Witches and Magic Come to the Wild West in J. Danielle Dorn’s “Devil’s Call”

Title: Devil’s Call
Author:
 J. Danielle Dorn
Release Date: July 18, 2017
Publisher: Inkshares
Review Spoilers:  Mild
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Rating:
Witches and magic come to the Wild West in J. Danielle Dorn’s revenge-driven, genre-bending debut novel, Devil’s Call. It is arguably the perfect story for fans of westerns who love to see the genre challenged by new and unique elements. In Devil’s Call readers find a gritty, dark fantasy that follows a woman named Li Lian on her journey to avenge her husband’s murder at the hands of dark forces.

Called “Lilian” by many of her neighbors, Li Lian was born into a long line of witches but she rebelled in her teenage years, choosing to travel the west and live among normal humans. Along the way she met and married a young army doctor with whom she fell fast in love. But living away from her family comes with dangers and shortly before the book begins her husband, Matthew, is murdered by a group of bandits. Soon Li Lian is blamed for his death by Matthew’s close friend, who also happens to be the local sheriff.

The only thing that saves her from immediately going to the gallows is her unborn child.

Devil’s Call is written as a letter to the child that Li Lian carries throughout the novel. The story jumps around at times. While you might expect it to pick up immediately with Matthew’s murder, instead it starts out almost like a normal, happy tale of how they met. Li Lian talks about her husband, her wilder teenage years, and the family she rebelled against before striking out on her own.

But those happier moments are fleeting as soon Li Lian is telling the child about her quest for vengeance as she — with the help of a friend called Hawking — pursues her husband’s murderers across the countryside.

It’s a gritty book and not one that’s for the feint of heart. There are dark moments and there is no guarantee that the characters you may come to love will survive until the end. Throughout much of the book you have to wonder if Li Lian will even survive, as something has driven her to write this long “letter” to a child it seems she may never met.

But it’s a book that will keep you reading regardless. 

While I had a few issues with the pacing and writing at times, I found Devil’s Call to be a really quick and engaging read. Li Lian’s story is honest and heart-wrenching. Dorn does a really great job of developing her world and explaining Li Lian’s history as well as her family’s history and magic. The reader becomes involved in her quest for vengeance and it becomes important to see it through to it’s inevitable end no matter how things turn out.

I think a big part of the reason that we care so much is that we don’t just care about her but her child, too.

We need to know what happens to Li Lian, who is pregnant through out the whole story and racing against time to track down her husband’s killers before the baby is born. It adds a unique element to what could have been a pretty basic story of revenge. (The magic angle helps, too.) The epistolary format in particular helps readers really understand the character’s motivations as well as make readers care about not just her future, but her child’s as well. 

Devil’s Call is a satisfying read that will keep readers hooked all the way to it’s startling conclusion. Li Lian’s takes readers on a unique journey and it’s not one you’ll soon forget. If you’re a fan of westerns – especially those with a twist – you may want to check this book out!