Genre: fantasy: urban
Queer Representation: bisexuality appears to be generally accepted in world
Down-on-her-luck traveling bard Fortune meets the devil on the road and sells her soul for a magical guitar and a fast car. Well, sells her soul and her memories, though she didn’t really consent to that last part.
She travels from town to town, trying to scrounge enough money to buy food and maybe a decent place to sleep. Itinerant and listless and searching for her past, when she meets a strange old man with demands that Fortune deliver him a girl named Maud, Fortune accepts. How can she not, when he offers to pay off her debt to the devil once Maud is in his hands?
Her search for Maud takes her into Sky–a little town with a lot of secrets. Maud turns out to be a tall, eighteen-year-old girl with dreams of leaving Sky for…really anywhere. The two form a fast friendship and decide to travel together, singing and playing guitar and learning about the world.
The strange old man, however, has not forgotten about Maud. Fortune must unravel the secrets of her teenaged companion and a mysterious curse if she is to ever get her memories returned. But are her memories worth the potential cost of turning Maud over to man who can make deals with the devil?
DAMNED PRETTY THINGS is a sweet, sometimes haunting tale about friendship, love, and grief. The writing is well-paced and solid, and there’s just enough element of the supernatural to keep the plot interesting. The book is predominantly Fortune’s journey of healing, but a sizable portion is spent on Maud’s history, including her childhood and otherworldly powers.
One part road trip, one part ghost story, there’s a certain almost inevitability to the friendship between the two women. The chemistry was palpable, to the point where I was surprised the romance line was them functionally chasing the same guy, instead of realizing they were much better suited towards one another. The entire Lightning character felt almost shoehorned into what was otherwise an excellent little friendship/romance.
The Maud/Low romance, as well, while plot relevant, seemed superfluous to the story at large. The idea that Maud ‘gave her love away already’ to the boy she cursed and now has to love that boy, didn’t sit super well with me.
Ignoring the pained romance arcs, the rest of the book is an absolute delight to read. Mystery and danger and friendship weave together like the ‘memories’ in Fortune’s hair. It’s sweet, and creepy, and funny, and wholesome, and in a summer of COVID, makes for a great road trip book (for the road trips none of us get to have right now).
To help unravel the story of the McBride witches and maybe make a deal with the devil, preorder on the Aqueduct Press website (comes out November 2020).