Elliot Bishop should be a happy man. His wedding is just a few days away and his fiancé, Celeste, is a sweet, scientific-minded woman with whom Elliot has a companionable friendship. And then Declan, Elliot’s stepbrother, returns in the middle of the night. Irrepressible and irreverent, Declan was Elliot’s one true love before he took to the sea. Now Declan is back and he wants Elliot’s help to find their missing father. Elliot’s mother disappeared when he was eight, so he understands Declan’s concern, but he has no interest in leaving his comfortable life on land.
Then, Celeste vanishes in the night. The only clue is an eight-masted schooner spotted in the harbor, the same schooner seen the night Elliot’s mother disappeared. Now Elliot and Declan must race to find all those are missing before time runs out. But Elliot finds himself drawn to something beneath the water, something that would envelope him completely. He’s only just found Declan again, but Elliot may not be able resist the pull of the moon and the unnatural blood that thrums through his veins.
Devilfish starts out as a seafaring tale with sinister overtones and then….it just gets weird. Now it’s not weird in a necessarily bad way, but consider yourself warned that tentacle sex lies ahead. And hybrid octopus/humans. And then more tentacle sex. You get the picture.
Elliot and Declan are sympathetic main characters and it’s clear their whole lives have been informed by the disappearance of their mother and their father’s subsequent obsession with finding her. Declan was the older stepbrother, who cared for Eli growing up and eventually their relationship turned romantic. When Declan is forced to follow their father to sea, Elliot is devastated and his isolation is palpable. His relationship with Celeste is far from romantic, but it seems the best that Elliot can hope for in Declan’s absence. It makes Elliot somewhat tragic and even when Declan returns, he is unsure of how to move forward. Declan is caring and decisive and charming enough to draw in readers. So together they’re a strong couple, despite the fact so much of their history takes place off page.
So we’ve got to talk about the octopus sex, or hybrid octopus sex, because it kind of comes out of nowhere and is far from subtle. Basically, it turns out several characters in the book are octopus shifters and share blood with a giant octopus “father.” It’s complicated. But Declan accepts all of this with a shrug that borders on the ridiculous. He doesn’t even blink. And not only does he accept it, he does so mid coitus. Really? I’d think at the very least, I’d want to call a time out to discuss where all the arms are suddenly coming from. It just created a level of absurdity that hadn’t been present before and, while it doesn’t derail the story, it does strip away some of its gravitas. Additionally, the ending is a bit rushed. All the excellent pacing sort of disappears and the story becomes chaotic and jumbled. The ending is too abrupt given the slow exposition of the rest of the plot.
Devilfish is written well and has two highly engaging main characters. But it gets weird and there’s no denying that. Now if you like weird, then you’re going to love this quasi-historical romance. I’m not sure if I liked it or not, but it left an impression and that’s not something every book can do.