 Dead Man Rising (Dante Valentine #2) by Lilith Saintcrow
I’m at least twenty books behind on my reviews so I apologize in advance for the brevity of this and any other reviews I write over the next week or so.
Dead Man Rising is the second book in the Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow. When we left necromancer and bounty hunter Dante, she was completely shattered by the revelations and changes wrought by book one, Working for the Devil. We pick up the action with Dante back to her day job, bounty hunting, working with her former partner and lover, Jace Monroe. It’s very clear very quickly that Dante is still not anywhere near OK with the events of book one. She’s a shell of a woman and while Jace is helping her hold it together, she’s unable to give him anything in return.
The overall theme with the Dante Valentine series is one of dealing with one’s demons and this Dante chick has a lot of demons to deal with. Book by book, Lilith Saintcrow mercilessly confronts Dante with not just demons from her past but mistakes she’s making in the present. It makes for good, smart, storytelling but it also means that the main character is barely functioning on an emotional level. Which is a nice way of saying sometimes I want to slap her because she’s lucky enough to be surrounded by people who love her, people who *literally* would do anything for her and she’s so paralyzed by her emotions that she barely acknowledges their existence. Unless, of course, she wants to smack them down. Kicking ass is not something that’s a problem for Dante. She will happily fight anyone, including her friends.
In the first book, the demon Dante had to deal with was a literal one; a demon named Santorino who brutally tortured and murdered Dante’s best friend and lover Doreen. In this book, a serial killer is hunting down former classmates from the state run institution Dante was raised in. Of course, Rigger Hall was a hell for each and every one of the students who attended it, leaving deep psychic scars. In chasing down the serial killer, Dante is forced to relive that hell and is directly confronted with the evidence that almost all of her former classmates continue to be deeply dysfunctional as a result of their time at Rigger Hall.
I enjoyed this book as I enjoyed the first book but I didn’t love either. One of the problems for me was that Dante is so emotionally unavailable that it was hard for me to identify with her as a reader. The way that she treats people around her is very unsympathetic. I admire her strength and her willingness to put her life on the line when it matters; but, ultimately, Dante is a character who has high moral standards, standards by which she judges everyone, but who does not apply those standards to herself. She only deals with her past because she is literally forced to do it by events of the plot but it is frustrating to see how little she perceives that she is creating her own problems. She wants everyone to take responsibility for their actions and emotions but is unwilling to do it herself. She’s like a cartoon character who is being followed around by a thundercloud except in this instance the thundercloud can’t move on because SHE is the one holding on to the tether. Ultimately, I abandoned this series after the third book because I couldn’t deal with the character anymore. Even though I think the overall arc of the series seems to be a redemptive one, I just wasn’t willing to stick around with Dante long enough to see her get her redemption.