Been a busy couple of weeks, but I’ve got some time to sit down and smash this out now, so it’s review time! Today I’ll be talking about the second book in Josh Vogt’s The Cleaners series, The Maids of Wrath. As always, there may be some minor spoilers in the review, but I’ll avoid any major plot points or gigantic twists. On the topic of spoilers though, some fair warning. This is a review of the second book in the series, so in order to discuss it properly, there’s going to have to be some spoilers for the first book. These are not minor spoilers, since the end of that book sets the stage for this story. So with that said, if you haven’t read Enter the Janitor, and are interested in seeing if this series is something you’d enjoy, you can find my review for that here.
Full Disclosure: I was provided with a pre-release e-book of this novel by the author for review purposes. This has in no way influenced my opinion of the work, and this review is a full, fair and honest accounting of my thoughts on it.
The Maids of Wrath
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Excerpt from the JRVogt.com blurb:
After surviving employee orientation without destroying the city with her new powers, Dani is finally a bonafide Cleaner. Raring to get to work and save the world from Corruption, she’s given the critical assignment of…full-time tools training. After all, what good are magic mops or squeegees if she doesn’t know how to properly wield them against Scum? For now, she’s stuck in sparring matches where her pride is getting as bruised as her body.
Ben, her janitor friend and mentor, is also struggling with being sidelined as a “consultant” after the loss of his powers. His only consolation is having gained information that could help solve the mystery of his wife’s death on a Sewer run gone horribly wrong—the same event that temporarily trashed his sanity.
But when a maid goes berserk during a training session and tries to slaughter everyone with a feather duster, something is clearly afoul within the ranks of the Cleaners themselves.
When we left Dani and Ben at the end of Enter the Janitor, they’d wrapped things up fairly nicely, though not without cost. Destin, the corrupt Chairman of the Cleaners had been toppled, with the Ascendant Francis being promoted in his stead. The new-born half-Pure half-Corrupt Pantheon member that had been causing so many issues had been located and entrusted to the Cleaners to raise. Ben was no from the Ravishing, but had lost his arm and his powers in the process of being healed. Perhaps worst of all, Dani had been forced to agree to a date with Sydney, an Entropy mage (I may have the terminology slightly wrong, my digital copy of the first book was refusing to open for some reason). Everyone’s happy… well, except for Destin, he’s kind of stuck being the boy-toy of one of the Scum Pantheon, but he was a tool, so who cares about him? Not me, that’s for sure.
The Maids of Wrath picks up some time after this. Dani’s stuck with non-stop training to get her ready for field work (turns out her trial by fire in the first book wasn’t really enough to completely qualify her) and Ben’s struggling to come to terms with the fact that he’s been quite literally disarmed, as well as losing his magic. When both of them have time, they visit Jared, the new divinity, in an effort to help influence him towards the good end of the spectrum (being half-Pure, half-Corrupt, he could go either way), as well as just keeping him company, since he’s basically a child, albeit one with obscene amounts of power. It’s a frustrating routine for them, that gets a nice swift derailment very early on, in the form of a berserk Maid (similar to the Janitors, but instead of having an affinity for water, Maids are closer to the element of Air. I assume gender doesn’t determine which you are, since I know there’s female Janitors, though come to think of it I can’t recall any male characters with a Maids powers so far… Dani’s a bit of a unique example, as she’s a Janitor, but is specifically a Catalyst, meaning that she has control over the four primary elements) trying to disembowel/decapitate everyone in the training room with a razor sharp feather duster… And she’s just the first…
From there it’s an action-packed race to find out what’s infecting the Cleaners and causing them to give in to negative emotions and desires. There’s twists and turns, new characters aplenty, brand new varieties of Scum to learn about, mysteries to be revealed, questions to be answered, and further questions raised. As many novels in the Urban Fantasy genre are, it’s fast-paced and a relatively quick read. That’s not a bad thing though, Josh’s punchy writing style really lends itself to this sort of story. Once the action gets going, it really doesn’t let up, and honestly, when it’s this much fun, why would you want it to?
Let’s get down to what I thought about the book though. I gave it 5 stars, and I honestly think it earned every one of them. While I really loved Enter the Janitor (4 and a half stars, people!), it suffered slightly from the same thing that most first books in a series do, they just have so many characters to introduce, so much detail and world-building to get across to the readers that it can swamp the story a bit. It’s in no way a bad book, and it’s still an exciting read, but I think The Maids of Wrath really benefited from having that groundwork laid for it, so it could get straight down to the story, and was able to build on the detail already provided smoothly as the plot unfolded. When you’ve already got an understanding of the basics of how the Cleaners work, and what the deal with the Pure/Corrupt Pantheon is, it’s much simpler to introduce new elements that fit within that framework.
As I mentioned in my review of Enter the Janitor, stories for me live and die on the strengths of their characters, and once again, Josh doesn’t disappoint. Dani and Ben obviously make their return, and each character grows in their own way. Dani’s desire to feel useful, and her frustration with the constant training are very relatable, and her attempts to come to grips with her power and improve her control over it have some really interesting complications. She’s still the same clean-freak she was in the original story, but we get to see her develop beyond that to an extent. Ben on the other hand is back to his youthful self now that he’s free of the Ravishing, but without his powers he can’t even get around the Cleaners Headquarters without an escort or a sigil to allow him to travel, and his missing arm is something he’s still struggling to get used to. Like Dani, Ben wants to feel useful, but isn’t sure how he can due to his new disadvantages, and as a consequence, he tends to over compensate. Neither of them have lost their sense of humour though, with Dani still poking fun at Ben whenever she can, and Ben continuing his habit of deliberately mangling the English language and trying to find creative ways around the magical swear filter that all Cleaners are subject to.
As much as I love the returning characters though, it’s the new arrivals that really steal the show for me. Lucy the Janitor, an old friend of Ben’s is a wonderful foil to both him and Dani, playing the role of a more serious senior Janitor (though she’s definitely got her smart-ass moments). Lopez the Handyman (the Cleaners version of a healer) is an interesting look into how religious people cope with the fact that they a) have magical powers and b) know for a fact that gods exist, and is just a really likeable character in general. The villain, without giving anything away, has a really surprising amount of depth to him, and despite the fact that he’s clearly unhinged and is undoubtedly a Bad Guy, is actually quite sympathetic in some of his motivations, if not the way he’s gone about his work. But the real stars for me are the Borrelia sisters, identical twin Maids named Laurel and Hardy. I won’t say too much about them, because part of the joy of their characters is discovering every new bit of information that throws off the assumptions Dani, and the reader, make about them when they’re first introduced. Suffice to say they’re not the stereotypical overly bubbly air-head types you’d initially expect, and they know how to pull their weight.
Like I said earlier, the plot moves along at a good clip, and while the immediate issues of this particular story are resolved, I was glad to see that the seeds are being planted for later books. Mysteries about characters are introduced, the concept of a nebulous bigger bad is hinted at, and there’s plenty of room for the story to grow from here. I really can’t wait to read the next book in the series.
I’ll wrap it up here, since it’s getting pretty late. Long story short, I really loved The Maids of Wrath. If you read Enter the Janitor, and liked it, don’t hesitate to pick this up. If you haven’t read Enter the Janitor, then go and read that, THEN pick this up. One way or another, if you enjoy urban fantasy with a good sense of humour, you should be reading The Cleaners.
The Maids of Wrath will be available for purchase on the 11th of April (according to Amazon’s pre-order info). For more information on The Cleaners series, check our JRVogt.com,
If you have something you’d like a fair and honest review for, please feel free to get in contact with me via the Questions and Queries page.
Written while listening to Blueneck. I’m still on my Post-Rock kick at the moment, though I’m starting to branch out into other genres a bit more. I just find their mostly instrumental sound is really great to write to. Seriously cannot recommend the albums The Fallen Host and Repetitions enough.
Not sure what my next post will be just yet. My Interface Zero game has been delayed for the last few weeks, as has my East Texas University game, so I don’t have any write-ups I can do for those just yet. If I can get the time in for a thorough read of it, I’ll aim to get a review of Witch: Fated Souls done in the next week or two. I’ll also be looking to pick up a copy of the latest Chronicles of Darkness game, Beast: The Primordial sooner rather than later, so that’ll be on the review list as well.