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Hell Hounds (Heroes in Hell Book 21) Kindle Edition
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Daemon Grim is the Reaper, Satan’s personal enforcer and chief bounty hunter. He commands the titular Hell Hounds, a band of agents (Nimrod – the rebellious, biblical king, Charlotte Corday – murderess of Marat, Yamato Takeru—a ninjutsu master of the Yamato dynasty, and more ). They ultimately all serve Satan, Father of Lies, who needs them to control Hell from the conniving dead and meddling angels; but Satan is also punishing his servants for their sins, so no one is on good terms.
Underlying tension spans many groups: Satan, Grim & his Hell Hounds, the duo Frederic Chopin and Nikola Telsa (an ingenious duo learning to control the physics & time in Hell), an insane Angel stripped of his Wings (Grislington), and seven angelic Sibitti who are auditing the souls in Hell. At first the combinations of intentions and conflict is downright farcical. Eventually several themes converge, usually about Grim. The last 20% is a blast of a climax which clarifies the chaos. Along the way, Mr. Weston will occasionally slip into dosing out exposition-through-dialogue, which didn’t bother me. Usually this occurs at times the reader will desire a boost in clarity about the abstract conflicts.
There are two primary games occurring. One is the continuing, cat-and-mouse battle between Grim and Chopin/Tesla, who love to leave scavenger-hunt notes at crime scenes. The second is Grim vs. the angels (and perhaps himself &/or Satan); there is a mystery in this series which is slowly being revealed: who “was” Grim before becoming Satan’s strongest champion?
Where to Start:
Hell Hounds is wacky and fun, but is not the beginning. The Heroes in Hell is primarily a series of anthologies; this novel focuses on Grim but has story arcs connected to HIH. Given the breadth of abstract interactions, I recommend initial readers begin with either:
1) Doctors in Hell (HIH #18): Daemon Grim is introduced in this collection, and even though it is #18 in the series, it is a perfect entryway for HIH newcomers.
2) Or…. Hell Bound (Grim novel #1): Daemon Grim’s first novel, occurring chronologically after Doctors, but before Hell Hounds.
3) Or for those who’ve done that, note Grim also appears in Pirates in Hell (“Pieces of Hate”)
Daemon Grim is the Grim Reaper, Satan's own hunter down of wayward evil souls who are trying to avoid their inevitable nemesis. He 'lives' in a weird reflection of London, riddled with rifts to numerous parallel universes, which is part of what is known as 'Hell' to those who live on Earth. When one of his targets, a serial killer called Cream, manages to escape his date with the Undertaker in Hell, Daemon Grim has a problem.
This is a fast-paced, action heavy and remarkably easy to devour urban fantasy, but the setting for most of this leans more on the 'fantasy' than everyday-world 'urban'. It is one in a series of books set in a shared universe, but I didn't find much difficulty catching onto what was going on or feel any major gaps in my understanding of the setting. It is an entertaining read, with a couple of caveats which I will mention later, but which I fully acknowledge are likely mine own and not flaws with the book itself.
'Made from what looked like brass and blushed steel, each tine rotated in a different direction, churning up the beach until it was a lethal minefield of mechanical traps and snares. The Isle of Cogs!'
The strength of this book is it's gallows humour and its worldbuilding. Although set in a world already defined by others, my understanding is that this version of London in Hell - and a very warped reflection of the original it is too - was the creation of the author. In it he has done a wonderful job of blending a grimdark (pun intended) fantasy with gritty Victoriana. The name changes for places and roads in London are usually punny, though sometimes a bit too groan worthy.
The characters of the cast in the book are all painted convincingly, but only that of Daemon Grim Reaper himself is fully fleshed (a little irony there for those who have read the end) but he remains still something of an enigma. The questions that hover about him are intriguing though, not irritating author withholding. For a nasty piece of work as a protagonist, he is handled very well.
'...a congregation of rickety metallic lockers had been pushed together into an untidy knot. Draped with cobwebs and covered in dust, they appeared hooded in sackcloth and reverent, as if deep in prayer.'
What is not to like? Well for me the over-writing got in the way. I love well-written prose that uses less common words, but sometimes I felt this book slid into the more indigo shades of descriptors and embraced a metaphor or so too far. It was not so much that too many were inappropriate or out of place (though some, IMO, really were) as that the sheer abundance and frequency of them overall began to become a bit trying for me. This is a book that uses the word ‘puissance’ as a descriptor not once but thrice and ‘puissant’ an additional four times, which should give you an idea of what I mean. It also creates a very incongruent immersion breaking sensation to find really crude words cheek by jowl with such delicate and decorative turns of phrase. That said other readers might see this as a mark of distinction and superb writing, so they are far from being any kind of fatal flaw.
There was also something about the way the coldness of Daemon Grim is normalised that made me want to step away at times. It is what the book is about - these are not meant to be 'nice' people, but I found myself willing on those he opposed as much as Daemon Grim himself as I truly did not mind if he was destroyed. That said, he didn't seem to be too bothered about it himself either, his imperative being to serve his Boss.
This is a rumbustious romp through the chthonic environs of a very alternative Hell. If you enjoy amoral anti-heroes, clever puns and rather nasty events in a broadly urban fantasy setting, all delivered at a brisk clip, then drop what you are doing and click on the 'buy' button right now.