Hellbent by Cherie Priest
Hellbent (Cheshire Red Reports, Book 2)
I’ve been privileged to watch Cherie Priest go from popular blogger to accomplished novelist. It’s not often that one gets to see a budding writer’s journey and cheer them on. She’s tackled a variety of genres and tones, all of them with skill, but I admit that I have a fondness for the sharp, humorous voice that she does so well. And that’s just what you’ll find in Hellbent.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Vampire thief Raylene Pendle doesn’t need more complications in her life. Her Seattle home is already overrun by a band of misfits, including Ian Stott, a blind vampire, and Adrian deJesus, an ex-Navy SEAL/drag queen. But Raylene still can’t resist an old pal’s request: seek out and steal a bizarre set of artifacts. Also on the hunt is a brilliant but certifiably crazy sorceress determined to stomp anyone who gets in her way. But Raylene’s biggest problem is that the death of Ian’s vaunted patriarch appears to have made him the next target of some blood-sucking sociopaths. Now Raylene must snatch up the potent relics, solve a murder, and keep Ian safe—all while fending off a psychotic sorceress. But at least she won’t be alone. A girl could do a lot worse for a partner than an ass-kicking drag queen—right?”
I’m happy to say that the one minor quibble I had with the first novel in this series—a little too much emphasis on Raylene’s OCD tendencies—is completely fixed in Hellbent. It’s not that the issue no longer exists, but rather that the author achieves a good balance in which it’s present but not overdone. It adds a layer to Raylene’s character that isn’t often seen in fantasy fiction.
The rest of the novel displays the same fun and mayhem as its predecessor. The plot follows two story arcs: in the first, Raylene is recovering artifacts for a buyer and tangling with a witch who also wants them; and in the second, she’s investigating a vampiric political situation spurred by the death of Ian’s father. The two intertwine without really impacting each other, and it works better here than in most other novels. It also makes sure that the characters who are stuck in Seattle don’t get left out of the story.
I liked that the witch, who is initially painted as a villain, turns out to have more depth to her than readers might expect. No cookie-cutter bad guys here—Priest weaves in the witch’s motivations without slowing down the narrative. I found her storyline to be the one that I liked the most, although both are interesting.
And finally, I have to admit to a bit of glee that the author introduced a kitten into the story. Yes, I’m a sucker for cats, and Priest has proven on her blog that she can write a cat with humor and wit. It offers a bit of pure silliness and humor that can’t always be woven into a story laced with murder and destructive magic.
As usual, Cherie Priest’s newest novel is a delightful romp, full of magic and lightning fast action. The Cheshire Red series is one that I hope to be reading for many years to come, and Hellbent will give readers a welcome dose of laughter and adventure.
Also by this author: Bloodshot, Fathom, Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Not Flesh Nor Feathers, Wings to the Kingdom
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on September 1, 2011.