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Literature / Dante Valentine

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Dante Valentine is a Necromance, a psion specializing in raising the shades of the dead. However, she's also a Bounty Hunter with a predilection for getting into trouble. And when the Devil himself comes calling, you don't get to turn down the job, even if it means going after a man who nearly killed you once already.

Basically it's The Dresden Files, if Harry Dresden was a woman living in a Science Fantasy setting a few hundred years in the future.

The Dante Valentine series, written by American Speculative Fiction author Lilith Saintcrow in the mid- to late 2000s, consists of five books:

  • Working for the Devil (2005)
  • Dead Man Rising (2006)
  • The Devil's Right Hand (2007)
  • Saint City Sinners (2007)
  • To Hell and Back (2008)

The novels are available both individually and as an omnibus edition. Saintcrow also published a spinoff Serial Novel, Selene, starring a sexwitch Danny encounters in one of the books. The novel was republished in 2014 as Selene: A Saint City Story.

This series contains the following tropes:

  • Back from the Dead: Lucifer kills Japhrimel at the end of Working for the Devil, but in a phone call to Danny early in Dead Man Rising acts surprised that she hasn't resurrected him yet. Turns out a Power-fueled fire is what it takes to resurrect a demon from ashes, as she learns when she burns down her house after Jace dies.
  • Boarding School of Horrors/Orphanage of Fear: Danny was given up for adoption by drug-addicted parents who didn't want her, and after testing positive for psi ability she was sent to Rigger Hall, a psion training center run by a sadist named Mirovitch with a taste for underage girls. He was eventually killed when some of his students slipped their Power Nullifier collars and ganged up on him. This drives the plot of Dead Man Rising: Mirovitch's spirit comes back, possesses one of the students who killed him, and uses him to start killing the others.
  • Breeding Slave: Psions with too little power to be trainable are sometimes turned into breeders to produce more psions. Mirovitch at Rigger Hall would sometimes do this, or threaten to do this, to students who refused to put up with his asshattery.
  • Deus Sex Machina: One variety of psion, tantraiiken or sexwitches, generate Power primarily by sexual acts. Unsurprisingly they're commonly employed as strippers or prostitutes.
  • Devil, but No God: Lucifer is the one who hires Danny in Working for the Devil, but the Judeo-Christian God doesn't seem to have much of a presence and Christians (called "Christers") are basically considered cranks at this point.
  • Escaped from Hell: In Working for the Devil, Lucifer explains that ordinarily only demons of the Greater Flight are able to leave Hell. Vardimal Santino, "scum" of the Lesser Flight, escaped with a MacGuffin about fifty years prior.
  • Familiar: Tierce Japhrimel, a greater demon whom Lucifer assigns as Danny's protector without either of their consent.
  • Fantastic Drug: Clormen-13, a.k.a. Chill, instantly addictive with no possible treatment. And it's legal because it's big business for the Mob.
  • Fantastic Legal Weirdness: Thanks to the Parapsychic Act, Psions are allowed to be legally accredited professionals whose abilities are admissible in court. In particular, Necromances like Danny are often hired to settle estate matters by asking the deceased what they want done with their estate. She also mentions she charges extra for criminal cases, and gets very cross with the attorney when hired for a probate only to discover that the decedent was murdered by one of the heirs.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Necromancy, Healing Hands, Voudoun (including what are apparently tangibly real loas), nature magic, golems, various types of demon, Lucifer, the list goes on.
  • First-Person Smartass: Danny is prone to making snarky commentary and angrily cussing in her Internal Monologue.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Yes, Dante, nicknamed "Danny", is a woman.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Seventy Day War, several decades in the backstory, implied to be the setting's version of World War III and which involved at least one nuclear exchange.
  • Honey Trap: In order to gather intelligence on the villain of Dead Man Rising, Danny has Jace get her an invitation to a party thrown by the leader of the local Nichtvren. She arrives wearing a black gown with a slit up both thighs and a front open almost to her waist, held closed by laces.
  • Hover Board: Danny is proficient at riding a slicboard, riding it into Flying Car traffic to unwind after raising shades.
  • Infernal Fugitives: Danny is initially hired by the Devil to hunt down and slay Vardimal Santino, said to be a demon of the Greater Flight who escaped from Hell with an Artifact of Doom. In later books, Danny ends up caught in the machinations of the Devil and several other demons after more escapes. This includes her lover Tierce Japhrimel, who is able to use his connection to her to escape Lucifer's control.
  • It Seemed Trivial: Danny's Love Interest, the demon Tierce Japhrimel, is a major offender: she's forever stuck begging him to explain things to her, especially about being a hedaira. He doesn't until it comes up in battle. When Danny asks why he didn't tell her sooner, he shrugs it off answering, "I did not want to trouble you with something so trivial." He abuses this excuse to the point Dante is often ready to scream.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Necromances and a number of other types of psion carry swords of blessed steel. Danny uses a katana, while Jace prefers a longer dotanuki.
  • Mundane Utility: The main above-board use for Necromantic powers is in settling legal matters, such as settling estate cases where the will is unclear. Danny charges extra for criminal cases: in Working for the Devil she raises a ghost having been told it's an estate case, then gets very angry with the attorney who hired her when she learns she's just gotten the deceased's son convicted of his murder.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Given that her Psychopomp takes the form of the Egyptian god Anubis, Danny has a tendency to swear by Anubis ("Anubis et'her ka", translated in the glossary as "Anubis protect me") and Sekhmet ("Sekhmet sa'es", meaning "Sekhmet stamp it [flat]"). Her friend Gabe, a Necromance who works for the Saint City police department, once swears by Hades instead.
  • Old Flame/Hopeless Suitor: Jason "Jace" Monroe, an eclectic shaman with whom Danny was hot-and-heavy in the backstory, but who left her in the middle of the night because the Santino Mob family had threatened to kill her if he didn't rejoin them. He's still in love with her, but she hasn't forgiven him and falls in love with Japhrimel instead.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Nichtvren have several of the classic vampire traits (pale, scarily beautiful, drinks blood) and are the top dog in the supernatural creature community. Vampiric transformation is partially accomplished by a retroviral infection, though there's also an "etheric transfer" involved that science cannot duplicate.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: Werecain can apparently shapeshift between human and "huntform" at will, and in full or in part. The animal involved varies.
  • Power Nullifier: Students at psion academies are given magicked collars that turn off their powers while they're taught to control them. Danny was wearing hers when her social worker took her on a walk outside Rigger Hall and they were mugged by Chillfreaks; all she could do was run while he died holding them off.
  • Psychopomp: Called out by name. A Necromance in a trance state interacts with the god of death to perform their duties. In Danny's case it takes on the form of the Egyptian death god Anubis (hence her Oh, My Gods! expression "Anubis et'her ka").
  • Russia Takes Over the World: The Russian-derived Putchkin Alliance is one of the setting's two Space Filling Empires, controlling most of Asia. (The apparently American-derived Hegemony controls the rest.)
  • Sacrificial Lion: Poor Jace is killed off rather abruptly 2/3 of the way through Dead Man Rising, dying in such a way as to protect Danny and at the same time reveal the villain to be Mirovitch possessing one of the psion students who killed him.
  • Science Fantasy: Demons, necromancy, golems, Healing Hands, and the Devil himself exist side-by-side with computers, firearms, Hover Boards, and Frickin' Laser Beams.
  • Sex Magic:
    • Sexwitches generate Power to cast spells through sexual acts. Unsurprisingly most are employed as prostitutes or strippers and there was a major black-market trade in them before the passage of the Parapsychic Act.
    • Danny's transformation into Japhrimel's hedaira involves him making love to her.
  • Ship Sinking: Jace is still hopelessly in love with Danny in Dead Man Rising, and two-thirds of the way in she hints she may be able to at some point return his affections again. Then he's abruptly killed by the Monster of the Week a handful of pages later.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Danny has a soft spot for classic literature (her childhood social worker Lewis got her hooked on it), and references Paradise Lost while meeting with Lucifer in the first book.
    • The black gown-with-swords-and-guns getup worn by Danny at the Nichtvren (i.e. vampire) party in Dead Man Rising bears a remarkable similarity to this outfit from BloodRayne 2.
  • Space-Filling Empire: As explained in the glossary, the Hegemony (the nation where the stories take place) controls the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, Western Europe, and parts of Central Asia. The Putchkin Alliance (Putchkin for short) is Russia, most of China and Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. There's also a number of Freetowns that are independent city-states.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: The Magi apparently use the scientific method to study the supernatural world (which is why Necromances and Shamans can be accredited professionals usable in legal proceedings), and supernatural transformations are often rationalized as Bio-Augmentation. For example, there's apparently a retroviral infection involved in being turned into a Nichtvren, though Danny also refers to an "etheric transfer" that conventional science can't replicate.
  • Super Registration Act: The Parapsychic Act is a mixed blessing for psis. On the one hand, it does grant them full legal protection and citizenship (prior to its passage they were commonly underworld commodities), but on the other hand, it also requires them to have a tattoo of their main Talent on their cheek, exposing them to Fantastic Racism. Meanwhile the Paranormal Species Act grants voting rights to paranormal species (the Nichtvren were the main drivers).
  • Touched by Vorlons: Japhrimel transforms Danny into a hedaira about 3/4 of the way through Working for the Devil, granting her Super-Strength, Super-Toughness, and increased magical abilities.
  • The Unmasqued World: The Science Fantasy with supernatural creatures living alongside modern and future tech is justified by an event in the backstory called the Awakening, where supernatural beings, who had previously been marginalized by modern society and lived in secret, decided "enough's enough" and started working in the open for legal rights. The Nichtvren led the charge because their wealth and political connections made them the most effective.
  • Unrequited Love: In Dead Man Rising, Jace and Danny's relationship has become this, with Jace, still in love with Danny, having given up the high life as a Mob boss to be her bounty-hunting partner, knowing full well she'll never return his affections again.