Review: Hellbender by Jason Jack Miller

Book info:

Form: pdf
Genre: supernatural fiction, suspence, 
Target audience: adults and older YA

A copy of this novel was sent to me free of charge by the author. That fact didn’t influence my review in any way.

Synopsis:

Two Appalachian Mountains families, the Lewises and the Collinses, have been at war for something like a century. Each of those families have had witches among their folk so the fight has been bloody, dirty and mean. Janie Collins, 

Ancient sator square
a young college girl, is the next victim of the feud – officially the girl drowned but her family know better. It was a murder by a spell. Her brother, Henry, comes to the funeral and promises to avenge his sister. Still he must also protect lovely Alex, Janie ex roommate and a girl who is told by her mom to stick to Henry at all cost because those evil Lewises are planning to murder her next. You see, family honour is at stake. If you think protecting a girl against a clan including witches is easy think again. Henry will have to show his mettle many times and finally believe in magic, something he never wanted to include in his life.

What I liked:

I have never been to the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia but, after reading this book, I feel like I know the area and the people who call that land home, pretty well. That’s what a well-written fiction can do to you – allowing you to travel in time and space. I really enjoyed this gritty tale with all the scenic background, the sator squares, the snakes and the witches.

The whole story reminded me a bit about Romeo and Juliet, you know. Two quarreling clans, plenty of bad blood and killing, two star-crossed lovers coming from the opposite sides who want to make everything right but cannot overcome years of feud, prejudice and hurt. Still Alex is not a young, inexperienced girl and she will surprise you several times with her skills. Also Henry is not a real Romeo type –he won’t kill anybody in a duel and if he shoots somebody everyone will be cheering along, including Alex herself. Killing himself is also not even an option – when your family needs you alive, you keep fighting to the very end.

Also I enjoyed how much Henry and Alex had to change in order to stand a chance against their enemies. I like dynamic characters a lot. Finally I loved the fact that Preston Black and his girlfriend made a cameo appearance.

What I didn’t like:

I read The Devil and Preston Black first and I couldn’t help noticing the similarities of those two novels in terms of plot construction. In both books the protagonist has to sink to the bottom before vanquishing his enemies, in both we deal with some evil females who are almost she-devils. After a while the pattern became too repetitive for my liking but still I wanted to read to the very end.

My last carping: the baddies. I wish they were more three-dimensional. Few people are evil to the core and here it seemed all the ‘pure’ Lewises were just bad, bad, bad.

Final verdict:

Since this book is part of the Murder Ballads and Whiskey series the good news is that the Appalachian adventure doesn’t have to end. I would like to revisit the Appalachians once more.

Hellbender salamander
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