Book Review – R.A. McCandless’s Company Of The Damned

Back in 2014 the first of RobRoy McCandless’s angelpunk stories dropped and changed the world’s view of angels. That book was Tears of Heaven (check out my review here). In case you’re wondering, every time I use Tears of Heaven as a drink in one of my books, that’s what I’m referring to. Tears of Heaven kicked off the Flames of Perdition series about the Nephilim Del and her ongoing task to rid the world of rogue demons escaped from Hell and tearing up the world.

Since then, two more books in the series have dropped and this time Del the rogue-demon slayer has come a long way from the absinthe-swilling anti-heroine we saw in the first book. She’s been beaten down, seen friends killed, and found herself in a shaky alliance with a hidden group of elves. Hell Becomes Her set up the longer-running story line and Company Of The Damned knocks it out of the park.

This is McCandless at his finest, digging into the action and bringing the character’s to life on the page. Like all good writing, it started with “what if?” question. In this case, what if some of the Biblical elements were right? Maybe not all of them, and Del is certainly not given to quoting Bible verse. But what if demons were a real and constant threat? What if angels were the nigh-undefeatable soldiers of the Throne? What if, stuck in the middle of that, were the Nephilim, struggling to find a safe way for themselves in a world that would be perfectly content to see them dead?

That’s the world McCandless built in the first two books. In Company of the Damned, he takes full advantage of that world and doesn’t hesitate to tear the hell out of it. This is like reading a Hollywood blockbuster – it has battles, and magic, and Norse goddesses, and golems, and even Lucifer himself. With all that, it would seem like a complicated mess of a story. And perhaps it would be in the hands of a less story-teller, but McCandless weaves this stunning menagerie with a deft hand and gives us a rare gem in the world: A Hollywood blockbuster that has a heart. It’s not all style and no substance.

If you like your characters tough, your dialogue sharp as a tack, and your action scenes plotted out as well as any John Woo movie, this is a good series to get into. With a bit of luck, we’ll see Del on the silver screen someday.

Del’s life was supposed to be easier. She had safety, support, and a small army of immortals to help her banish rogue demons. She should have known better. When the Archangel Michael himself orders her to account for her actions and face judgement, Del finds herself at a crossroads. Trapped on an island in the Mediterranean, Del is outgunned, outnumbered, and outmaneuvered. While her shaky alliances are falling apart, old enemies and new traitors appear around every corner. It may take everything Del has to save all she’s worked for—including her own life. \

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Book Review – Born Of Shadow by Richard Murray

It’s really hard to set yourself apart in the monster-hunting genre these days. The market is saturated and it takes a clever hand to pull something new out of a genre that some people say has been done to death.

Enter Richard Murray, who would like to kindly explain there are new things under the sun.

The thing about the monster-hunting genre is it was pretty clever back in the day. “Hey, instead of running from this vampire, let’s whoop his ass and take his castle.” John Steakley did it with Vampire$. Laurell Hamilton did it with a whole whack of books. Hell, I’ve done it. What sets Richard Murray apart from all of us is how he treats his subject matter. There’s a certain moral flexibility at play and an idea that not everything is as obvious as it first looks. Those a great things to play with in a story.

Take a hefty dose of action, a cast of interesting characters, introduce an unexpected element, shake well, and you’ve got Born of Shadows. One of the things I look at to determine if a book is “good” or not is whether or not I go back over it in my head at a later date. I’ve relived some of the key elements more than a few times and wondered how I would handle those things were I inserted into the story.

All in all, Born of Shadow (Shadow Walkers Book One) was an entertaining story that leaves enough questions to make you look forward to the next book in the series.

The world is full of monsters. At least Lena believed that was true. After all, she’d once witnessed a monster tear apart her family, leaving her broken and bleeding. All alone in the world except for the one person who was always there for her. Her best friend, Evelyn.

Her search for the truth reveals not only was she right, but that she is one of those supernatural creatures that fills the world. Taught how to use her powers, she joins with a team of hunters in their war against the supernatural monsters.

She soon finds that not only is she fighting the monsters, but also her growing feelings for the one person she’s terrified of losing. As truths are finally revealed, Lena will come face to face with the creature that’s haunted her nightmares and be forced to choose what side she’s truly on.

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Book Review – Hell Becomes Her by R.A. McCandless

Back in 2013 the world was first introduced to Del, the half-human, half-angel hitter for the Throne.  That book was Tears of Heaven and it was a wickedly fun tale of Nephilim kicking demon butt.  We saw Del’s half-human side far more than we saw her half-angel side, which was quite apropos.  If you take a character that is far more powerful than pretty much anyone else and make them perfect, you wind up with a pretty boring character.  It was her flaws that made Del such an interesting character.  In the end, absinthe was downed, bullets were fired, and evil took a few solid shots on the nose.

Today, I’m pleased to announce, the sequel to that story is (finally) available.  Hell Becomes Her has been a couple years in the making and it shows.  The plot is tight, the writing smooth, and the villains are extremely villainous.  If you’re wondering how I managed to get a review up in time for the release, it’s not because I’m a super fast reader.  In fact, I’m writing this the day before you’re reading it, so in a sense I’m speaking to you from the past.

Oooh. Scaarrry.

No, I got ARC copy of Hell Becomes Her for various reasons that have nothing to do with a bet I made with Rob back in 1997.  I’ve actually been reading it for the past couple weeks while everyone else was waiting with baited breath.  I’d like to tell you I’ve also seen the new Star Wars movie but I made a promise I wouldn’t say that.

But I digress.

Sequels have a nasty habit of either rehashing the same old stories and becoming stale or ramping up the action so much that story goes completely off the rails and becomes completely outlandish.  Hell Becomes Her doesn’t fall into either of those categories; the action is ramped up, but the characters have evolved.  They fit the story and the story fits itself.

It would be all too easy to rehash the same ideas from the first novel, but McCandless has let the world evolve along with the characters and introduced another element to the story that expands the mythology of his world.  And make no mistake, writing is about nothing more than world building.  Not in the Weyland/Yutani sense of world building, but something far more interesting: writing is about creating things and places and people, and that’s what is happening here.

McCandless is creating his own mythology; taking things and shaking them up and making a brand new world from the result.  It’s a world filled with danger and craziness and more action than you can shake a stick at, but it’s also a world filled with a soul.

Now, I can’t give away the whole plot without giving away the secrets, but I can tell you it’s full of twists and turns, it never goes off the rails, and it’s always a great read.

“Angels should be a human’s worst nightmare. Del didn’t think there was anything worse than angels, or their fallen kin, demons. She and her partner Marrin helped to keep the world safe from the horrors of escaped demons for generations. But when Del’s daughter is kidnapped by a shadowy group, Del will find that the world is even more dangerous than she suspected.

There are worse things than angels and demons.”

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