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I Belong

Review: Dead Man’s Deal by Jocelynn Drake

Dead Man's DealTitle: Dead Man’s Deal

Author: Jocelynn Drake

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: The Asylum Tales (Book 2)

Publication Date: May 7, 2013

Format: Paperback, 384 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062117882 (Harper Voyager)

ISBN-13: 978-0062117885 (Harper Voyager)

Reviewed by: Kristie


The dark and dangerous follow-up that continues the adventures of a magical tattoo artist begun in Angel’s Ink

In a world where elves, faeries, trolls, werewolves, and vampires swim free in a sea of humanity, sometimes you need an edge. Looking for a little love? Need some luck? Desperate for revenge? Gage can give you what you need. The most talented tattoo artist in town, he knows the right symbol and the right mix of ingredients and ink to achieve your heart’s desire. One tattoo is all it takes. But remember, everything has its price. . . .

Gage learned that lesson long ago, in ways he’d rather not remember. But the cruel and powerful wizards in the dreaded Ivory Towers he escaped aren’t about to let him forget. Though Gage has managed to stay out of sight, he can’t outrun the past forever.

The wizards know Gage is using forbidden magic, and they intend to punish him for his transgressions. Too bad if innocent humans and monsters-entire cities-get in the way. They will quell a nascent magical uprising and Gage will be the sacrifice they need. First, though, they have to find him . . .

Quick & Dirty: Fast paced dark urban fantasy with multiple stories interweaving into one final surprising outcome.

Opening Sentence: They were killing pixies.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Gage Powell returns with a whole new set of troubles in Dead Man’s Deal. A dark elf has learned Gage’s secret and has been using him to do his dirty work, even forcing Gage into using his magic which he has been forbidden to use. If Gage uses his magic then his time as a free man is running out even though the witch assigned to Gage has known about Gage’s little magic indiscretions, he won’t turn Gage in unless he uses some powerful magic.

The world that has been created in The Asylum Tales is quite dark and depressing. The witches/warlocks/mages or whatever they prefer to be called (there doesn’t seem to be a name that they prefer to go by, even the males associate themselves as witches or at least from what I can tell or maybe I just missed something…) dominate over everyone from their Ivory Towers. They are a law unto themselves but they will take out their anger on anyone without much backlash. If the wizards kill a human it’s not a problem but if a human kills one of them there will be a manhunt that doesn’t end until that person is tortured and killed (presumably with many bodies that have fallen during that search). They even kill everyone in a major mid-western city because they don’t want one person with a secret so huge to get out that they burn the entire city to the ground.

Gage knows the secret and in order to save himself and everyone in Low Town from being destroyed he must make a deal that could potentially change his life forever. In the midst of all the chaos, Gage also wants to help lift a curse off of the elves in order for his girlfriend Trixie to be safe in case he doesn’t make it out of this “mission” alive.

Gage is a tricky fellow and sadly not much seems to go his way. I enjoy very much how Jocelynn Drake just seems to keep adding to Gage’s stress factor every few pages and keeps it a mystery as to how he is going to get out of this mess with the least amount of collateral damage possible before the puzzle starts to slowly unravel one piece at a time. Gage could so easily use magic to solve all his problems but the one where the Ivory Towers comes after his hide is very much entertaining to see what he does to get around using magic. A huge factor in the story is how if a mage kills someone using magic they will lose a year off of their lives so Gage has to come up with some interesting ways to defeat his enemies.

Dead Man’s Deal could be read as a standalone in the series. The ending of the first novel pretty much summarizes the position that Gage is in at the beginning of this novel. The only thing that readers would miss out on is the depth of the friendships that Gage has with Trixie and Bronx. They are in this novel but don’t really have much page time since a bulk of Gage’s problems are left a secret from the two of them and he has to work on his own. Although Gage does spend a lot of time with the mages Gideon and Sofie. I really enjoyed learning more about the background on those two mages. Overall, Dead Man’s Deal is a fast paced read because of all the action, so much kept happening and I couldn’t wait to find out what was next. If you like dark urban fantasy novels and a male lead character, I would highly recommend this series.

Notable Scene:

Widening my stance to keep my balance, I blanked my mind while shoving. down the nausea rising in my stomach. Adrenaline bubbled in my veins until it felt like my hair was standing on end. In a breath, I pulled up a swell of energy, and I slammed it into Greasy and Fox. I couldn’t manage all three at once. Greasy was a nuisance and Fox was dangerous. Brownie was somewhere in the middle.

Narrowing my eyes, I could feel Brownie summoning up a shield, but it wouldn’t work. With only the smallest push, I directed the energy toward him but my only thought was of peeling an apple. I was vaguely aware of him jerking one arm sharply and twisting, looking around for whatever was attacking him. His face was a mask of confusion as he stubbornly held on to his magical barrier while straining to figure out what I was doing. A second later, his scream rang out, sending shards of glass cutting through my soul. His body twisted and writhed in pain. I tapped down the revulsion while my brain locked on the vision of a small paring knife sliding around a bright red apple as it cut away the skin in a single, long coil.

With the spell in place, I turned to find Greasy staring in horror. He seemed to have forgotten about me. I lifted one hand and extended one finger, pointed down. I slowly spun it in place, imagining that I was stirring a cup of coffee. The warlock gave a surprised shout as he began to spin in place as well, but his shouts and flailing arms were quickly replaced with pain-filled shrieks.

When I took the time to magically stir my coffee, I also heated it. I should have been feeling horror, revulsion. I should have been throwing up the contents of my stomach, but I felt detached and numb as I killed them. My mind desperately clung to the images of an apple and coffee because if I thought about what I was doing, I’d go mad.

The Asylum Tales:

0.5 The Asylum Interviews: Bronx

0.6 The Asylum Interviews: Trixie

1. Angel’s Ink

1.5 Blood by Moonlight

2. Dead Man’s Deal


FTC Advisory: Harper Voyager/HarperCollins provided me with a copy of Dead Man’s Deal. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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