Author: Nancy Holzner
Reviewer: Jen Twimom
Rating: B+, 4 Stars
What I’m Talking About:
Ah… the long awaited follow up to Darklands has finally arrived. Hellhound opens a couple of weeks after the dramatic conclusion of Darklands, which brought us two major events. First – Vicky’s deceased father has returned from the dead, inhabiting the body of the white falcon of Hellsmoor, a magical bird that Mallt-y-Nos, aka the Night Hag or Mistress of the Hounds, wants badly. And second – Vicky’s love, werewolf Kane, is bound to the Night Hag and will become one of her hellhounds at the next full moon (and every full moon for a year). These two events have a tremendous impact on demon-slayer Vicky Vaughn, causing her much grief as feels she must decide between her dad and her boyfriend – saving the life of only one.
Hellhound opens with Boston homicide detective (and casual friend) Daniel Costello calling Vicky with news that a zombie attacked and killed three humans outside of Deadtown. For those not familiar with Ms. Holzner’s fascinating world, there was a plague several years ago that caused the death and subsequent reanimation of several humans, creating in essence zombies. Deadtown is a section of Boston that is gated and under guard where zombies and other (now out of the closet) paranormals are required to live. Zombies are, by and large, the same peaceful people they were before the plague. Vicky is brought in as a consultant because the attack bares much resemblance to an event involving the Morfran (a sort of demon, events happened in Hellforged, book 2). Soon Vicky is piecing together bits that imply both of her nemeses (her powerful cousin, Pryce, and the demon known as the Destroyer) are heavily involved.
As I look back over my notes for Hellhound, I realize that a lot happens during the progress of this book. Luckily Ms. Holzner finds ways to remind readers of key actions from previous books without it coming across as info dumping or repetitive. Things are coming together for the final showdown between good and evil. The question remains – will Vicky fight alongside her family and friends for good, or will her demon mark and the Destroyer finally win over her soul? Progress is most certainly made on this front, but the sways back and forth are larger and stronger. One thing that has changed about Vicky since the last book is that the Destroyer seems to have a more powerful influence over her. She experiences the need to kill, hurt, and maim with the slightest provocation. Her temper is quick to flare, and she finds herself wanting to destroy those things she holds most dear. This places a darker tone over the entire story, although there are still moments of humor, mostly from her own personal demon that she’s nicknamed Butterfly and Vicky’s one-time apprentice, zombie Tina.
With how things ended after the last book, I was expecting more Kane and Vicky right from the start. The pair has some serious issues to work out, but instead, we find Vicky avoiding Kane. I was disappointed in Vicky’s inaction and worried (once again) that something “stupid” would cause problems between the couple. Although Ms. Holzner takes a little while bringing the pair together for some much needed alone time, it was worth the wait. Once again I am NOT disappointed by Kane; rather I am completely enamored by him and his love for Vicky. (You’d think by now I’d stop fretting over this!) While the Deadtown series does NOT fall in the romance genre, I feel that Ms. Holzner’s treatment of Kane and Vicky’s relationship is touching and intimate. She allows both characters to be challenged and grow through their mutual love.
Vicky is a multifaceted character that I’ve come to adore. She’s learning that she can’t save her friends and family by trying to take on her demons alone. Her development and growth is rewarding to watch over the course of the series and especially in this book. Aunt Mab returns to Boston to help guide and teach Vicky. The pair has a long history, with Mab as the stern teacher, but this time it almost feels like Mab is preparing to pass the torch on to Vicky. There is a strong sense of maturing and transition, which gives added depth to the characters and storyline. In addition, we see more of Vicky’s “normal” family rolling with the changes coming down – one of which is the sudden appearance of Vicky’s dad ten years after his death (and in the body of a bird!). These moments of personal time give heart to the book and series, making it all the more richer and enjoyable.
As much as I adore the personal time Vicky shares with the reader, it’s the ongoing battles Vicky faces each book that keep me glued to the pages. This time around Vicky is struggling to save the denizens of Deadtown, especially the zombies, from Pryce and his unknown plans. Unfortunately, these plans have created a lot of unrest and suspicion among the paranormal residents. The civil unease and certain human’s bigotry create an edge to the story with a social injustice message. This also makes things a little more difficult for Vicky as she attempts to figure out what is going on. There is also the more immediate battle with the Night Hag over the white falcon and using Kane as a hellhound. The Night Hag will not stop until she uses Kane to destroy Vicky, creating some tense moments for all involved.
As events culminate, the action is more intense and Vicky must make decisions that will ultimately impact not only those she loves, but pretty much the entire world. I’d like to say she’s still the same girl in her heart that we met all those books ago, but much as happened to Vicky and the tug between good and bad has strained her. However, she still can waffle back and forth with the best of them! The final scenes aren’t as horrific as others have been in the past, but the outcome is significant, and I did enjoy the battle. Although, I was a little disappointed with the way a certain event unfolded (keeping it spoiler free!), I am happy with the overall outcome and the climatic scenes in general.
Overall, I enjoyed Hellhound, with its tender and poignant personal moments intermingled among the action-filled storylines. The book gives the strong impression that is setting the stage for one more showdown, and the author has confirmed that the next book will be the last in the Deadtown series. Even though there was conclusion in the hellhound/Night Hag story, I felt the overall story-arc involving the missing zombies, the Destroyer, and the others was left open with unanswered questions (therefore giving it the feeling it is a set up for the next book). I am excited to find out what will become of one of my favorite heroines, Vicky Vaughn.
4 stars: Enjoyed – recommend (B+)
About the Book:
Boston’s zombies have suddenly become inexplicably violent—horror movie-style—resulting in a catastrophic all-out battle against humans. More troubling to Vicky is that she’s had dreams and visions of herself fighting alongside the demons. At least, she hopes they’re just visions—otherwise, that puts her on the front lines of the wrong side of the war.
Vicky’s not surprised to discover that Pryce, her demi-demon cousin and loathed adversary, is behind the outbreak of the zombie plague, having formed an unholy pact with the Old Ones. Now, as the violence escalates and alliances shift, Vicky knows she’s the only one who can stop the plague. Unless the pack of hellhounds on her trail finds her first.
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Series: Deadtown #5
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format(s): Paperback (336 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Purchased with my own funds
Hellhound (Deadtown #5)