Book Review: Deadmen Walking by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Posted June 12, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Deadmen Walking by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Deadmen Walking by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Series: ,
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Tor Books on May 9, 2017
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Son of No One, Dragonbane, Born of Vengeance, Stygian

First in the Deadman’s Cross Trilogy historical paranormal romance series, a subseries in the Dark-Hunterverse, and revolving around a band of men, deadmen, who made a bargain for redemption. It takes place aboard a pirate ship in the Caribbean in 1716. The couple focus is on Devyl Bane and Marcelina, ancient enemies, with a bare glance at Cammy and Kelder.

Jesus, is Kenyon gonna cover all of history? What’s next? Cave-dwelling hunters from the Pleistocene era? Okay, that’s not particularly fair. But can ya blame me?

My Take

Christ. Kenyon’s got so many backstabbing twists and turns with characters who are so contradictory…along with all the inconsistencies that are afloat in Deadmen Walking. You’ll need the character section below to help keep track! God knows, it took me forever to put it all together, as Kenyon kept flashing back; adding and changing their backgrounds; and, twisting the past, their bloodlines, and friends and enemies around and about. It was confusing and exhausting.

Kenyon does slip in some foreshadowing about Nick and the obscure legend (or prophecy) about him becoming the Malachai. And I must give Kenyon credit for not including info dumps. The back stories may have been way too repetitive — and oh-so-whiny — but at least Kenyon pulled them in as part of the story.

It certainly made sense that Kenyon used third-person omniscient point-of-view, describing the thoughts, feelings, and actions of a number of the core characters and events with the narrator expressing what I assume are Kenyon’s opinions about politics, domestic issues, betrayals, and the prejudices of others.

The start of it with the action hook definitely caught my attention, and I was enjoying it until. Until that Dark-Hunter connection cropped up and how extremely confusing Kenyon’s background on Devyl became. He’s of an ancient race, a tribe based in Britain. He was/is Thorn’s equal. A demon. He’s a druid. He’s a warrior. His father came from Alfheim, which is generally an elvish homeworld. His great-grandfather was Woden, a German name with Odin as the Norse version, i.e., Devyl is also an Æsir god. There are simply too many names to describe Devyl’s people, and even more to describe Mara’s. Devyl’s got, like, four or five names himself (including the nicknames).

I have no clue how “his real nourishment is the hearts and blood of others” fits into all this Norse god stuff. Oh, yeah, and he lived in Tintagel. King Arthur, anyone?

Oka-a-y, now we have Kalder sacrificing himself to go to hell and take another’s place so they can be set free and everyone is agreeing that that’s how it works. Then Kenyon pops up with it’s not a sure thing.

Kenyon does have an interesting take on the difference between the nine Norse worlds: the -heims and the -gards.

I can’t believe how stupid Mara has been. A thousand-plus years and she never wondered about his side of it? It does bring in the had-I-known plot beats for both Mara and Devyl. Then again, Kenyon later mentions that Devyl woke Mara a few months ago because that’s when he accepted the bargain with Thorn to return as a Hellchaser. Supposedly, she’s been asleep since he “died” and was tortured in hell. Okay, since Vine killed Devyl, and he went to hell for centuries, how can Mara and Devyl have spent so much time together, if he only woke her a few months ago?

Actually there are some funny bits to Deadmen Walking, including:

“‘We never did settle that last fight, as I recall. You turned tail and ran.’

‘I advanced in a new direction.'”

A good thing there were some fun bits, as Kenyon went on and on with Devyl’s whining. Jesus. Then there was the childish behavior.

I know this is the way of life, with people stabbing each other in the back, and then whining about it and going to war over it. Look at Mara and her laying the blame on Devyl. It’s like the bad guy who murders people with glee and then pleads for his own life. Or the burglar who is injured trying to steal from someone’s house and gets injured. And sues. As for Mara’s “story” of the fairy tale trope of true love’s kiss…it only made my eyes roll until it hurt.

“What we seek is always what we find.”

Ahhh, then we start in on Mara’s whining. Kenyon could’ve cut this book in half if she’d gotten rid of all the whining and all the various descriptions of all the different races who were Devyl’s and Mara’s people.

Bullocks, really? Do you think Kenyon or her editors realized that bullocks are castrated steers?

Then that ending with the deus ex machina…it just figures.

The Story

Thorn knows it takes evil to catch evil, and he believes in second chances. Knowing Devyl Bane’s reputation as an ancient warlord from their mutual past, he knows Devyl is the man for the job, one of catching demons before they wreak too much havoc.

He’ll need a crew, a crew of Deadmen bound to Thorn to work off their own demonic deeds, and a ship, the Sea Witch, a vessel who is also the woman who bound him centuries ago. The sister of the woman who slit Devyl’s throat. Who is anxious to break her bond, her tie, to Devyl.

The Characters

Captain Devyl “Du” Bane is named for his task, being the devil’s bane. His true name is Dón-Dueli, a.k.a., Duel, the Dark One, the Black Soul, for his fierce druidic warrior ways, for the soul he sold into the dark magic he used to oust the Romans and protect the Dumnonii. He is a man who has ascended to the powers of a corymeister, the most powerful of their kind who can bend natural laws.

The Dumnonii had been…
…his people, a British tribe based in Tintagel who had certain dietary requirements that are horrendously disgusting. They are also the Æsir;, Norse gods who had once been a communal race who believed in the good of all until a massive betrayal. Du’s great-grandfather had been Woden whose son was Tyrin. Kara, a dark Disir goddess, had been Woden’s daughter and Devyl’s grandmother who had married into an Alfheim family. His grandfather was king of the Adoni. His father, Axe, was from Alfheim and the leader of the Dumnonii. Their mother, Dera, was a gifted Deruvian dera sylph sorceress and daughter of Yggdrasil, a Vanir. Dera’s role had originally been to be Axe’s guardian, keep him grounded and stable. Never to marry. Elyzabel “Elf” was Devyl’s younger sister (Derphin and Ilex were bullies in Elf’s young life) and Edyth the older sister.

The Sea Witch is…
…their ship, a manifestation of Marcelina “Mara”, whose people, the Deruvian, had been the Vanir gods and guardians of the forest. Her fate and life is bound to the ship’s captain, Du.

His crew are all dead men, Hell-Chasers, brought back to battle demons and includes Will Death (that’s “Deeth”, laddie) as the quartermaster and a Simeon Magi; Bart Meers, another Simeon Magi, is the first mate; the knife-carrying Armand “Roach” de la Roche is French; Absalon “Sallie” Lucas has an obsession with his soul which is stored in a bottle; Zumari is a large Masai warrior; Kalder Dupree, a merman, is from Wyñeria of the race of Myrcians; Sancha Dolorosa is one scary woman; “Rosie” Rosenkranz; Valynda is a straw doll (Thorn had bargained with Ghede Nibo, the Vodou loa, for her parole; his companions are Maska and Oussou); Lady Belle Morte is the ship’s doctor; Janice “Janny” Smith is a necromancer and Dark-Huntress; Katashi “Wild Kat” is a rigger in a relationship with Simon Dewing, a former priest of Exú, shapeshifter, and a striker; Jake Deveraux and Blake Landrey battle over every little thing; Hinder Desai; and, Alabama, a Choctaw Indian, is a gunner and an Aru Mage (a type of demon who can take on any metallic shape or object) as are all the gunners.

Strixa is the handmaiden of Tiamat and a very powerful sea hag who can appear as a great black owl.

The Deadman’s Cross is…
…a tattoo borne by each of the Deadmen. A binding that keeps them from being pulled back into Hell whence they were all damned. Now they have a chance, if they perform one decent act of sacrifice or work their foul deeds off by herding Thorn’s demons back into their cages, of earning the right to be returned as full mortal beings.

It’s part of the bargain with Leucious, a.k.a., Thorn, a demon born of two demons (or two demons and a human mother??), one of the fiercest warriors ever born. Forneus is his true demonic summoning name. Cadegan is his “son” (Son of No One, 6). Azmodea, formerly known as Gehyne, is his home realm. Misery is his demon companion, one who can’t be trusted for anything. Sorza is his sharoc companion. Paimon is the male demon who carried his true father’s sperm. Thorn’s mother hated him from the moment he’d been born. Jaden and Lucifer also had a hand in Thorn’s conception.

Rafael “Cross” Santiago is the pirate captain of the Soucouyant. His father had been a buccaneer, Cristóbal Cruz Gabriel Santiago, and a freed Ethiopian slave, Masika, his mother. Mama D’Leau is a Caribbean goddess.

St. Rafael’s is…
…a church and orphanage in Tortuga built by Rafe’s father and where his mother had taught. Father Jeffrey runs the place. The orphans include Lizzy and Robby.

Captain Jonathan Barnet is a pirate hunter looking for Captain Cross and Jean St. Noir. Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read are more pirates.

The Adoni are…
…fey. Flaithrí Alfjótrsson is Devyl’s cousin, and his uncle sits on Devyl’s throne. Tiveden, a.k.a., Tyr’s Wood, is saturated with Tyr’s blood and where Tyr, the god of justice, planted the seeds to grow preternatural warriors who now form most of the uncle’s Royal Guard.

Ya know, it’s no wonder I’m confused. Kenyon claims that Flaithrí carries his mother’s family symbol. If it was his father, Axe, who was fey and his mother was Deruvian (not fey)… Oh, lord, maybe the Deruvian are also fey???

Seraphs had been…
…an elite group of fighters who became immortal, bound to medallions the purpose of which was to allow the Seraph to temporarily take over the body of their descendant to battle their enemies, such as Du of the Dumnonii. Michael and Gabriel are two of the Seraphs. I think they’re also the Necrodemians and/or the Sarim.

Iri are…
…Seraphim who have gone bad — the most powerful of their kind, top-level commanders — and were Devyl’s former allies. Gadreyal is one of them. She had also been Devyl’s primary torturer, angry because the gods had chosen him over her as their premier general. She answers to Papa Noir.

Dark-Hunters/Huntresses are…
…a band of warriors who hunt Daimons who are cursed by Apollo. Artemis is Apollo’s sister and the Dark-Hunter creator. Simi is a demon. Savitar is a Chthonian. Acheron, a god, is one of hers and beaten for it.

The Carian Gate is…
…one of hell’s three major gates that lead to Azmodea, and the one holding back Vine. It’s located within a group of islands that include Antillia which is policed by fairymaids known to lure sailors to their deaths; Jesirat al-Tenntyn is the home of territorial dragons; Satanazes is a demon island; and, Meropis is inhabited by soul-sucking creatures.

Deruvians are…
…also known as Blackthorns, jumbies, or zraif, but only when they have gone Winter, a.k.a., wintering or heart rot, wherein they decay from the inside out. Devyl also refers to them as the Vanir, Norse gods known for their selfishness and vanity. Vine, Devyl’s ex-wife who slit his throat, is Mara’s sister and imprisoned behind the Carian Gate. Mona is a Blackthorn Captain Cross captured. I think nemetons are their homes, home woods? A harthfret is an acorn-like kernel that holds a Deruvian’s life force. Gullveig had been a goddess of healing who survived death to become Heiðr; she’s the one who started the war between Dumnonii and Deruvian. Mercyn is the man with whom Elf fell in love.

Vine’s minions include luscas and takarum who are the souls of those who’ve died at sea and look for bodies to possess or take down to the locker to replace themselves so they can live free again (I guess they’re different from the plat-eyes).

Menyara is a witch-woman.

Cimmerians are…
…demons. Plat-eyes are drowned sailors? demons?? both??

The Malachai is…
…a feared being who takes on the memories and powers of his predecessors when he assumes the role. The first Malachai was Monakribos. In this time, he is Adarian, and he breaks the gates when he kills his son. He serves two gods: Papa Noir and Azura. His generals are the Riders of the Apocalypse. The world hopes the legend of the Excambiare Malachai will come true.

Captain Patrick Paden Jack, a descendant of the Seraph Michael, is aboard his doomed ship, the San Miguel, a part of the Plate Fleet. His crew includes Mr Edward Symmes. Lettice “Letty” Harrison is the pregnant woman he’d promised to marry. Her father, Nathaniel Harrison, owns the tavern, the Black Swan, that Paden intends to buy. Cameron “Cammy” Jack is his baby sister with no one, now, to look after her.

The Cover and Title

The actual cover is nowhere near as colorful as the one pictured. The one I’m looking at, propped up on my bookstand next to me, is the deepest purple black on top and an equally deep green that, together, come across as black. Fortunately, the web graphic displays the embossed scantily dressed woman with arms raised and wrists crossed sitting atop the equally embossed demon skull with its curly horns in a much brighter light. I suspect the cover was accepted without anyone really looking at it. Certainly the embossed author’s name at the top in silver and the embossed title in gold at the bottom are best viewed at an angle. The series information is at the bottom in a flat gold.

The title is quite accurate for the crew of the Sea Witch are all Deadmen Walking. Makes me think of the crew of the Black Pearl in the first Pirates of the Caribbean.

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2 responses to “Book Review: Deadmen Walking by Sherrilyn Kenyon

  1. Hm… I was having doubts when you talked about third person omniscient viewpoint – I have a real problem trudging through that pov unless there is a really important reason. Thank you for your thorough, informative review.

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