Wicked as They Come

Delilah S. Dawson
Wicked as They Come
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Pocket Books
Release Date
March 2012
Book 1 of Blud
Alternate Universe, Paranormal Romance, Steampunk Romance

Have you ever heard of a Bludman? They're rather like you and me-only more fabulous, immortal, and mostly indestructible. (They're also very good kissers.)

Delilah S. Dawson's darkly tempting debut drops her unsuspecting heroine into a strange faraway land for a romantic adventure that's part paranormal, part steampunk . . . and completely irresistible.

When Tish Everett forces open the ruby locket she finds at an estate sale, she has no idea that a deliciously rakish Bludman has cast a spell just for her. She wakes up in a surreal world, where Criminy Stain, the dashing proprietor of a magical traveling circus, curiously awaits. At Criminy's electric touch, Tish glimpses a tantalizing future, but she also foresees her ultimate doom. Before she can decide whether to risk her fate with the charming daredevil, the locket disappears, and with it, her only chance to return home. Tish and Criminy battle roaring sea monsters and thundering bludmares, vengeful ghosts and crooked Coppers in a treacherous race to recover the necklace from the evil Blud-hating Magistrate. But if they succeed, will Tish forsake her fanged suitor and return to her normal life, or will she take a chance on an unpredictable but dangerous destiny with the Bludman she's coming to love?

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
May 12, 2012   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
209 people found the following review helpful
Wild, imaginative and enchanting, DELILAH S. DAWSON is an author to watch and her series to be savored. With a complex world where the paranormal and the steampunk mingle, and where the most romantic of heroes can make magic in more ways than one, I was lost in this book from the first page and am still hungry for more.

Having escaped marriage to her dominating, abusive ex, Letitia Everett is just beginning to embrace life and enjoy her independence. Her work as a home hospice nurse gives her purpose and the ability to care for her sick grandmother, who is all the family Tish has or could ever need. But when she accidentally leaves the estate sale of a deceased patient with a strange and stunning locket that holds a portrait of a haunting, rakish, pale man inside, Tish finds herself transported to a world beyond her wildest imaginings.

Sang is a world full of fog, shadows, and lurking predators, from the bludbunnies, with floppy ears and sharp fangs, to Bludmen, near-immortals with black, scaly hands, pale skin and a hunger for the blood of ‘Pinkies', like Tish. And the most dangerous of them all is Criminy Stain, Gypsy King, leader of a circus caravan—and the man who sent the enchanted locket to find his true love. And just like that, Tish finds herself a member of his bizarre circus, trussed up in a corset and bustle, with a gown that covers every single inch of exposed skin, and a clockwork snake for protection; and surrounded by mermaids and lizard boys, strong men and tightrope acrobats whose near immortality allows for feats never seen in any show she can remember. It turns out that she herself is a Glancer, able to see the future of those whom she touches, or to read the memories they carry nearest to their heart. Her act is a highlight of the show (not in the least because she is a Stranger in Sang), and Criminy's delight in both her and her new gifts is quite appealing, indeed.

But whenever she goes to sleep, Tish is transported from one world to the other, forced to take part in both, but really to live in neither. Though she can't bear the thought of leaving her Grandmother or her obligations, she can't deny that she misses Sang—or Criminy Stain. But when her locket is stolen by a fellow Stranger intent on killing all the Bludmen, Tish refuses to accept a fate in which she has no choices, even those that seem impossible to make. With Criminy at her side, she begins a perilous journey to find her locket. Together, they will fight the Coppers who rule Sang with iron fists, face down murderous ghosts, vengeful ex-lovers, and ultimately the villain who has come from Tish's world to destroy Criminy's.

Much like Bones from Jeanine Frost's Night Huntress series, Criminy loves to boast that he is the baddest of the bad, the most wicked of the wicked things in Sang, but it's very rarely that we ever see evidence to this fact. He is a survivor, certainly, and brilliantly clever at guises and trickery, but for the majority of the time, he is the most selfless character in this story. For whatever selfishness he might display over Tish's attention, he undertakes a journey with very few expectations of survival, and risks war, death and worse, all so that Tish can leave him. Though he is bluntly honest about his love for Tish, the only thing he asks of her is a chance—to win her heart, to give her a reason to stay—before she takes off for good.

For someone like Tish, who has been in a smothering relationship and whose life has been built around her obligations to others, the kind of freedom he offers is both terrifying and amazingly liberating. Also, he's a sensational kisser, apparently smells wonderful, is fearless, fun and unendingly resourceful, so really, it's no wonder that I fell for him from his first appearance in the book, is it?

Though I did get a little frustrated with Tish's need to be helped or rescued during her adventures with Criminy, I was delighted to see that, ultimately, she was just as conniving and resourceful as her Bludman. I loved exploring the world of Sang through her eyes, because for all the scars she carries and despite the fact that, until now, she has been quite the realist, Tish still has a sense of wonder and a love of whimsy that lets her embrace all the wonders of this new world.

I usually detest love triangles, and I'm very rarely a fan of the "soul mates on sight" trope in romances, but this book proved a very rare exception. Because while Criminy is convinced that Tish is all he has ever dreamed of having (and he says so, quite memorably), for her, this man is a stranger. Alluring, yes, and desirable, unquestionably, but her be-all-and-end-all? Ultimately, this story is about Tish deciding what she wants from her life. Her tangle of emotions over Criminy and a Stranger who she remembers from her old life is the embodiment of that choice. Though my mind was made up from the beginning, it was quite interesting to realize what she saw in her two suitors, and, more importantly, what they saw in her. Though she might not leap into her decision with both feet, she made it on her own and fought for what her heart desired, and that made it the right choice regardless of the consequences.

It was perversely pleasant to read a story that doesn't give up all its secrets by the end. This is clearly a developing series and, if I wasn't already thoroughly in love with the world of Sang, the fact that there are still questions to be answered about Letitia's premonitions and her future in Sang would have me pacing the floor. This is a staggeringly creative debut with a cast of characters that never ceases to impress and intrigue. Its flair for the fantastic and insight into its heroes and heroine more than make up for any flaws that might be found along the way, and I can't wait for more!
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