Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-17823-5
Fantasy Romance, 2008
My Wicked Enemy demonstrates Carolyn Jewel’s chops for romantic urban fantasy which she demonstrated previously for the Crimson City series. In this one, we are in an alternate Earth setting where there are fiends, humanoid spooks (collectively called demons here), and magekind, humans who possess magic to enslave fiends to do their bidding.
When the story opens, we see our heroine Carson Phillips wandering around in San Francisco’s Chinatown, on the run from her former lord and master Álvaro Magellan (who is not only evil but is also gay, making straight fiends under his control service him sexually, how nasty), after she caught him murdering some poor sod. She is wondering around like a hapless wide-eyed goldfish when she bumps into Nikodemus, a mysterious fellow who has a score to settle with Álvaro. She doesn’t know it at that time, but we know he’s an ancient fiend who, with a band of sequel-bait buddies, are here to show the naughty magekinds that the fiends are not taking everything lying down anymore.
The setting is very intriguing and there are some pretty edgy sensual elements here that I find pretty erotic in a dark and raw manner, although some readers may not like these elements. However, while I find Nikodemus an acceptable if typical example of a hero in a romantic urban fantasy story (some of his lines are very cheesy though), I find Carson too naïve to the point that she drives me crazy. She knows her life is in danger, and yet she wanders around like a dazed and confused deer looking for trucks in a highway to run her over. I feel like clutching my heart when she happily opens the door to let a stranger into the hero’s house after she knows that she is being chased by bad guys out to kill her, and this after the stranger tells her that he is Nikodemus’ friend. She never asks for confirmation, she just opens the door and tells him to come in and share a pizza with her. You can imagine what happens next. While I think the author having the heroine play Mortal Kombat when the doorbell rings a pretty good stroke of irony, I do not appreciate the brilliance of the scene when the heroine’s stupidity makes her unworthy of the oxygen in the atmosphere.
Throughout the story, I find myself gritting my teeth as I have to endure Carson’s child-like antics. I try to be understanding, given that she had been magically siphoned by the big bad gay villain in this story without her knowledge while being given a lethal venom in the process, but way too much of this story is focused on the heroine’s lack of survival instincts, her helplessness, and, of course, her inherent special abilities that make her a prized brood mare and sex toy for the worthy hero.
And call me picky, but there is a sequel bait named Durian here. Can I beg Ms Jewel to retcon things so that his name becomes Durial when he gets his own story? Durian is a thorny fruit with a strong smell and sweet flesh. It’s no better than if that fellow’s name is Papaya – I have a hard time taking seriously any hero who is named after a fruit.
My Wicked Enemy has a nice setting and Ms Jewel isn’t afraid to test some potentially risky elements of her characters’ sexual habits here. I find myself interested in this setting even if a part of me is still unsure of how exactly magic operates in that world. This story, however, is far less interesting than the setting, and I blame this on Carson’s little girl-child antics that go on for way too long.