The Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a powerful, gritty, very dark story. In fact, I am quite surprised that this was released as a young adult book, other than the age of the protagonist, Billi. Billi SanGreal lives a grim existence as the daughter of the leader of the very small remains of the once-powerful Knights Templar. They exist to fight the darkness and the demons that would destroy humanity. Only, Billi isn't so sure she wants to be a Templar. The cost has been too high. Her father barely treats her as his daughter, showing her no affection, only pushing her constantly to be the best warrior and to be utterly ruthless in her destruction of evil beings. She has already lost her mother to a horrendous attack by ghuls, demonic creatures who were once humans, but gave up their souls for power or possessions. Billi just wants a normal life. As if being a teen wasn't bad enough, she's considered weird because of her constant bruises and cuts, and the fact that her father was on trial for her mother's murder.
Her friend Kay finally comes back from Jerusalem where he was training to be an Oracle, or a seer for the Knights Templar. She's angry at him that he left her when she needed his friendship and support. She's also confused at the feelings she has for the handsome young man he's become.
And then, she meets gorgeous, mysterious Mike, who might be her first chance to have a boyfriend. But Mike isn't quite what he seems.
This was a very intense story. There were times I had to put this book down and take a breather. Billi's life truly is one battle after enough. Part of that is due to the struggle with her father for control of her life, and her yearning for him to show her the affection and approval she needs as his daughter. And then, there is the struggle with her feelings. She truly wants to be free from this life as a Templar that was forced her on by her father.
Mr. Chadda really knows how to pack a punch with his writing. Between the intra- and interpersonal angst and the battles between good and evil, the tension in this story never lets up. His worldbuilding is strong and compelling, and unrelentingly grim. This story has a seriousness that I appreciated, yet it challenged me to keep reading. At times, I was frustrated at Billi for her determination to rebel against her father. But it made sense. She wanted his love, and he didn't give her that very thing she needed so badly, and her rebellion was a way of letting up the pressure that she constantly lived under.
I thought the idea of a modern-day Knights Templar was fantastic. Although her father was pretty ruthless, and not very good at showing affection to Billi, I really liked and respected Arthur. He was a strong man with an unrelenting sense of duty. He was the kind of man who would fight evil to the end, regardless of the cost. He would hone his daughter into a powerful warrior who would do what was necessary in the battle against evil, if he had to make her hate him to do it. I admired him for that, although I wished that the relationship between Billi and her father was more loving.
The plot twists and turns until I really had no idea how things would end. The ending really brought things full-circle, but I won't pretend it didn't break my heart. Billi doesn't come out of this story without loss. She is like a weapon that has been tested and honed by the fires of combat and trial. And that includes painful loss.
Brutal and violent and unrelentingly dark, Devil's Kiss really involved me. I couldn't let go of this book, even though I had to put it down to regroup. I am very impressed with this author. His writing is vivid and stunning, painting a world that seems lost to the darkness. But it's not, for the Knight's Templars will continue to fight evil, until Kingdom Come. If you are looking for supernatural action with a strong heroine who has a compelling relationship between with her father, you will love this book. I certainly cannot wait to read the next book.
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