Part of the fun when reading about the convention scene in fiction is finding “them” in your own memories (and, curiously enough, your own experiences) and giggling in recognition. Kate Paulk does this and more in her blood-sucking, werewolf prowling, con-going hoot of a tale, ConVent.
“Jim”, as our hero in this novel calls himself (having outgrown his original name many, many years ago) has just arrived at a science fiction/fantasy convention when he smells a familiar scent: his old “friend” Sean, who also happens to be a werewolf. Normally (as anybody who has read urban fantasy or, sweet merciless Cthulhu, read some Twilight in their day) werewolves and vampires do not get along, but Sean and Jim make an exception, since they both tend to travel the con circuit like any other die-hard congoer. They say their hellos…
…and are immediately greeted by the strong scent of blood. Jim feels it to be his obligation to investigate the obscene amount of blood he smells, but it’s Sean who points him in the proper direction (werewolf, like dogs, have a great sense of smell) and it’s there that the two of them find a body in the Art Dealer’s Room.
Jim doesn’t quite know what is going on, but it becomes painfully clear that after the police are called and he runs into a real angel acquaintance of his named Raph that something very odd is going on at this particular convention.Of course, there’s going to be bigger problems, because a minor demon lord has with him a very dangerous dagger that makes Jim fearful and Raph’s succubus “girlfriend” is turning heads sharp enough to cause permanent damage. It’s going to be up to Jim, Sean, Raph and his succubi to save the world.
Okay, let’s get the bad out of the way: I hate the author’s depiction of “fen” (nickname given to congoers by, well, themselves). It’s sort of sad to see that someone who writes SF/F can still generalize like this, especially given the recent trend of cons becoming “mainstream” (see ComicCon and DragonCon if you don’t believe me). And, as an Amazon reviewer said, the lack of panels, steampunk, filk, etc. at this particular con makes this sound like one I really wouldn’t want to attend. Plus, the best stuff at cons often happens at late-night panels (the infamous “Ask the Authors Anything” panel of Conjecture 2008 comes to mind… I still shudder to this day about “pony”, “fisting” and oh God kill me now I need to write this freaking review before my train of thought becomes derailed and ends up in a sewer in Newark…). Other than that…
…other than that, the novel was a lot of fun to read. The mysterious murder(s) which keep occurring, the lack of interest from any sort of law enforcement confusing our “hero”, the absolute havoc and confusion that Raph causes when having sex with a succubus (“undercover angel”, indeed) keeps the reader solidly interested. Midway through the book, the author introduces a family that can subtly be described as “familiar”. The Bosting family, with one award winning author and another in the midst, happen to be at the con as well and causing many demons (who are editors at big-time publishing houses, not exactly a stretch there… are you certain you were writing “fiction”, Ms. Paulk?) to get more than a little weird.
Ms. Paulk manages to do something here that I usually have problems with — she made me care about all of the characters, both main and secondary. (Almost) any author can make the reader care about the main character, and sometimes even the primary secondary. But it’s very, very hard to make the minor characters just as intriguing as the main without taking too much away from the primary (this is evident when the two teenage Bosting boys are dominating a scene, and Jim can only sit back and be carried along with their zaniness).
Definitely a good read, and I can’t wait to see the sequel.
—Reviewed by Jason