Josh Reviews: Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Posted October 13, 2012 by Joshua Burns in / 3 Comments

Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Title: Diabolical
Series: Tantalize #4
Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Publisher: Candlewick
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Published: January 24th, 2012
ISBN #: 9780763651183 / 0763651183
Genre: Young Adult
My Copy: borrowed
Rating:Paw RatingPaw RatingPaw Rating
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Prepare for a hell of a ride as Cynthia Leitich Smith calls on characters from her previous novels – and conjures up new ones – for a climactic showdown.

When “slipped” angel Zachary and his werewolf pal, Kieren, arrive under suspicious circumstances to a mysterious New England boarding school, they quickly find themselves in a hellish lockdown with an intriguing assortment of secretive, hand-picked students. Plagued by demon dogs, hallucinatory wall décor, a sadistic instructor, and a legendary fire-breathing monster, will they somehow manage to escape? Or will the devil have his due? Best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith unites heroes from the previous three novels in the Tantalize Series – including Zachary’s girl, Miranda, and Kieren’s love, Quincie – along with a fascinating cast of all-new characters for a suspenseful, action-packed clash between the forces of heaven and hell.

Diabolical‘s compact sentences and lengthy character list tips you off from page one that you are in for good fun. My primary frustration, which I did not expect to come so fiercely into play as I opened the book, was the overt presence of an afterlife. Heaven, a place that in its very existence can cause so many problems when interacting with other belief systems, does more damage to the stakes in this novel than its protagonists do with stakes onto other vampires. How can we feel threatened by the ultimate stakes of our characters if we know that they are ensured eternity either above or below? One can diss Hell all they like. Much of my anxiety stems from the fact that when I die this identity, who I am, may also expire. If I was the not best of persons, you can see how even total and uncompromising torture forever and ever would be preferable to complete and utter obliteration.

Miranda, our head in the clouds, our eye in the sky, our voice from the sidelines, cannot be feeling too bad since she stands in the Penultimate, a waiting area, just outside the Pearly Gates, where she can continue to lovingly scope her hunk, Zachary and his flock. Miranda’s struggle, if you want to call it that, can only come from her lack of Zachary. He should be up in Heaven but due to some broken protocol he has been condemned to walk the Earth and baby-sit vampires. Yes, Zachary was once an angel. On Earth his position is playfully abbreviated to a terrestrial GA, Guardian Angel.

Where this plot stagnates is in the fact that both characters have all the time in the world to meet up. Due to their eternal souls, a meet-up is practically guaranteed. There is a hint of a threat in the fact that when Zachary completes his task, an already impossible task: stop vampires from being created and drinking blood, he could be immediately reassigned to another task. No matter. Miranda can wait.

Our other couple, Kieren and Quince, are much more interesting. Kieren is half Wolf, half man. Quince, like Miranda, has been turned into a vampire against her will and must now do her best not to turn on humans for blood. She spends her time running a themed restaurant: fake vampires, a menu divided into prey and predator. Quince and Kieren could easily become boring if either of them died but they have enough personality to keep things interesting.

Much can be said of the whole cast in terms of personality. This was a book that made me chuckle and roll my eyes at its imagery and creativity. I fear what it lacks, a sense of stakes, is not something I know how to give it without stripping it of what makes it unique. I am certain that Heaven could be implemented in a high stakes scenario but this book is not it.

If you can get over the lack of stakes, the main plot aka the stuff to fill time before everyone unveils their eternal souls deals with a demonic school, one at Hell’s Gate, where students, not entirely knowing what they are getting into, are conscripted, trapped, and taught the ways of the Dark One. Zachary and Kieren fall into this trap because Miranda’s old roommate wanted so dearly to find out what happened to Miranda that she was willing to sign a contract with the Dark One himself.

The capers the classmates get into and the classmates themselves provide the same amount of color as a brick. There are simply too many of them to fully keep track of or to develop. At least two of the girls remained completely confusable for me all the way up to the end. And what an ending! So much pomp, trumpets, and horns you might have thought it was the Final Judgment. It kind of blew me away. But the brevity of the sentences and chapters reinforced the feeling that I had seen nothing and heard nothing but one note: “We’re all saved.”
Where’s the fun in that?

Books in this series:
Tantalize Eternal Blessed Diabolical

Recommendation: Flavorful, a stellar appetizer or palette cleanser
Like this, like that: Fenestra series by Amber Kizer and the Dreaming Anastasia series by Joy Preble


About the Blogger
I review Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance books with a focus all things werewolf. Based out of Ottawa, Canada

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Reviews UF/PR novels with an eye for weres of all kinds.

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3 responses to “Josh Reviews: Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith

  1. @sugar and snark I’ll have to get back to you re: the other books in this series. I jumped into this one without having read the others. My sense of the series based on this book (how pretentious this sounds) is that the other books were better. I am looking forward to reading the first book and should have a rating for it within the next two months. Maybe it would be best to keep those two at the top of TBR pile until then? But if you are looking for a quick, compact (the sentences feel really tight) read, then I couldn’t recommend any of them more. I think this series, based on this one book, is an excellent palette cleanser, nothing to get caught in your teeth or work your gums, just a nice sorbet.