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Hell's Pawn Paperback – July 27, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


From the author of Something Like Summer comes Hell's Pawn, winner of a Rainbow Award for Best Gay Fantasy, honorable mention as Best Gay Novel of 2011, and two wins in Goodread's M/M Romance Member's Choice Awards for Best World Created and Most Surprising/Unique Plot Device.

Five stars from Reviews by Jesse Wave: "--a very enjoyable rollicking ride of a book. There's a great mix of action, pathos, humour, love and camaraderie, all set in a unique series of worlds which are imaginatively described."

Praise from Forbes.com: "--I couldn't put it down. Jay Bell has drafted a interesting, page-turning book that tours not only the traditional afterlife, but also the afterlives of many different religions-"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1463513461
  • ISBN-13: 978-1463513467
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,969,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I admit I was skeptical. While I enjoyed the heck out of "Language Lessons" and "Something Like Summer," they're both realistic stories, and I had no idea what to expect from something titled "Hell's Pawn." I'm not much of a fantasy guy, perhaps because fantasy can so easily slip into cliche. And a novel about the afterlife -- with talking gods -- would seem especially susceptible to silliness.

Well, not in Jay Bell's hands. He needed less than a chapter to knock me on my butt. Right from the start he piles on the coolness and the fun and the great, original concepts. Again and again I kept thinking, "How does he come up with this stuff?" The different realms of the afterlife -- from Hell to Mt Olympus to ancient Egypt -- are all richly described, and perhaps my biggest surprise was how "afterlifey" each one felt. This isn't the afterlife in name only -- Bell infuses every page with a feeling of otherworldliness that's really impressive. In that sense it's one of the most successful imaginings of the afterlife I've encountered.

The locales are secondary to the fantastic characters, though. From Rimmon the sexy incubus, to Bolo the dog (a refreshing, non-anthropomorphized portrayal), to Yi Yi the tiny and excitable terracotta soldier, to Asmoday the archduke of Hell who bathes in pools of vomit -- these are characters who'll stick in my mind, and I hope to see more of them someday. (We're also treated to a guest appearance by a character from an earlier Bell story that had me beaming with happiness.) Bell should be especially proud of his portrayal of the various gods. They're wise and commanding without ever seeming trite. That's an awesome feat.

All in all this is a fun, captivating novel with big ideas, and it's a great addition to Jay Bell's body of work.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I've often wondered what will happen after I die, where my soul would travel, but the myriad of choices presented in Jay Bell's book 'Hell's Pawn' made me rethink the whole idea. John Grey takes an amazing journey beginning in Purgatory and ending in Heaven. During his traveling, he has the privilege of visiting several versions of the afterlife which he portrays in vivid detail. John has a special sort of energy which allows him to do things on the other side that others can't, and this is his key to success. John has a sense of purpose that others don't possess. John seems to be the only one with a drive to change, unlike his friend Dante who is comfortable being himself, being in the moment, without any desire for redemption. He wants to be productive and if the activity in which he's engaging isn't, he quickly loses interest. John's mission is to help Hell unite the different realms to free Purgatory from the domination it is under, but he's determined not to simply be Hell's pawn. The song 'I Did It My Way' kept filtering through my brain as John puts his special touch on negotiations between the realms, wheeling and dealing for their support. It was gratifying to watch John's confidence grow while he honed his diplomacy skills.

Rimmon is a fascinatingly complex character. With him, as with many other characters along the way, I see the theme 'don't judge a book by its cover', even if it has red skin, horns, and a tail and stereotypically speaking, looks like a demon which we associate with evil. However, it's the heart that counts and as John discovers, regardless of appearances, Rimmon has a good heart. He admires John and wants to love him, but his heart belongs to his estranged lover and he is unable to move on and get it back.
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Format: Paperback
Three and a half stars


For an atheist like me, this was an interesting book. I have never been able to keep an entirely straight face when e.g. the Christian God is described as an old man with a fluffy white beard sitting on an equally fluffy white cloud, surrounded by singing angels. At the same time, I like it when people can honestly be a bit naïve*, especially when they are openly optimistic and are acting as messengers of love. That said, the things I struggled with in this book are interlinked to the things that I found quite charming. This is one of those books with a message, and it's an important one, so even though there were some things I found a bit silly, there was altogether too much goodness in the book for me to despair.

The characters were the absolute best thing in the novel and I loved every single one of them. Bell succeeded well with such a huge cast and managed to get an original spark to most of them, especially to the most important ones. What's more, I like fantasy and adventure and there was plenty of both. In this, the book was very similar to A Cat in the Cradle.

At some parts the story felt a bit like a lecture, and the lack of subtlety was probably the thing that bothered me the most. E.g. if people are not aware of the similarities between religions, this is a good wake-up call. There were parts where you could clearly feel that what a character says comes straight from Jay Bell's mouth (and heart, I suppose, because those parts were so earnest). With themes such as acceptance of diversity it is rather hard not to get emotional. There is so much hope in the book. Bell describes the world as he sees it, as a place where all kinds of beings exist, and they have the right to do so.
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