The Devil’s Blade by Mark Adler (book review).

‘The Devil’s Blade’ is a standalone book by Mark Adler and is very loosely based on the life of Julie D’Aubigny who lived in 17th century Paris. Julie has a fabulous operatic singing voice and she will do anything to have it recognised and to become famous. But tragedy strikes and her voice is ruined by 13 disguised men during an assignation.

Julie decides she must get revenge on these 13 and so makes a deal with the Devil to kill all 13 of these men using the skills she is taught by him within one year. But they must all be headed to Hell when Julie kills them which adds a bit of a twist, she can’t just kill them but must ensure they do something hell-worthy prior to her killing them.

I must admit I started out having a lot of trouble with the writing style in this book. It’s written in third person present tense which took me a little getting used to as it’s not a tense I’m very used to reading. There is also a lot of telling but not a lot of us actually seeing what’s going on. It all zoomed along in a very blunt fashion. Plus there is a lot of what I felt to be gratuitous swearing just for the shock value both to the characters in the book and us as the reader. Also, if I had to read once more about the streets in Paris being covered in piss and shit or stinking of piss and shit once more I was going to scream. It was definitely hammered home that the streets of Paris in the 17th century were unpleasant. All of this did get a little much at times so it wasn’t the easiest thing for me to read.

I also felt quite uncomfortable with Julie as she was meant to be only 16 years old in this book and some of the things she does and says seem to be over the top. I felt quite uncomfortable with some of the things that happen to her in this book. Often it was easy to forget how old she’s meant to be and I thought she was a lot older.

I really enjoyed the scenes with the Devil and how Adler portrayed their character. I could very easily picture them in my mind during the lessons in fencing that they give to Julie during the book. There were some bits towards the end where the Devil teaches Julie some frankly confusing manoeuvres that I couldn’t quite get my head around.

However, on the whole, the Devil is a highly entertaining character in this book, I would love to read a short story about them in the future. In fact, there were quite a few people who cropped up as side characters that I would like to read more about. I’m not entirely sure whether many of these side characters were real people given this book was based on a real person.

Overall, this book was not bad at all once I got used to the style. I did find a lot of it quite try-hard in terms of the snippy little comebacks from some characters. Plus I did get bored of the sword fights after a time, but it is called ‘The Devil’s Blade’ after all.

Sarah Bruch

October 2020

(pub: Gollancz, 2020. 373 page enlarged paperback. Price: £16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-57512-972-6

check out website:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.