"Perhaps that's the difference between predators and prey, love. I'll never stop hunting. But I expect that one day, you'll stop running."
"Because I want to die."
"Because you want to live."
Steampunk, Vampires and an Alice in Wonderland Theme.
All the reasons why this shouldn't have worked for me.
This is only my second steampunk book (the first was meh), I'm not a big fan of vampire stories in PNR and definitely not a big fan of the whole modern woman getting transported to a magical land seeing as these stories inevitably take the Mary Sue route.
Bludanimals (i.e. blood sucking bunnies, rats, horses), witty dialogue and the rich, creativity that built Sang.
Oh and a freaking Kraken.
All the reasons that it did.
Letitia "Tish" Everett is recently divorced nurse who
finds steals a charmed locket from a that lands her in an alternate world where "everyone dresses like Victorian prudes", speaks with a British accent and trades in copper and blood. This is Sang. And she lands right in the doorstep of a caravan led by her summoner, the suave gypsy king Criminy Stain. He is a Bludman, not a vampire but in certain aspects, he actually is. She discovers she has the ability to glance at the Sang-folks' future by touching them and thus gaining employ in the caravan as it's in-house fortune teller.
In Sang, Bludmen and Pinkies (non-bloodsuckers) coexist openly with the prey ostracizing their predators, led by the Magistrate of Manchester, Jonah Goodwill and his enforcer team of Coppers. Goodwill manages to steal Criminy's locket from Tish after she glances on his plans for the Blud-folk. This sends our protagonists on a merry chase aboard a blud-sucking mare, a wind up car and a submarine as they discover the truth behind the locket, Goodwill and the future of Sang.
Wicked As They Come is very strange for me because everything I enjoyed about it had an accompanying but to them.
I liked Tish and Criminy as protagonists. Their banter was witty and the chemistry puts the "Steam" in "Steampunk" without sacrificing the usual romantic themes. Criminy is one of the most original heroes I've ever encountered. A mix of whimsy, swagger and alpha that is quite a marvel to see pulled off. There are heroes that are funny and quirky while being erotically possessive and controlling… but can they make an edible apple pie out of eight apples under their hats with a wave of their hand? Can they dance a mean jig without coming across ridiculous or silly?
"You think this is a dream?"
"I know it is," I said coolly.
He grinned. "Sweetheart, you couldn't conjure me if you tried."
He was literally and figuratively magical, with the rabbit in the hat and colorful chain of handkerchiefs sense of childish fancy that made the erotic moments quite jarring in its kinkiness but I admit, fun and quite hot.
But I found both Tish and Ciriminy's character backgrounds this side of thin. I liked them enough to enjoy the story but not enough concern to desperately want them to end up together. Especially Tish in the beginning, her desperation to get back to care for her grandmother was so intense yet I've seen but few interactions between them. Or her failed relationship with Jeff which features so prominently in her decision making process but had very little depth and complexity.
I was going to complain about the insta-love but this is PNR and Criminy made a beautiful argument for it that essentially shut me up and squee in a corner.
I was going to complain about the toothless and foolish ways of the bad guy but Tish reasoned it out well enough that I found myself reluctantly accepting.
I am going to complain about a love triangle that felt unnecessary and pointless save for the introduction of the main character for the next book in the series.
I am also going to complain about the incremental reveals Delilah Dawson's rules and details about the world she created. It feels a bit like cheating when you reveal say, blud properties at opportune points in the story than ahead. It's a lot like scrambling to lay tracks on a running train as you go along.
I'm the kind of gal who likes to enjoy the ride with the tracks laid ahead of me.
But there's no denying the rich texture of Sang. I loved the idiosyncrasies and the little twists it has from our own world. I loved the way things ended. It's been a while since I've read tastefully done sexy scenes and despite the racy quotes I've been posting in my updates it wasn't vulgar or crass. There's something admirable about translating the eroticism of a scene without identifying body parts and degrees of moisture.
Overall Wicked As They Come takes a bit of getting used to. It employs some familiar tropes that would only bother you if you you fail to recognize and pay attention to the rich creativity and imagination crowding it.
"What are you doing?" I asked him.
"I'm letting you get used to the idea of me," he said idly. "I'm pretending to be harmless. Is it working?"
"Until you smile," I said weakly, and he smiled again, his face radiant.
"Can't help that love," he said. "Not around you."