(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
There’s no rest for the wicked… especially the Devil.
While QuiTai recovers from her last adventure, Levapur is turning into a police state. The Ponongese are pushed to the brink of rebellion against their colonial masters, the Thampurians – but who is behind it, and why? As the new Devil, QuiTai must wield her power and use her brilliant mind to outsmart her mysterious nemesis before a bloody uprising erupts.
[Full disclosure: After seeing that I loved The Devil’s Concubine so much after reviewing it for NetGalley, Jill Braden’s editor contacted me and sent me a free paperback copy of this second book in exchange for an honest review.]
After The Devil’s Concubine was so good, could The Devil Incarnate live up to my expectations? Or would it suffer from the dreaded Book 2 Syndrome?
Once again, Jill Braden blew away my expectations. I won’t say that the second book in the series was any better or worse than the first book, but it was certainly different. Different in a good way. In this second book, there was a much bigger focus on the world of QuiTai in regards to the geography as well as the history. We get to learn so much more about how Ponong was conquered by the Thampurians as well as QuiTai’s life before becoming the Devil’s concubine as we met her in the first book. The thing with this backstory is that it’s spread all throughout the book so I didn’t feel overwhelmed at any point in time.
Of course we have our old favourite character QuiTai and Kyam, who spend most of their time apart in this book. Consequently, we’re introduced to a lot of interesting new characters both directly and indirectly like Grandfather Zul (Kyam’s grandfather), Ma’am Thun and Lizzriat. Each of these new characters have very different personalities, motivations and backgrounds so they add to the overall plot rather than just existing so the main characters have someone to talk to.
The thing that constantly impresses me about The Devil of Ponong series is the beautiful imagery Jill Braden uses. When QuiTai roams the streets of Levapur, I feel like I’m there. I can feel the hot, humid air as she strolls among her people and Thampurians; I can taste the rice and see QuiTai stumbling along in her Thampurian disguise on her way to The Dragon Pearl. Since Jill Braden chose to write a fantasy set in a non-Eurocentric world, she really did need to convey the completely different atmosphere of tropical climates and cultures. She most definitely succeeded in that regard.
As always with her writing, I never saw her plot twists coming. Especially the huge one regarding poor Kyam at the end and QuiTai’s secret victory over her new nemesis. The plot was a little slower in this book than in the first one, but there’s no point where it really drags, even in the middle. Instead, Jill Braden chose to slowly ratchet up the tension and wrote from a few different points of view to give us a glimpse at the larger politics taking place on Ponong. It kept me up reading into the early morning hours, at any rate.
I’m constantly impressed with Jill Braden’s writing and still can’t believe that this is her first published series. Her third book, Tempt the Devil isn’t out yet but I can’t wait to see her writing improve even more. If you’re looking for non-traditional fantasy, this is definitely the series for you and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
I give this book 5/5 stars.