Hellfire
by Kate Douglas, fantasy (2010)
Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-1000-5


By right, Hellfire should be written as HellFire because that is how that word appeared in this story - it's the name of the hero's magical sentient sword - but I have had enough of weird punctuations and ridiculous gobbledygook in the paranormal romance genre, so you can consider this a small act of defiance on my part against SelfIndulgent CapitaLization of Words in UrbanFantasyTales. So Hellfire it is.

This is the second book in Kate Douglas's The Demonslayers series, and the bad news for me is that I have not read the first book and, as a result, I am lost for a long while. In fact, I'm not even sure that I have the correct version of the big picture in this story by the last page.

Now, we have a race of uniformly beautiful and powerful humanoids called - no, not the Aryans, but the Lemurians. And no, they do not resemble the lemur in any way despite the name of their kind. At least, I don't think I read anything about the hero having white stripes and a tail... anyway, the Lemurians live in secret in another dimension accessible from the mountains of northern California. I'm sure there is a joke in there somewhere about San Francisco or El Dorado but I'm sorry, I'm not familiar enough with the background of this series to offend the good people of that region.

So, now we have demons from the Abyss making life difficult for everyone, humans and Lemurians alike, so naturally the Lemurians decide to show up to go hai-hai-hai and ya-ya-ya on demonic rear ends like the cool products of literary eugenics that they are. Along the way, they will meet Special Human Women to go oink-oink-oink with.

In this one, our hero Alton - just Alton, and no, his last name is not John - and our heroine Ginny Jones have actually met and kissed in the previous book. Basically in this book, Alton waves his "snarky" (sic) sentient sword HellFire around while trying to protect Ginny from possessed pets and worse in Sedona. Along the way, Ginny realizes that she is special because of the sparkling blood that flows in her veins. She may be tough, she may be strong, but it's her heritage that makes her truly special, naturally. All the typical tropes of this genre are out in full force, although thankfully the mate-mate-mate trope is conspicuously absent. The hero spends a lot of time telling himself that Ginny is not right for him because she is mere human, so how fortunate for the two of them that she turns out to be of the right pedigree all along! Begone, foul demons, and leave us eugenics alone so that we can selectively breed in peace!

The fact that the author attempts to have her characters connect on an emotional and intellectual level, instead of relying on the lazy shortcut known as the "I sniff at your private parts and the stench tells me that you are my mate" plot device, has me warming up a bit toward this story. The hero and the heroine are fundamentally likable - if tad generic - characters.

But the plot develops in a manner that doesn't really catch on with me. There are too many secondary characters ingrained in the plot, characters that I am not familiar with. The author describes events that took place in the previous book, but her efforts often miss the mark. She spends a lot of time describing events in the previous book that do not have significant impact on this story, but when it comes to things that really matter, like what happened between Alton and Ginny in the previous book, she inexplicably goes on a fast forward mode. For example, page 38 has Alton describing several crucial plot developments in the previous book in one paragraph, while the author previously had no problems spending several paragraphs describing the grand lovey-dovey emotions felt by the characters from the previous book for each other. If I want to read about how much those two characters are in love, I'd just read their book. The author needs to tell me what I need to know in order to enjoy the book I am holding in my hands, and I don't feel that she has succeeded at the end of the day.

That failure is my biggest issue with Hellfire. Readers of the previous book may have a better time appreciating this one, but it's just too much work for me, especially when the plot itself isn't too interesting to warrant all that work. This one comes off as yet another generic book with a long-haired otherworldly muscle-bound hero looking for his Special Woman while lopping off some spooks' heads to pass the time, and heaven knows, it's not like there is a shortage of those books out there at the moment.

Rating: 61


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