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Literature / Jill Kismet

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"Judge, jury, executioner. Just like you, you fucking Sorrows bitch. There's just one difference, Inez. I'm a hunter. I am the fucking law in this town, bitch. Sentence pronounced."
"Thou Who hast given me to fight evil, protect me. Keep me from harm. Grant me strength in battle, honor in living, and a quick clean death when my time comes. Cover me with Thy shield, and with my sword may Thy righteousness be brought to earth, to keep Thy children safe. Let me be the defense of the weak and the protector of the innocent, the righter of wrongs and the giver of charity. In Thy name and with Thy blessing, I go forth to cleanse the night."
— the Hunter's Prayer

A streetwalker who killed her pimp in self-defense, Jill Kismet was taken in by Mikhail Tolstoi, a hunter of supernatural creatures, who apprenticed her to be a hunter herself, working the seedy supernatural underbelly of the American West. Trained in martial arts, whipwork, knives, firearms, and minor magics, she emerged with work she could be proud of. Just one problem: she made a pact with a hellbreed for greater fighting power.

And then Mikhail was murdered.

Six months later, when Night Shift begins, Jill is now the only hunter in town, working with the city police on supernatural crimes. The latest item in the docket? The gruesome vivisection of five cops in a single night by a furry creature helped by a hellbreed.

The Jill Kismet novels comprise a six-book Dark Urban Fantasy series by American author Lilith Saintcrow. In order:

  • Night Shift (2008)
  • Hunter's Prayer (2008)
  • Redemption Alley (2009)
  • Flesh Circus (2009)
  • Heaven's Spite (2010)
  • Angel Town (2011)
An omnibus edition (pictured) was published in 2013.


  • Affectionate Nickname: Some of Jill's friends and acquaintances nickname her "Kiss". She categorically hates it when Perry calls her that, so naturally he does it whenever he possibly can.
  • Almighty Janitor: The elderly, mute, alcoholic groundskeeper at the decommissioned insane asylum at Henderson Hill is really the Archangel Michael.
  • Apocalypse Cult: Sorrows cults are worshipers of Elder Gods, essentially making them the next best thing to Cthulhu cultists. See also Middle Way cultists, which worship Chaos but don't feature in the series.
  • Black Speech: Helletöng is the language of hellbreed, while Sorrows demons and cults use Old Chaldean (which is also required for exorcisms of same).
  • Broken Bird: Jill. Grew up with a single mom who had a string of abusive boyfriends, spent her teenage years as a prostitute, rescued by Mikhail only to have him get murdered, and spends every waking moment slaying monsters and stopping people from Trading with demons. She openly admits she's not a nice or good person and is frequently very cynical.
  • Candlelit Ritual: Sorrows cults, worshipers of the Elder Gods, use tallow candles made from human body fat in many of their rituals.
  • Church Militant: The Jesuit Shadow Order, a secret society within the Society of Jesus that was established to fight on the nightside. More generally, the Catholic Church provides some of the funding and equipment for hunters, though Weres don't like the Catholic Church much because a lot of innocent Weres were killed by the Inquisition.
  • Deal with the Devil: Hellbreed make pacts with mortals, granting the mortal a measure of the hellbreed's power in exchange for services. Often they're rather one-sided and require the Trader to do horrible things (like kidnap babies and present them to their master), though Jill was a good enough negotiator that the price for her deal with Perry was to spend a few hours a month with him. The activity du jour is usually torturing Perry himself, a way for him to gain insight into her psyche to try and subvert her. Jill catches Perry out breaking his side of the bargain in Hunter's Prayer, allowing her to draw perpetually on the pact for the next three books at no apparent cost, but then she kills Melisande Belisa when she didn't have to and he gains control of her through the pact... which she promptly solves by blowing her own head off. She gets better.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Blessed silver is the only thing that can breach a hellbreed's etheric shell, so naturally hunters arm themselves with it as well as wearing silver charms tied into their hair. Jill goes Guns Akimbo with Hand Cannons full of silver bullets, uses a bullwhip tipped with silver flechettes, and has silver-alloy knives for close-in work.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jill eats her Glock at the end of Heaven's Spite to prevent Perry from controlling her through the pact and endangering the city, after she falls from grace by killing Melisande Belisa for her own revenge. However, this act of Heroic Sacrifice subverts the pact, and at the beginning of Angel Town, Jill is resurrected with a Mission from God to defeat Perry for good, with angelic power replacing the hellbreed power she once drew on.
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: Jill is Catholic, but as a hunter she is barred from Confession and Communion for trafficking in the supernatural and the sin of murder committed almost every night, though by special dispensation she can still be buried on consecrated ground (if there's enough of her left to bury). Church tradition also holds that hunters cannot go to heaven for the same reason, but given that Mikhail appears as an angel warrior at the climax of Angel Town, the dogma can be assumed to be wrong.
  • Gangbangers: Latin gangs are a problem in Santa Luz, and it's mentioned a number of times that the barrio is a bad place for a Caucasian like Jill to go unescorted. The gangs aren't stupid enough to mess with the Weres who also inhabit the barrio, though. Jill eventually takes a member of the 51 gang, Gilberto Gonzalez-Ayala, on as her apprentice starting in book five.
  • Ghostapo: World War II took place amidst a terrible demonic outbreak and it's strongly indicated the Nazis got mixed up with them.
  • Healing Factor: Hellbreed and many other nasties have it, though blessed silver helps to counteract it. Via her pact, Jill can recover in minutes or hours from many wounds that ought to be near-instantly fatal for a baseline human, even some hunters.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Justified. Jill wears leather pants for their abrasion resistance: her hellbreed pact lets her run and jump at superhuman speeds and any bad landing could flay half her skin off. (And it makes her ass look good.)
  • Hero's Classic Car: Jill is a talented amateur mechanic and initially drives an orange '67 Chevy Impala she restored. That this is the same year, make and model as the car used by the Winchesters in Supernatural probably isn't coincidental. It gets destroyed in book three, and during the Time Skip to book four she acquires a '68 Pontiac Bonneville.
  • Historical Rap Sheet: A massive demonic outbreak triggered the Great Depression and the world's hunters have barely been able to keep a lid on the nightside ever since. Turns out to be plot-significant: Perry is a fragment of the hellbreed prince Argoth who was left behind after the 1929 outbreak.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Jill's suicide/Heroic Sacrifice at the end of Heaven's Spite. The last words of the book are her putting her Glock in her mouth and narrating, "I pull the trig—"
  • Limited-Use Magical Device: Among Jill's weapons is a "sunsword" that is very good for killing creatures on the nightside, but has to be charged in the sun during the daytime. At the climax of the first book she manages to drain so much energy out of it killing a hellbreed prince that it's rendered inert for the rest of the series, and she frequently wishes it still worked.
  • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: Weres don't normally mate with humans, even hunters, since their greater strength and ability to shapeshift means it's possible they might kill a non-Were partner. Liz and Saul get by because her hellbreed pact makes her tough enough to withstand him.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: "Jillian Kismet" is not her birth name, but rather a pseudonym she took on while under Mikhail's tutelage (a reference to an earlier hunter of her and Mikhail's lineage, Jack Karma). Just as well: she has a fairly long rap sheet under her birth name, Judith, that might get in the way of working with the cops, including several solicitation busts.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: Weres have Voluntary Shapeshifting and are normally benign (for a given value of "benign": they don't hunt humans but they also don't tolerate being messed with), traditionally partnering with hunters to run backup. They're also charmingly skilled at household chores, preferring to keep a clean "den". However, rogue Weres do happen and are extremely dangerous. The ones we interact with the most are cat Weres (Jill's Love Interest Paul Dustcircle is a werecougar), though they reportedly come in all kinds, from canine to bird to reptilian, even at least one werespider.
  • The Sheriff: A town's hunter is essentially this for the supernatural community, and works with the regular law enforcement apparatus. They appear to have pretty broad police powers: human Traders and possessed get exorcised and handed over to the police if possible, the hunter essentially has carte blanche on anything else.
  • Sinister Southwest: Santa Luz is located in the American Southwest.
  • Sympathetic Murder Backstory: Jill shot her pimp with his own gun when he gave her one beating too many. She was apparently never charged for it, as Mikhail found her not long after that and sheltered her from the police.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Jill and Mikhail's relationship was sexual as well as apprentice-and-master, which Jill regards as a natural consequence of two reasonably heterosexual individuals with high-stress, high-adrenaline jobs living together.
  • That Man Is Dead: Jill insists that her birth identity, Judith, is dead.
  • True Love Is Boring: Jill and Saul get hitched in the Were tradition (something like a handfasting) between books two and three, but Saul spends the entirety of book three with his family because his mother is dying of lymphoma, and is distant with Jill during book four. They manage to sort it out.
  • Useless Spleen: Jill's was injured when her pimp beat her on the night she shot and killed him. Doesn't seem to slow her down at all.
  • Vomiting Cop: Jill gives a presentation each year to the city's newest batch of rookie cops on the nightside. It invariably reduces at least some of them to a vomiting heap.
  • Weird West: The series leans rather more heavily on the Urban Fantasy side, but it is set in the American West and that informs some of the backdrop. Jill behaves somewhat like an Old West sheriff, and most American Weres are of Native American ancestry, referencing skinwalker legends. Also includes strong elements of New Old West: among other things Santa Luz appears to be somewhere in one of the American-Mexican border states, and a section of town controlled by various Latino gangs is referred to as the barrio, and is dangerous for the Caucasian Jill to travel in (at least at first—later the gangs avoid her because of her reputation as a bruja).