Crimson Angel (Ben January #13)

I got the new Ben January book, Crimson Angel, in my Amazon order yesterday, and devoured it. :D


This is my favorite book since The Shirt On His Back, and one of my all-time favorites for the series, I think. It's definitely got the best Hannibal scenes since Dead Water, if not in the entire series. Only Hannibal would run off to a place that means CERTAIN DEATH with no food or money because his friend is in peril ... and then end up charming the one person on the whole island who could protect him. And as if that wasn't enough, he rescued Rose in the final battle by being, basically, THE AWESOMEST. (Especially knowing from Dead Water how profoundly it hurts him to cause physical harm to people. That bit where he shoots Rose's captor is such a *hearteyes* moment and yet there's also that lingering "ouch" because you know he's going to suffer for it later. And yet at the same time as that, there's also the fact that Hannibal's been able to retain that fundamental innocence he's got whereas, say, Ben and Rose have not, by virtue of his skin color and wealthy upbringing. And the series is, I think, meta-aware of this.)

This book managed to bundle quite a few of my favorite tropes into one nonstop adventure of awesome, because I am a huuuuuge sucker for hidden treasure and secret maps and dark family secrets and all that fun gothic stuff, as well as characters risking it all for each other, which this book has LIKE WHOA. As well as Hannibal being basically the best, this book gave excellent Rose (I think the last book in which Rose got to swash her buckle was back in Dead Water too, wasn't it?) and, oh, Ben. The whole sequence when he first arrives on Haiti where he's all "Rose kidnapped by killers! But Hannibal hurt and lost and doomed! ... WHAT DO? D:" .... still breaks my heart. BENNNNNN! ;___;

Even Shaw, who isn't in the book very much due to sheer necessary plot mechanics (much like Rose not being in more than a couple of scenes of The Shirt On His Back) gets a few good bits at the beginning. (Now that we've had a bunch of awesome Rose and Hannibal, I think we're about due for another Shaw book, yes? Maybe? :D? Come on, Hambly, all I want is one scene with Shaw and Baby John. JUST ONE!)

Anyway, as always, I felt like Hambly did a really good job with the serious and heartbreaking side of this period in history -- drawing you into the characters' world and bringing home with a series of hammer-blows how unspeakably awful their world actually was, and how disconnected white society was from its awfulness. (I think my favorite thing about Good Man Friday was that she resisted what had to have been temptation to have the white brother genuinely repent for the way he treated his slave half-brother, especially after it turns out that he is, or at least had the potential to be, fundamentally decent underneath it all -- but he never does, because the society in which he lives has rendered him utterly incapable of seeing his brother as a human being or loving him in a way that's not horribly pathological, and so he stays awful to the last.) All I really knew about this book going in was that it was "the Haiti book", and I wasn't sure how that would be handled, but it seemed to me that the whole thing, including the voodoo and the island's mix of political fucked-upedness layered on top of the fundamental decency of the ordinary people who live there, was really well done. And, Ben, I feel your dilemma with the notebooks at the end there (saving a life for every one that was taken) -- but I support his decision to burn them.

I think my one regret about these books is that they don't come with appendixes and bibliographies, because I end up wanting about a million notes on the actual historical sources that Hambly used to write them -- she's an historian/historical professor in real life, I believe -- and the background that went into putting the book together. I want ALL the behind-the-scenes on these!

In conclusion: A+++, absolutely loved it, definitely up there with my favorites from the entire series. :D

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There's a new Ben January? Man, I haven't read one of those in probably 20 years. I should look it back up. I really liked those back in the day
There are 13 of them now! :D (I didn't realize the series went that far back -- I've just started reading it in the last few years.)
I'm off a little. it's almost 20 years. I was thinking of the Asher books but I've been reading Hambly since the 80s (and her blog I'm sorry to say rather depresses me looking at how little she seems to have from all these sales) she's on LJ

and i had NO idea there were that many books. I dont' remember where I left off. I think I had gotten tired with a couple of the books or I was so busy with my medical practice I forgot about them.
I loved this book so much! Yes, everything about Hannibal was great – I loved the secret message in Greek, shooting Rose's captor OMG (I really want fic set in the aftermath of this dealing with that), his nearly-magical ability to find some sympathetic woman under any circumstances (also Mayanet's line, "He mine like a parrot"! Hahaha), writing poems for Rose, and all the joking amongst them about challenging each other to a duel. And Rose was great – going sailing and inventing snorkeling! and joking about if placees are allowed to wear glasses, and dramatic kidnappings! And yes, poor Ben, trying to choose who to save and so afraid of losing them both.

I completely agree with you about Baby John. I don't normally like babies in fiction, but something about this series – I want all the silly scenes with people being cute with kids. And I loved the dilemma with the notebooks – it's always great to see an ethical problem where the choice is actually difficult and not obvious. I also really liked the argument between Ben and Hannibal, earlier in the book, about if they could help Jacinta, the planter's wife. It was another instance where you could see the argument for both sides. (Though of course I'm glad they did end up helping her.)

I also would love a bibliography. It was interesting, having just read this book, I went to see Top Five (the new Chris Rock movie), in which one of the running jokes was the unpopularity of a movie about Haitian revolution. It was a weird contrast!
Hannibal was AMAZING in this book. ♥ While he's always a darling, there aren't very many books in which he really gets to do the day-saving -- he's more often the damsel in distress. Not that a character has to badass their way out of danger to be worthwhile, of course, but his general badassery in this book was wonderful, all the more so because he's not naturally gifted in that area the way people like Ben and Shaw are; for him it's entirely motivated by concern for his friends. (And now he needs all the cuddling. ALL THE CUDDLING!)

Oh, yes, I liked the Jacinta subplot too! Like you, I really enjoy dilemmas in which both sides are sympathetic and there is no easy solution. I could understand Ben's pragmatic "trying to help her is only going to make her situation worse" as well as I could understand Hannibal's burning need to get her out of her terribly abusive situation.

Awwww, sweethearts. ♥