by T.A. Pratt
Cover Artist: Daniel Dos Santos
Review by Harriet Klausner
Spectra Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553591354
Date: 28 October 2008 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Marla Mason, the chief guardian sorceress of the large East Coast city of Felport, has no time to rest on her laurels following her near death experiences with a mercenary psychic assassin (see Poison Sleep). Instead a hunk arrives in town with a deadly retinue that includes the long dead reanimated John Wilkes Booth seething as a support character and an apparently psycho necromancer who believes Marla affronted him by scorning his skills.
The leader, with looks literally to die for, claims he is Walking Death, chief of the underworld; with a sexy look that could melt a witch. He demands Marla give him the magical dagger that denotes her position as the metropolis' chief guardian. She literally tells him to go to Hell. Outraged by her rejection, Walking Death initially tries to steal the artifact, but fails as he learns the only way he can possess it, is if the rightful keeper bestows it on him, which she refuses to do. Fuming with brimstone, the irate Walking Death decides to punish Marla; he dispatches her to the underground where he expects her to quickly beg him for mercy. Instead he once again underestimates her strength as she finds capricious lunatics who join her cause; they openly rebel bringing chaos to Hell while Death and his companions march blithely through Felport.
The third Marla Mason wild sorcery thriller (see Poison Sleep and Blood Engines) is a wacky amusing out of this world epic fantasy. The story line is action packed from the moment the handsome Death arrives on the East Coast with his demands and continues unabated in Hell where the devilish crowd learns that anywhere that Marla goes troubles accompanies her; she quickly becomes an unwelcome guest.
As with the previous books in the Mason saga, it is the cast that make the tale enjoyable. Death is a fascinating adversary as he is used to getting his way until Marla tells him to go to Hell; he reacts with a terrible two's temper tantrum. His allies are also interesting as Booth resents being second fiddle and the necromancer who brought him back loathes Marla for allegedly putting down his skills. In other words the bad dudes may be powerful but are childishly deadly.
The heroine is her usual kick butt self whether she is sunning in Felport, preparing for the magical ball, or trying to escape from Hell; as no one can cause havoc faster and maintain that mayhem longer than she can. Her out of this world Hellish allies are an incredible group playing solitaire with a deck of fifty one (complements of the Statler Brothers); her earthly supporters starting with her capable sidekick the body hopper Rondeau are a bit more pragmatic, although without their chief they feel overwhelmed by Death. With plenty of amusement, twists and spins galore, T.A. Pratt provides a zany superb tale that is summed up by the heroine's adaptability -- from what to wear at the mage Founders' Ball to fighting a war in Hell.