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Friday, August 26, 2011

“Devil’s Cape” by Rob Rogers (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

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AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rob Rogers lives in Texas. He is a writer, editor, and communications project manager by trade. Devil’s Cape is his first novel.

BOOK BLURB: Devil's Cape, Louisiana. Founded by pirates. Ruled by villains. Desperate for heroes.

In 1727, the masked pirate St. Diable created the city of Devil's Cape as a haven for his men and a place to begin his empire. Pirates gave way to outlaws, who gave way to gangsters, who gave way to gangs and organized crime. But the city has never escaped from its shroud of violence and corruption.

And now a stunning, murderous act has made Devil's Cape more dangerous than ever. Someone needs to protect the city.

Three people are willing to try. Jason Kale, part of a nefarious family, who hides his own abilities. Cain Ducett, a psychiatrist and former gang member, who finds that he is turning into something improbable. Kate Brauer, genius engineer, daughter of a slain superhero, who has lost more than most to the city and its criminals. But they're outnumbered and overpowered. Can they possibly make a difference?

If New Orleans has earned its “Sin City” nickname for its debauchery, then its nearby sister Devil's Cape has earned its “Pirate Town” moniker for the violence and blatant corruption that have marred the city since its founding. A city where corruption and heroism walk hand-in-hand, and justice and mercy are bought and paid-for in blood, Devil's Cape is a city like no other...

CLASSIFICATION: Devil’s Cape is a dark urban fantasy tale featuring an alternate Earth where heroes and villains co-exist with normal people akin to the TV series Heroes and J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars.

FORMAT/INFO: Devil’s Cape is 409 pages long divided over forty-seven numbered chapters and an Epilogue. Also includes an Acknowledgements page and a Map of Devil’s Cape along with a “sites of interest” listing. There are about 48 observational tales, anecdotes and various Devil’s Cape minutiae to go along with the start of each chapter. Narration is in the third-person via many main POVs: Kate Brauer, Cain Ducett, Jason Kale, Jessica “Jazz” Rydland, Warren Sims, Joe Gaines Julian Kalodimos, Hector Nelson Poteete, Costas and Pericles Kalodimos. Devil’s Cape is largely self-contained, but leaves a thread open for a future sequel.

April 1, 2008 marked the US Trade Paperback Publication of Devil’s Cape via the now defunct Wizards of the Coast Discoveries.

ANALYSIS: I first noticed Devil’s Cape when it was released more than three years ago, but never got around to reading the book. Recently, I came across a signed copy in a bookstore and decided to buy it and see how the novel was. The cover blurb didn’t give a clear picture of the story, so I thought Devil’s Cape would turn out to be an average novel. Boy was I wrong on that count and on multiple levels.

The story in Devil’s Cape is spread over a vast period of thirty-five years and twenty days with the narrative switching between the past and the present with each chapter timestamped. For the first few chapters of the book, the author introduces the three main characters—Kate Brauer, Cain Ducett and Jason Kale—and their backstories: Jason Kale is trying to distance himself from his family’s past; Kate Brauer came to Devil’s Cape to regain something which she lost and possibly carry on her family legacy; and Doctor Cain Ducett is targeted by someone from his violent past. In the first 150 pages, the author also introduces various secondary characters and the city’s history, which might be a bit confusing, but proves to be important in terms of the story. The novel’s main event is a large-scale murder that propels the three protagonists in different ways. Overall, the story has multiple threads that slowly start to coalesce into a fine tapestry, which helps make this book so special and exciting to read. To top it off, after the action-packed climax, the author one-ups himself by dropping a huge twist, which sets the stage for round II.

Besides the story, the novel also succeeds due to excellent characterization with every single character presented in Devil’s Cape wholly three-dimensional. This includes the three main protagonists, the secondary POVs, both good and evil, and even the characters who reside in the background . . . each get their chance to differentiate themselves in the reader’s mind. Simply put, characterization was the MAIN reason why the plot was brought to life so vividly.

Another major plus point of the novel is the city itself which is its own character thanks to the author slowly building up the image, history & geography of Devil’s Cape by providing random and specific tidbits here and there, including intriguing vignettes, quotations or recaps that open each chapter. Not only does this help make the city feel real, but it allows readers to become acclimatized with Devil’s Cape, while also adding various layers to the story. Like the origins of Devil’s Cape which is an important part of the novel.

I also liked how the novel is grounded in reality. Yes, Devil’s Cape is full of super-powered people, but the world presented is dark, gritty and violent, while the physics and limitations of each superhero and supervillain is realistic, bringing to mind the kind of realism found in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. In other words, nothing is off limits. Everyone has a weakness and even heroes can be killed, which makes it fun to see who survives and who doesn’t.

Lastly, Devil’s Cape is brimming with terrific symbolism. For instance, the novel can be construed as a parable of the corruption, avarice and basic human nature we live with in our lives today. On the other hand, Devil’s Cape can be looked at as an origin story where legends are made and epic events occur. Finally, readers can view the book as an odyssey where characters must go through various trials and tribulations in order to get whereever it is they want to go in life. In short, Devil’s Cape is a multi-faceted gem that offers a unique reading experience that can vary depending on the reader.

Negatively, there were only a few drawbacks in Devil’s Cape. The first is the pacing, which can be a bit languid for the first 100-150 pages as characters are introduced and the story is being set up, but it’s not a major issue since things steadily pick up afterwards and stay that way until the terrific climax. Secondly, the large cast of characters can be a bit troublesome to remember, but the author does his best to make sure the reader doesn’t get confused. Lastly, the author has a tendency to repeat certain facts and aspects about the city which can get repetitive after awhile.

CONCLUSION: Random chance gave me another opportunity to read Devil’s Cape, and I’m very glad it did. Rob Rogers’ debut is a fantastic gem, the kind of novel that one fervently searches for, but rarely finds. In fact, Devil’s Cape has now become one of my favorite UF books of all time and I find it a cruel shame that the book is not more popular amongst SFF readers. After all, it’s one of the best superhero fiction novels in the current market. So do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Rob Rogers’ vastly underappreciated debut, Devil’s Cape...

6 comments:

Wolfram P. said...

Thanks for this review. It made me so curious that I've already ordered the book.
I love these days.

The Reader said...

Hi Wolfram P.

I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the review. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did :)

Mihir

Benjamin said...

I read this a couple years ago and really enjoyed it. I'm glad to see you guys reviewing this one as it's probably been under everyone's radar.

Anonymous said...

Bought this on Kindle...loved it
But I cannot remember the strng man villian from the circu....and with a Kindle, I can't flip through. someone remind me?

Riki said...

I devoured this book and all the Devil's Cape short stories that have been published.

Now I'm starving for more well-written urban fantasy. Any recommendations? (No teenybopper urban fantasy please.)

The Reader said...

Hi Riki

Besides the Dresden Files, I would really recommend The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, The Zero Sum series by B. Justin Shier & The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.

Mihir

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