Friday, 14 October 2011

Book review - Hellbent by Cherie Priest

Recently (well, OK, a week and a half ago) I finished reading Hellbent by Cherie Priest. Hellbent is the second book in Priest's 'Cheshire Red' series (the first book, Bloodshot, came out early this year).

I became a fan of Cherie Priest through her Steampunk books, which are so full of awesome that I was willing to give anything written by her a go, even if she started writing goddamn vampire urban fantasy. Which is exactly what she has done with the 'Cheshire Red' series. Bloodshot and Hellbent aren't her best books. But you know what? They really aren't all that bad, either. I quite like them, and as I'm so over vampires right now that is quite an accomplishment.

It sure helps that Priest's vampire, Raylene Pendle, is more like the vampires of old, i.e. not sparkly and really rather dangerous. It also helps that Raylene is a crook, not merely some dopey human's love interest. And another thing that helps? Her sidekick is an ex-Navy Seal Cuban drag queen. Yup. A large hulking man who moonlights as dancer 'Sister Rose' and then goes out after the moonlighting dressed in black, breaking into places, and beating shit up. What a character.

If this particular combination of elements sounds interesting, I'd definitely recommend checking the series out.

Hellbent is a book that made me ponder something interesting about writing styles. First, some background: I have a bad habit. A horrible, nasty habit. My lack of 'won't power' often makes me read the ends of books before I get to them. I know! What a stupid thing to do. You will not believe how many books I have spoiled for myself by doing this. Usually it happens when I realise that I really need to go to bed, like, right now. But I can't bear the thought that I am going to have to wait until the next day before I find out what happens next. So I glance forward a bit. Then a bit more. Before I know it, it is not only an hour past my bed time, but I have spoiled the end of the book. Again. What a dumb-arse.

Now, I did this very thing with Hellbent. And yet, for the first time in I don't know how long - years? ever? - it didn't matter. Yes, I knew what was going to happen at the end. But that didn't adversely affect my reading experience one single bit. Why not?

Most books (or most English language books, at least) build up towards the climax. The destination is the goal, if you will. I found that Hellbent is a book that doesn't follow this trend, or at least not for me. Hellbent is more of an 'enjoy the journey' kind of book. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I'd rather just say it is a Thing that I noticed, and it is interesting. Also, I sure like that I now have an example to refer to of a book that 'stops to smell the roses'.

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