Reading level: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Trade paperback: 384 pages
Release date: September 6, 2011
Series: Cheshire Red #2
Reviewed by: Jenn
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 was very excited when I came across Hellbent at the library the other day. I thoroughly enjoyed Bloodshot, the first book in the series, thanks to a smart plot and some amazing characters.
Hellbent is an excellent read. It leaves you feeling satisfied, the same way a good meal or a delicious dessert would. It’s filled with a lot of noirish humour, plot twists, and great character development. I’d forgotten how easy it is to get immersed in Raylene’s world but I was hooked again from page 1.
One of the things that stands out the most for me is Cherie Priest’s writing style. It’s quite special -- lots of humour and a distinct noir tone, plus Raylene breaks the fourth wall in the first chapter, talking directly to the reader as she recaps the events of Bloodshot and does a lot of the set up work so readers can jump into Raylene’s world. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this done before and it was awesomely tongue-in-cheek and informative.
My favourite characters are back and prominent in Hellbent. Believe it or not, Raylene’s not my favourite. In terms of characters, I have the biggest soft spot for Adrian, an AWOL soldier who’s also a drag queen. He’s so devoted to his sister that he deserted the military to look for her. And, like I’ve said before, I love how Cherie Priest doesn’t make a big deal about his lifestyle. I especially love that Raylene gets makeup advice from Adrian, who’s completely comfortable dressed as himself or as Sister Rose, his drag identity. In fact, Hellbent is pretty much the Raylene and Adrian show and I love it. There’s also a nice bit of time with Ian and the kids, and I look forward to seeing where Raylene’s relationships with all of these people go.
We also get to learn more about how vampire society works in Raylene’s world, both about the house system and how vampires and their humans interact. You can see why Raylene prefers to go it alone but there are also benefits from being in a house, if the characters can handle the politics.
The Cheshire Red Files may not have made my Must Buy list but I always enjoy them when I read them and I’d encourage you to give them a shot. I really like reading about Raylene and Adrian’s adventures, even though I couldn’t get into Boneshaker, the first book in the author’s steampunk Clockwork Century series. Anyone else feel the same?