How far would you go to save your best friend? If you're anything like Corine Solomon, you would take a one-way ticket to hell without a second thought.
This is my tenth book by Ann Aguirre, and she has yet to write a single sentence that I won't like. From her restrained writing style to her astonishing worlds, everything she does demonstrates calmness, precision and experience not many authors have.
My relationship with Corine Solomon got off to a rocky start. Just like Sirantha Jax, she was insufferable at first, mildly infuriating later and a role model by the end. Not that we got to see much of Corine this time around, as she was sharing her body with a vicious demon queen. She was mostly in the background, a helpless spectator in her own life, and even when she found the strength to push the queen down, she was rarely the Corine I know and love. She and the queen started out as complete opposites, one gentle and mellow, the other evil incarnate, but the lines started blurring pretty soon and suddenly I had no idea where one ends and the other begins. Just like Chance, I was unsure about her actions, constantly wondering which part was Corine, and which the demon queen. If that isn't proof enough of superior writing skills, I don't know what is.
I adore that Aguirre toys with the genre, stepping in and out as she sees fit and abandoning it altogether when the need arises. Hell Fire, book two in the series, was really a small-town horror story, compelling, utterly creepy and so much better than the small town horror story that won 2011 GoodReads choice award. That's when it became clear that the author refuses to be confined by the genre and it was around that time that I started worshiping the ground she walks on... with much dignity, of course. ;) She took a step back with the third book, Shady Lady, which was a real urban fantasy if I ever read one. It was, at that moment, the best one of the series. I loved an impossible man together with Corine, I suffered with her, I fought right alongside her and I cried when she lost the things she valued most. I thought it would be a hard one to top, and it was, but I might have underestimated Aguirre's ability to surprise her readers. She wrote a book so unlike Shady Lady, or any of her books for that matter, that it's simply impossible to compare them.
Flirting with high fantasy did wonders for this series. The second Corine and Chance jumped (literally, they jumped) into the demon realm, my jaw dropped and that's where it stayed. From the gate and the sacrifice the crossing required to Xibalba, a huge demon city they ended up in, every single detail was in its place. The demon queen's palace was as real to me as my own back yard, and the creatures that gathered there will feature in my nightmares for a long time to come. I've said this before, but it deems repeating: nobody builds worlds like Ann Aguirre. Each one is a work of art, but when the time comes to destroy them, she shows no mercy. I think that's what I appreciate the most.