Review: ‘Wicked After Midnight’ by Delilah S. DawsonPosted: June 2, 2014
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?
Wicked After Midnight is the third and final book in the Blud series, a set of three steampunk fantasy romance novels set in the same world but with each following a different pair of main characters. You could pick up any of the three and read it without having read the other two, and you’d be fine.
I love this series. Love love love. The world, a sort of medieval parallel to modern day Earth, is rich and dark and has clockworks and magic in equal measure. Plus Dawson’s love interests in each book are smoking hot, strong, dangerous to their enemies and respectful of their leading ladies (which is one of the reasons they are smoking hot, in my book!). Wicked After Midnight brought us more of the same in that sense, while telling a different story.
The bulk of this book is set in the Blud equivalent of Paris, populated mostly by daimons — magical creatures that feeds on emotions — and the humans they need to survive. The main character, Demi, is a bludman (basically a vampire but with a bunch of unique aspects that separate them from your typical Dracula or Edward), and — due to her awesome contortionist abilities — quickly becomes a star in the cabaret. I love the movie Moulin Rouge and there were a lot of elements of that in here. I pretty much had the soundtrack stuck in my head the whole time I was reading.
The only fly in the ointment for me is that Demi is a bit of a diva. At the start of the book she basically harrasses her best friend, Cherie, into running away from the caravan to join the cabaret (despite all the warnings she gets about how this isn’t the glamorous life she thinks it is). When Cherie goes missing, Demi decides the best way to find her is to follow through on her original plan and become a star. She then gets so swept up in her new life that at times she completely forgets about her friend. If it wasn’t for Vale, quietly reminding her every so often that he’s still pursuing her friend, Cherie would probably never be found.
Now, in Demi’s defence, a lot of cabaret girls have gone missing, presumably taken by the same people that took Cherie, and her plan to make herself bait and investigate the clientele for hints of her friend isn’t a bad one in and of itself. And she does regret the self-absorption, when she realises what she’s done. But I would’ve liked to see more active searching as well, maybe a couple of scenes early on that involved her actually going out into the city looking for clues, just so I didn’t feel like her decision to join the cabaret was her deluding herself into thinking she was “helping”.
The overall theme of this book is quite pertinent despite its fantasy setting: mysogyny, rape culture and women’s fight against it. And any qualms I had about Demi were blown right out of the water by her defiant reaction to that culture and the things that are expected of her as a dancer and a courtesan. There’s no doubt that if anyone actually tried to force themselves on her, she’d gut them. For example, I love this quote:
My only choices were play nice, get raped or die?
The Blud series is a great read, and definitely worth your time if you like stories about carnivals and dancers; hot vampires; steampunk technology (and let’s take a moment to acknowledge the awesomeness that is Coco in this book — she’s only in two scenes and she steals them both); respectful men who are apparently fantastic in bed (*fans self*!); and strong women who know what they want and aren’t afraid to take it.