Holly Lisle, Sympathy for the Devil (Baen, 1996)

What would you do if 58,000 damned souls were suddenly released from Hell and landed in your hometown? That's what Dayne Kuttner has to contend with in this novel from Holly Lisle, author of Fire in the Mist and The Secret Texts series.

Unfortunately, there's another layer to this event. Dayne asked for it, literally. In a moment of concern over the likely-to-have-been-damned soul of her dead husband, she prayed for every soul in Hell to have a chance to repent, and since she prayed with a "pure heart" (the one criterion for having your prayer immediately answered), she got it. And, boy, did she get it.

So now, Charlotte, North Carolina, is being overrun with Hellraised of all sorts — all out to raise Hell on earth. At the same time, Lucifer is concerned that, with repentance being an option, he is going to lose a good number of these souls to the enemy. Thus, he sends out Agonostis — and a sizable staff of demons, imps, and gremlins — to ensure that the damned stay damned, using all the temptations at their disposal. And just for good measure, he wants to add Dayne's name to his roster.

This is a fun novel: humorous, intelligent, and inventive. It's not the best book I've read recently — a few loose ends aren't tied up and too many questions left unanswered — but I enjoyed the time I spent with Lisle's characters, especially the main two. God and Lucifer are represented here by their mythological counterparts and are depicted humorously and with equal respect. (One of the best scenes shows God being called back for important business still in his "Odin" garb.) The only "moral" seems to be the old adage that "love conquers all."

Even folks who don't normally read fantasy would find plenty to interest them here. Lisle has crafted a pleasant diversion that gives serious subjects a humorous and light-hearted touch, making them all the more palatable.

[Craig Clarke]

Visit Holly Lisle on the Web, where she also hosts the award-winning Forward Motion site for writers.

I read Sympathy for the Devil for free! You, too, can read it and other novels on the Web at the Baen Free Library.