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Book Review: Sever Your Spine, by Jasper Black

Jasper Black is the author of the Gentleman Demon series. He attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and studied English as well as Classical Civilizations, but he did not graduate when he realized he could indulge in both of those subjects at home and it would cost significantly less. He also holds interest in theology and has an unnatural love for Judeo-Christian mythology. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with his wife, their child, and his other partners.

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Henry and James can’t catch a break…but Hell is catching up to them.

On the run from what they fear is their worst nightmare, they may have fallen out of the fat and into the fire when they encounter a rogue demon.
Charlie Banks is charismatic, charming, and vicious as they come. Also a fugitive of Hell’s justice, he offers Henry and James shelter when they need it the most. But can he be trusted?
A strange letter from Heaven delivers startling news. Lady might have an opportunity to dust off his old desk behind the pearly gates. But does he want such a chance – and what are the consequences of turning it down?
There is blood in the streets and on the cupcakes. Nothing is certain in this city where terror reigns.

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Book – Sever Your Spine (Gentleman Demon #2)

Author – Jasper Black

Star rating – ★★★★★

No. of Pages – 231

Cover – Stunning!

POV – 3rd person, omni-present.

Would I read it again – Yes!

Genre – Historical Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror

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** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **

Reviewed for Divine Magazine

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*Contains gore, violence and mentions of cannibalism*

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Wow, that was some ride!

With all the cleverness, humour and gore of the first book, this one took it to a new level. There were even more twists and turns, surprises and adventures to be had and each one was as good as the next.

At the end of book 1, Swallow You Whole, I had some questions left unanswered – what happened to Claire and Edward? What were Lady and Francis going to do? Would Henry and James get caught? All of these were answered, and more, in this book.

As well as answering all my questions (and leaving me asking some new ones) the cast of characters was an equal mix of old and new. We were able to continue the story of Henry and James (or Jahangir and Mojgan), while revisiting Lady and Francis, catching up with Claire and Edward, seeing a little bit of Michael and Raziel and, of course, Satan and God. But, on top of that, we had a whole new cast that were just as interesting to read about: the catalysts of demon-summoners Suzanne and Jean-Francois, new demon Charlie, reapers Butterfly and Crimson, as well as the angel Virgil, who was my personal favourite of all the new characters. We also, briefly, got a glimpse of the demon Calixte and were introduced to the troublemaking sins, Famine and Gluttony.

Each of the characters got to tell their own POV within the omni-present story, which is why I love that this format was used, because often even the smallest character has something interesting to see/hear/do. In this case, it’s Calixte’s POV that introduces us to Claire and Edward again, where I totally did a fist-bump, because I really believed that Michael had ‘taken’ them to Heaven with the other siblings, at the end of book 1, so I was thrilled to find that wasn’t the case.

This is one of those stories where you love the demons and hate the angels, which I hadn’t really expected after reading book 1, where they were somewhat on an even footing. However, Michael, in this book, really rubbed me up the wrong way with his ego and his ability to take his temper out on innocent people. The minute he hurt Virgil, I hated him. Because, no matter how small his character seems, I really fell for Virgil’s innocence and his vulnerability. He in no way deserved to be treated so abysmally and I love that he and James became friends. I would love to see him and James remain friends, even after James and Henry get some sense knocked into them and realise that they’re this old married couple that Henry once accused James of being with Elliot. The two are so blind to their own situation that it’s kind of adorable.

Speaking of which…Lady and Francis. What can I say? They are just too much. Too cute, too lovely and too hilarious for words. These two together are a gold mine and I love them. Francis is patient and understanding of Lady’s eccentricities and Lady is this spitball of contradictions; lazy, compassionate and strong. I can’t wait to find out what happens next, for them.

I still love Henry’s cheekiness, though he really pushed his luck in this one, with Charlie. The way that Charlie awoke this flirtatious, nervous, unsure side of him was amazing, though. I loved that he had this conflict of emotions, this insistence that he be more than how he was made and that it all stemmed from an unexpected attraction to Charlie and his devilish nature. If Charlie wasn’t completely crazy and evil, they might even have worked together.

James is still the pragmatic, emotionally stable one. He was smart, diligent and as logical as ever, finding the truth often before Henry could see it coming and trying to find a way to counteract the inevitable storm. His interactions with Virgil were lovely. I really loved the fragile angel, who I would love to see set up shop with James; they’d be great together, even if it was only as two old bachelors who understood each other. Yet, I really loved the big realisation that hit Henry, first, and then James. They realisation they finally come to about each other, their lives and their existence was brilliantly done, with just a little adjustment here and there, to their way of thinking and feeling.

While the MM action in book 1 was mostly hinted at and never realised, there was some hot MM action in here. Although it was between Charlie and Henry, there are definite undertones of flirtation every time Charlie opens his mouth, especially around Jean-Francois and Henry. The fact that he doesn’t care for James, felt to me like he knew he couldn’t be swayed by temptation, so he wasn’t worth the effort. It sure lit a fire under him though, and offered some intriguing jealousy to enter the mix.

Inclusive is probably the best word to describe the book; the cast comes with a vast array of accents, nationalities, sexualities and interests. Lady is our asexual, agender character, while James is the slightly-in-denial or downright oblivious gay man. There are so many levels of good vs evil, all kinds of Kinsey scale sexualities and characteristics that there isn’t one stereotype amongst them. I especially love that there are different types of demons, so they have different temperaments, different levels of evil, different mentalities and feeding habits. It makes it all the more interesting to meet new demons.

Just as “Swallow You Whole” epitomised exactly what the plot of book 1 was about, “Sever Your Spine” is the same. It perfectly embodies the plot, the characters and the theme of the book. Yet it still manages to turn the genre on it’s head, with grim reapers scaring off demons, demons eating other demons and never knowing who are the good guys and who are the bad. Nothing is obvious or set in stone and that kept me not only intrigued all the way throughout, but excited to find out what would come next.

Overall, as before, the writing was excellent. The world building and characterisation gave it a sense of familiarity and realism, without going overboard on description or lacking it in any way. There was such a sense of balance with everything – between showing and telling, description and experience, humour and gore. When it comes to the overall plot, I don’t want to give too much away, because you have to read it yourself to understand the intricacies and the genius of how it’s all woven together. But, there are demons killing demons and demons escaping Hell circles, neither of which I’ve ever seen in a book before. The unique quality of the characters, mixed with the unique take on angels/demons makes this one interesting story to follow.

The entire book was a How To for writing an entertaining paranormal horror story without making someone like me – squeamish to the nth degree, when it comes to books – want to throw up. At the end of each chapter, each ‘part’ and each book, I’m always left wanting more. I’d be happy to never see the end of this series.

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Favourite Quotes

Michael’s fingers twitched.

Your pets.

He could rip her head off if he wanted to.

Your project.

But he would never hear the end of it if he did.

Your problem.

He could almost see that smirk, as well as the reflection of his own infuriated face in the mirrored lenses of designer aviator sunglasses. If he killed her now, the next round of golf was going to be painful.

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““Behave. Don’t summon anyone, don’t set anything on fire.”

You spoil all of my best plans.” Francis put his arms behind his head, closing his eyes. He felt his glasses being lifted off his nose and heard Lady set them on the dresser beside his bed.

I know.” The Unchaste said. “How do you ever manage to stay married to me?”

I hear I have no choice,” Francis said. “In fact, I have been threatened several times.”

I should be canonized for putting up with you.”

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