It’s really a pleasure to write this review, as I’m a colleague of the author and have been working with them in one fashion or another for a few years now. This is K. Baisley’s premiere novel, and one that I know has been a long time in progress. Of course, when I heard that it was finished and being released, I ordered my copy right then and there. It did have to wait a bit until I’d finished with grad school reading, but when I finally picked it up, I was happy to delve into the world.
And as I suspected, Baisley did not leave me wanting.
I have a certain fondness for angels, and an additional fondness for reluctant romances, so The Dark Space Between seemed like it had been written just for my interests. Isobel Schadow is the latest in a long line of women who have passed down stories of the angels Azrael and Asmodai for generations untold. The only trouble is, Isobel never had a chance to hear them all–and her grandmother and mother have both passed away. We find Isobel at the start at her grandmother’s funeral, unable to continue the tradition of her family and mourning the grandmother she had been hoping to reconnect with now that the forces keeping them apart had gone.
In the course of dealing with her grandmother’s estate, a strange letter appears on the door of her grandmother’s house, and in researching what it is and where it comes from, she finds (or remembers) a piece of information that may just win her the stories back: If she summons Azrael, Angel of Death himself, and makes a bargain with him–offer her the opportunity to win his heart and gain a boon in return, or lose her soul to him for trying. Her boon: the stories. And from there, it is a whirlwind of feathers, stories, and the in-between land of the dead.
I found the beginning of the story to be clunky and slow, if I’m honest. I found Isobel hard to attach to, and the introduction of the ancient stories too soon and abrupt. I hadn’t yet found my connection to the people in the modern day, let alone angels in the times of Adam and Eve. But as it continued and grew, I found it easier to connect with Isobel (since in many ways, she reminds me a bit of myself…and the author, for that matter) and the pages flipped easier. And, of course, once she found her way to Azrael and his palace, I was hooked. Azrael is a fabulously crafted character, particularly in the fact that we have gotten to know him in one distinct way from the stories, and then (just as Isobel sees) when he is introduced in “person,” he is entirely different and not the least what we expect him to be.
And I love that. He’s an angel. Why should we expect anything?
Asmodai is everything we could possibly hope of Azrael’s foil as well. He’s conniving and convincing and alluring and all the things that no right-thinking human could hope to resist. And as he continues roaming around, we and Isobel all see just how far he is willing to go to get what he wants…and just how important he is the entire story. His part wasn’t something I saw coming, and though was an interesting–and believable–twist.
While I understand how the ending pans out, it felt like it was missing something. I found Azrael’s decisions abrupt and unlikely, though I understand why Baisley would need to move that along; there is only so long you can drag out such a decision. I do want to go back and re-read a portion of the decision, however; in my haste to consume the book as quickly as I could because I was enjoying it so much, it’s possible I missed something. That being said, with a character with as much baggage and resistance as Azrael, I feel like his change of heart wasn’t given the due it deserved. That is a life-altering (as it were), world-changing decision, and it felt glossed over.
As as much as there is a bit of a deus ex machina ending (ha ha ha), I think it suits. I’m pleased with it all, including the parts left somewhat unhappily resolved.
All in all, I’m very pleased with this, and think it marks a good beginning for Baisley and their career, and I wish them all the best with whatever project comes next.
Final Rating: **** (Highly Recommended)