Books: "1301: The Marquis" by Christine Rains

This tightly written, fast-paced novella heralds the start of Rains' The 13th Floor, a series of supernatural tales about the denizens of a hidden or non-existant floor in an old building in Carmine, Indiana. Each story will have a room number and tenant, six in total, and a new novella will be available every month from now through May 2013.

In "1301" the central character is Marc, once known as The Grand Marquis—a retired demon just trying to make a life for himself in the purgatory that is the world. The novella opens with Marc being confronted by a couple demons, one of which decides to make a personal project of tormenting Marc and trashing his town. Though the characters are quite clearly written, I might have liked a little more backstory here, a little more of Marc's previous relationship or dealings with this demon (whose name is Vetis).

As a character, Marc plays a bit like Hellboy of comic and film fame, though at least he has the luxury of looking human except when driven to use his latent demonic powers. Stoic and solitary, Marc nevertheless has developed a bit of a crush on a local café owner, a tenderhearted woman named Mae who serves coffee to ex-demons (if unknowingly) and local prostitutes (knowingly) alike. Though it's the frat boys who are the real troublemakers. Well, and Vetis.

Rains packs a number of action sequences into this short form, but when it comes to Marc's interior monologue she has a habit of telling more than showing; though the reader is assured many times over of Marc's love and devotion to Mae, at least in words, I felt little romantic tension. And Mae herself is almost too good to be true, and therefore suffers for lack of character flaws to make her human. (Unless she's not? Is she literally an angel? Perhaps more will be revealed in other stories in the series.) Marc, on the other hand, carries more than his fair share of failings. Well, they do say opposites attract.

What "1301" does very well, however, is set the tone for the other stories in this series by offering tidbits about the other residents of the titular 13th floor. I'll admit I'm curious to read more about each of them: the vampire Kiral, Harriet (a witch?), the harpy mentioned in passing . . . I'm waiting to see how it all ties in and plays out. The building is a character in and of itself, as is Carmine—there's something Stephen King-ish about the setup here: an odd little town populated with strange and interesting "people." It's intriguing. So despite a few weak spots, I'll definitely be reading more of this series. Nothing's perfect, after all.

Except maybe Mae.


Christine Rains said...

Thank you for the review!

M Pepper Langlinais said...

Certainly. I look forward to more.