Hellhole Awakening

With more action, more compelling schemes and juicy drama, Hellhole Awakening cranks things up a notch for an explosive journey. As the second book in the trilogy, I was prepared to expect another fun adventure, but I was pleasantly surprised with how the plot moved forward with grander schemes and richer characters. There were some moments in this book where I laughed out loud, raised my first in triumph, or stared at the page in disbelief. Hellhole Awakening proves that this series is not one to be trifled with. This is a tale that not only promises great things, but delivers.

One of the highlights in the story was the retired Commodore Percival Hallholme. In the first book, Hallholme was initially painted as a despicable, honorless character. At the very beginning, Hallhome tricks General Adolphus and crushes his rebellion by holding hostages on his warships. Yet there were some moments later in the story that began to shed a softer light on the commodore. Hellhole Awakening carried on the thread and managed to turn Hallholme into a somewhat tragic character you couldn’t help but like a little. Portrayed as the old warhorse brought out of retirement for a rematch, I was looking forward to seeing him in action again. While I might not have wanted him to be victorious, he was still a bad guy I could root for. Perhaps it helped that I envisioned him as Anthony Hopkins.

Another villain I found myself rooting for was Ishop Heer. The Diadem’s trusted trigger man continues his schemes in this novel as he tries to serve the Constellation government while simultaneously getting his revenge against those who wronged his family 700 years ago. Ishop and Laderna, his co-conspirator and lover, gleefully murder their way through a list of nobles in a personal quest for vengeance. The two characters are unquestionably crazy, but they’re also bizarrely fun. Ishop is obsessed with becoming a noble, but he’s also brutally stubborn. His desire for vengeance is only curbed by his sense of loyalty to the Diadem. Laderna is just as bent on vengeance, and they make a perfect psychotic couple. There’s a part of me that really wants their twisted relationship to work out.

Beyond the myriad cast of enjoyable characters, the story really pushed some plots into new territory. For starters, the war kicks into gear with several battles, thus ratcheting up the action of the book. This is further supported by several smaller plots involving murder and treachery. Then there are the alien Xayans who finally get to spring into service and show off their telemancy powers. Everything that was built up and hinted to in the first book gets to play out in this one. The end result was a book more entertaining and fun than the first.

Aside from the action, there was also a lot of juicy plot development with each side trying to out maneuver the other. The Constellation launches a large task force against Hellhole which turns into a guessing game for the reader. Will General Adolphus outsmart the enemy? Will the Constellation fleet get the drop on him? Then wheels begin spinning within wheels as other task forces are launched, factions begin fighting within each other, and a fourth party begins making it’s presence known. The Xayans have been very silent about their past and about their own factions. With the Deep Zone and the Constellation at war with each other, the last thing they need is another group showing up to add to the chaos. And yet that’s the sort complication that arises. Nothing goes to plan. I have to say, the unpredictability of the story was very enjoyable.

There were a lot of great moments in the book, but I don’t want to spoil them. In short, there’s drama, action and a whole lot of fun. If you haven’t started reading the series yet, Hellhole Awakening may be the tipping point in your favor. It packs in space battles, assassinations, alien mysticism, moral character conflicts, dark humor and galactic strife all in one tight, interwoven tale. If you like sci-fi driven by colorful characters and a smart plot, then this may be just the book you’re looking for. I give Hellhole Awakening a five out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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