Sympathy For The Devil

A review of the Abby Sinclair series by Allison Pang

I can't even remember how I ended up reading this series. My TBR list is various and what-looks-like endless, but Abby Sinclair flew under my radar nonetheless. None of my friends read it, neither did Goodreads recommend it for that matter. But I think it was Chelsea's Top 10 Books of 2012 over at the Vampire Book Club that made me pick up Allison Pang's books. One of the best on-the-spot decisions I've made in a while. Why? Please bear with me, and I'll explain everything.

One of the things I loved in this series is that the author dropped me in the middle of the story and started introducing characters, ideas, and the world Pang created per se, without explicitly defining them. The books are told from Abby's POV, so I learned things when she did — and some of the concepts... not even then. I remember checking a time or two whether I was indeed reading the first book in this series, because nobody clearly explained what a TouchStone was, or who the hell the OtherFolk were. Protectorate? CrossRoads? What the... ?!

I just had to piece together all the information by myself as I went along, assembling the puzzle Allison Pang so creatively packed into three books, and straightening my brow whenever a new realization dawned on me. Because in the end, it all made sense. Oh, did it ever.


Allow me to introduce the Abby Sinclair series to you, in all its complexity, after the break.




The Four Paths

The Abby Sinclair series reminded me of Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. And of the television mini-series The 10th Kingdom. Though unique in its way, there are definitely some parallels, what with the Fae and all that. But let's get the ball rolling. And in order to do that, you should understand a few details.

The OtherFolk are various creatures, but not quite human. At first we learn that there are only Three Paths in the world Allison Pang created:
  • Light Path, or Heaven. Think of unicorns (yes, you heard that right), angels, archangels, and such.
  • Middle Earth, Faeryland, populated by Faeries. Here is where it gets interesting. And funny. The are two Courts: Seelie and Unseelie. Beautiful and ugly. You know, the usual. And here we have elves, pixies, undines, brownies, goblins, dwarfs, trolls, shapeshifters, and even a Kitsune!
  • Dark Path, also known as Hell. And here the cast is mixed, with werewolves and various kinds of daemons: Sineaters, Souleaters, Dreameaters (Incubus for male, and Succubus for female), vampires, and demons (the garden variety).
But there is a fourth path, and I'm not going to reveal it. I'll let you discover that.

So, the legend has it that Thomas (the first man to become a TouchStone) stood at the CrossRoads with the Faery Queen and chose her. Not the angels. Not the daemons. He chose the Fae. Now the Fae are in control. Or at least they have the most influence, the most to gain from TouchStones. They are the Keepers of the CrossRoads, the liaisons between the OtherFolk and humans.

What the hell is a TouchStone or CrossRoads? you may ask. Let's get the Abby Sinclair dictionary. Not that there is one, but I made notes. I came prepared!

  • -TouchStone- A human contracted by an OtherFolk. Having a TouchStone gives OtherFolk the ability to stay in the mortal world without limitations, and to travel the CrossRoads at will, usually in return for some sort of gift. OtherFolk can move between our world and the CrossRoads without waiting for the Hours.
  • -Hour- Each Path has its own Hour, when traveling is easiest. TouchStones ease that transition (humans with souls and all that). The angels prefer Dawn. The daemons, Midnight. The Fae, Twilight. 
  • -CrossRoads- An actual crossroads in the OtherFolk world, from where they draw their power and can travel into our world. The OtherFolk use the Roads to get to different places, different worlds or planes of existence, even.
  • -KeyStones- Normally sacred places (and sometimes even people) where OtherFolk can gather without the need for TouchStones. The Marketplace is one, and the Judgment Hall, and the Hallows (a bar owned by a werewolf). 
  • -Protectorate- A person whose duty is to oversee issues and settle disputes between the OtherFolk living there. And if it goes badly, then the Faery Protectorate has to get involved.
  • -Doors- Magical conduits that lead directly onto the CrossRoads. Most are hidden and hard to find. 
  • -The local Council- Made up of nine members of all three Paths and overseen by the Protectorate. They are supposed to provide balance and make sure each group is fairly represented. 
  • -The Barras- A traveling kingdom composed of the ragtag remains of the Unseelie Court, broken up and banished to wander aimlessly through the realms of Faerie. Although not officially recognized by the Queen, it still retains a certain level of sovereignty. 

Silent Night

As I mentioned, we are thrown smack into the middle of the twenty-six-year-old Abby's life in the first book, A Brush of Darkness. In her attempt to leave her old life behind and escape the pain she felt about the death of her mother, Abby finds herself neck-deep in OtherFolk politics and other shenanigans. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Abby works in a bookstore — which she calls The Pit, short for PROSPECTUS INTELLIGENTSIA TABERNUS, and also because it smells of cabbage and cat piss — owned by Moira, who happens to be Fae. As in, a pointed-eared, absolutely gorgeous female elf. Moira is the Protectorate of Portsmyth, and Abby is also her TouchStone.

But Abby's life is about to change drastically the moment the dark and sexy incubus enters the bookstore asking for Moira. Soon Abby will find out that the incubus's sister is missing, along with a few of Abby's friends, and that her employer has not only left, but disappeared as well leaving an odd message for her. Abby's own problems are piling up, but the appearance of a miniature unicorn (alive, of course) in the bookstore seems to make it a little better. Besides, her enchanted iPod has an infinite playlist and can play any song ever created, and her enchanted fridge never goes empty. Now if she could only keep at bay her desire for the dark Dreameater invading her life and her dreams...


But what happens when your nightmares become your sole reality?

My rating of A Brush Of Darkness

Six months had passed after the events in A Brush Of Darkness, and you'd think that Abby would finally be able to catch her breath. Yeah, like that is even possible in Portsmyth at the moment. The second book, A Sliver Of Shadow, starts in full force. Moira leaves for the Faery Court, and you know what they say about when the cat's away. There's a new Protectorate in town, and because a spell goes wrong the CrossRoads are locked down. The OtherFolk can't move between the two worlds, and the ones in the human world are slowly beginning to fade. Some would start a happy dance, but Abby has friends among the OtherFolk and people she cares about. We learn that there is a Key (a Fae relic) to the CrossRoads that could be used to open a Door, and it's closer than we knew and makes our heroine's life so much more complicated. Abby discovers the identity of her father, and that was one of those moments when I just couldn't close my mouth.

Turns out certain characters are not quite "being taken care of", which leads to a new bundle of problems. As if they ever went away. *snort*

In Faerie things aren't better. The Queen is not herself anymore, and the elves are avoiding a war with Hell by a whisker. Somehow Abby's feet carry her wherever the biggest problems are, and soon she'll find out that things could always go from bad to worse. Beware. Cliffhanger.


How far would you go to save your loved ones?

My rating of A Sliver Of Shadow

After I finished Abby Sinclair #2, I thanked all gods for having the third installment, A Trace Of Moonlight, on my Kindle already. How these authors play with our fickle hearts!

When you make a deal with the devil, you can't cut corners, you can't escape it. Try running from a daemon. *snort* And having no memory whatsoever of having done it wouldn't help either. Here is where the story got a little too similar to Fever for my liking. The good thing is that in the end, these series were nothing alike.

The pervy unicorn is badly hurt in this one and loses his horn. We meet a female troll and her son, and even though she can't speak, Abby cracks a couple of jokes with her.

There were a lot of events in this book, including one that I thought would be disastrous (Buffy, Angel? Anyone?), but thank God it wasn't.

The Faerie Queen is mad as a hatter — for real, not just some curse. The Key to the CrossRoads is stolen, and the guilty party will not even think about using it for good purposes. The Eildon Tree (site of the original CrossRoads) is damaged in the crossfire between the Three Paths. But if the tree dies, everyone with a bit of magic will also die. The Tree is the linchpin holding together the entire existence of the Four Paths.


Any war is bad enough. But a war with Hell?

My rating of A Trace Of Moonlight

The story leaves the reader on a high note; it's not actually a cliffhanger, but the reader has enough information to know that everything has changed. I've read so many different opinions about the ending, that I think everyone has read a different book! Some are sure Abby ended up with Talivar; others, with Brystion. That's the thing with an ambiguous ending, though. I understand it "my way", but I know my way is right because even the author is a big fan of the guy I think Abby chose in the end. So it worked for me. I wouldn't mind some short story or novella, though. There are still questions to be answered, and I hope we get something more.

The Winner Takes It All  

I don't appreciate it when the heroine in the book I'm reading is stuck between two (or sometimes more!) men. I don't like eternal triangles. I just don't. Someone gets hurt, and usually it's a nice guy. I think it's more than enough when there are troubles in the way of the heroine and her main squeeze without there being a second guy (or woman) thrown into the mix.

And this gets even more troublesome when I can't decide between the two myself. When both of them are handsome, and nice, and sexy-as-sin, the task is so much more difficult.

But I guess I've always had a thing for bad guys. In the end, wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.
Abby Sinclair
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Abby is an amazing heroine. Very different from the female characters I've read lately, but refreshing and incredible nonetheless.

While not kick-ass in the strictest sense, she is smart, compassionate, and hates to be a damsel in distress. She uses what she has available to her in every situation. Sometimes it involves making deals with the devil, giving everything up for the sake of her friends, but that's a story for you to untie.

She dyes her bangs in streaks of pink and blue and wears her hair in a bun, twisting a pair of pencils through it. She was once an incredible dancer, but because of a terrible accident had to give it up. Now she works in a bookstore and is Moira's (in the first book) TouchStone. Her life is about to take an interesting course with the appearance of a talking unicorn in the bookstore. I'll get to Phineas in a few, but I just can't talk about Abby without mentioning the hornicorn, as Abby calls him sometimes. Gotta love him!


Brystion, true form
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Brystion is an incubus, which is a demon believed to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women. What they can't do in these books — contrary to the lore — is father children. Oh, they actually can, but it involves incest. It's complicated, and Ion (short for Brystion) is not willing to do such a thing to his TouchStone.

When in the human world, he uses Glamour to cloak his true form, and because of (or is it thanks to?) his nature, he can appear only in the form his Dreamers wish for; he is bound by their wills to suit their pleasure. 

If you ever meet an incubus, he will look exactly like the man of your dreams. Quite literally, where Brystion is concerned.

Brystion, human form 
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Stick a ribbon on that ass and you could mount it on the wall. It’s damn near a work of art by itself. [...]

Brystion is eye candy of the highest caliber, my dear, not just some OtherFolk man whore. [...] He’s only the hottest piece of ass this side of the CrossRoads.

A Brush of Darkness


As you can see, this is the dark, bad guy. Oh, Ion, how I love thee. Daemon, human, incubus, I don't care. There were, of course, times when he just broke my heart. Abby's too. He's so self-aware of what he is and what he has to do in order to, well, live, that it was an excruciatingly painful thing to read. He wants more for Abby, more than a Dreameater, who couldn't have children or grow old with her. Abby doesn't mind that. Hell, if you knew what keeping Brystion alive involved, you wouldn't either!

Talivar
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Talivar is the sexy, brooding, nice, and well-behaved Fae Prince, a.k.a the Crippled Prince. We meet him at the end of the first book, when I couldn't look at anyone aside from Brystion. Sometimes good is just not enough for me. 

He's Moira's brother, but out of the running for the Fae throne because of his flawed look. He had — let's say — an accident when he was younger, and is considered now a Faerie outcast. What with the elves being racist and with their need for beauty and perfection...


Source







He was there for Abby when she needed it most, but I've been Team Brystion since the beginning, so I just stuck my fingers in my ears and refused to hear/see him as any more than just a friend.

Of course, his Fae acquaintances will come in handy, as his help will, but it's not like the elf didn't get anything at all out of it. And you know what? The Faerie Prince goes commando!




Phineas, the hilarious sidekick 
Phineas
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I loved this character more than Abby's suitors. Think of Shrek and Donkey. Phin is so Donkey! He's only fifteen inches tall, but nothing will stop this unicorn from dating zebras or hedgehogs!!! I'd give my eye teeth for a pet like Phin. Although, it's funny only as long as it doesn't happen to you personally. Why? He loves to sleep in the underwear drawer, talks (often too much and demands food and is a smartass), likes to get drunk, plays World of Warcraft in the middle of the night, and screams his head off at his cyber fellows. He also has an affinity for biting asses, watching porn, and humping legs. It's not for nothing that Abby calls him hornicorn! And he can be such a pain in the ass when he insists.

Between the underwear, the leg humping, and the single-minded eating, it was almost like living with a tiny, preternatural fratboy. All I needed was to trip over some empty cans of Natty Light.
A Brush Of Darkness
And he is very straightforward.
“Jesus, Abby. You stink. When was the last time you had a bath?”
“I love you too, Phin.”
“Yeah,” he sighed. “I know.”
A Trace Of Moonlight

If you like your urban fantasy with a smidgen of angst, a lot of faeries, daemons, and angels, and pervy, hilarious, talking unicorns drooling on your pillow; if a love triangle makes a book more exciting; and if you love to travel to places you've never been before, the Abby Sinclair series might be right up your alley. There are even Legolas references!

Abby, Phineas and Brystion in true form
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Allison Pang's Abby Sinclair series is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million.

Have you read the Abby Sinclair books yet? Or heard any reviews? We hope you'll let us know below!

Comments

  1. This sounds very interesting Olga. Are there only 3 books in this series or will there be more to come?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Inga. It's a trilogy, but the author thought about some short stories in the future to tie some loose ends.

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    2. That's great. I hate being left hanging, much better to read a series that are already complete :)

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  2. Wonderful review OLga. I am definitely going to give them a try.

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  3. Looks very interesting,Olga. Added it to my T.B.R mountain.

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  4. Adding to my TBR, great review!

    Olga, did you do the puzzle graphic at the top? I love it!

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    Replies
    1. In part. Yes. As in I created the collage then uploaded it to a site, who does this kind of things with pictures. And then ships the puzzle to you. This was a preview of my uploaded collage :D

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  5. Thank you ladies. But they are not for everyone. Like Fever. Some people (me included)love the series to death, some can't even finish the first book. It's all about tastes after all.

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