Published 2008 326 pages
Summary (from book jacket)
Jill Kismet is a dealer in dark things and demon slayer, and it's her job to patrol the nightside…
In the cold pre-dawn, Jill is called in to assess the aftermath of a particularly savage cop-killing. Under the haunted eyes of the forensic techs, Jill picks up the stench of hellbreed and something else - something dangerous and tainted. But this makes no sense as hellbreed always work alone, distrusted even by their own kind.
Jill's a Hunter, trained by the best, but she's in over her head. Welcome to the night shift...
Night Shift is the first novel in a new series by fantasy author Lilith Saintcrow. Lilith Saintcrow is probably best known for futuristic urban fantasy novels featuring bounty hunter Dante Valentine. Jill Kismet has some superficial similarities to Dante but is essentially a new creation. Her world isn’t futuristic either like Dante’s, but a darker version of our own, set in our own timeframe. In Jill’s world there are a whole host of things that go bump in the night, chiefly demons - or hellbreed - and she is the Hunter who is there to protect the innocent, or avenge the innocent who became demon fodder.
Like Dante, Jill is a kick-ass female protagonist from the early Anita Blake school of thinking. Dressed in leather, wielding assorted swords, guns and knives she has a demon mark to give her superhuman powers although she had to trade for that power with the chief hellbreed in the city. She rushes in where angels would fear to tread, impetuously killing and burning out demons where she finds them. No one gets to hurt her people - but her motives are often vengeance rather than justice.
In some ways Jill Kismet is less a figure of female empowerment and more an urban fantasy cliché. She barely eats even though she spends her nights in physical combat with any number of evil hellbreed or possessed humans but makes up for the lost calories with a liquid diet of Jack Daniels. One would think that this liquid diet of hard liquor is responsible for her poor judgment when it comes to picking her fights (this is understandable, hard liquor has been responsible for many of my lapses of judgment) but later on in the story readers are informed that alcohol has little effect on her due to her demonically enhanced metabolism. Huh? So why does she constantly drink it then, and why is she so foolishly gung-ho without the excuse of beer goggles?
Apart from my irritation with the protagonist’s gung-ho nature, I actually really enjoyed this book. The writing style is typical of Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante books – fast, fast pacing and enough action to satisfy even the most demanding urban fantasy fan. Narrated in first person by Jill, the reader makes discoveries about her past, her motivations and her character as she slowly reveals herself though her self-questioning and flashback recollections.
The mystery elements of the novel, who is violently killing the cops and then why, is solid enough to keep readers guessing to the final reveal. Night Shift seems to be darker, with a stronger horror vibe than the Dante novels and the demons here really are the stuff that nightmares are made of. Unlike the genetically advanced (yet essentially clean) manipulative demons of Dante’s world, these demons are evil repulsive, smelly, rotting things wearing a human skin. They are more like the evil demons of traditional human legend.
Vampires are sadly non existent in this novel. Although they do exist in Jill’s world they are not vampires as we would know them. Called the Scurf (I know, I know, it sounds like some sort of itchy flaky skin condition) they are blood hungry corpses, the result of a semi-psychic viral infection. Since Night Shift is the first novel in a series maybe they will feature in future books, certainly I will be eagerly reading to find out.
Night Shift powers readers through an action packed nightscape of bloody death - usually dispensed by our heroine Jill. In my view Night Shift makes for more engaging reading than the Dante Valentine books but I think that readers will have to make up their own minds. Certainly if you have enjoyed the earlier Dante Valentine books I can’t see you being disappointed by Night Shift.
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