book review

Book Review: Hellbound

HELLBOUND by JL Rothstein is a modern supernatural fantasy about the power and frailty of power. Check out what Tucker Lieberman has to say in his review of this indie fantasy novel.

Book Review: Hellbound

Reviewed by Tucker Lieberman

Would you go to Hell to rescue the one you love?

JL Rothstein’s Heaven Sent series is something you’re going to want to check out. Hellbound is the recently published second novel in the series, filled with supernatural battles between angels and demons with a romantic touch and light gore.

In the previous book, Atonement, we met the O’Mara siblings: the sisters Gen, Kelly, and Deb, and the brothers Dan, Tom, Michael, Xavier, Frankie, and Greg. They try their best to fit in with the regular people of Massachusetts, but really, they’re Guardians who protect humans from demons.

Hellbound, in large part, is a love story. Deb was previously romantically linked to Dmitri, but her siblings know, now, that she’s in love with Marcus. And Marcus has disappeared. His disappearance seems final, except that, especially for supernatural people, “gone” isn’t always “gone.” Deb can’t stop thinking: Will Marcus come back?

The opening of Hellbound meanders a bit, but the action ramps up about a third of the way into the book. Marcus, it turns out, is in Hell! 

Deb’s sisters find out before she does. Deb gets the information with the help of a demon named Jade who has a really nice bathroom—clawfoot tub, pedestal sinks, marble tile—and who wears “strappy peep-toe sandals [that] revealed her dark brown painted toenails.” Jade takes Deb to meet an unscrupulous fellow who, in exchange for Deb’s blood, is willing to tell her the name of the demon who has kidnapped Marcus.

Battle preparations, as well as combat, are well detailed in this novel. “Obviously,” one character explains, you make Holy Fire “by engulfing Holy Oil in available fire.” These scenes are reminiscent of a game of Dungeons & Dragons, and they’ll be satisfying for readers who like magical worlds crafted in detail. The highlight of this series is how we feel physically present with Deb in these adventures, as when she “slid the keycard into the brass box below the handle and the door lock clicked open. Pushing lightly on the decorative thick wood she stopped short when she heard raised voices and breaking glass.” We can feel ourselves traveling with her, navigating the unpredictable landscape and pondering tricky choices.

Other passages are more contemplative, as when Deb takes breaks from her quest to stay at a Cape Cod vacation house with her sisters. “The seagulls and small black birds that had been airborne all settled on the salt rocks, covering nearly every available space. Their normal incessant chatter quieted to a near murmur.” These passages, too, are important, as Hellbound is a complicated emotional story about multiple love interests and how these dalliances affect bonds between siblings. The novel is about the power, but also the frailty, of memory.

If modern supernatural fantasy is your cup of (English breakfast) tea, you’ll be thrilled to discover this world—though you may want to start with the first book in the series, Atonement, to get to know the characters first. Like Deb, you may find yourself “mesmerized by Desire who was now writing something in the vapored glass.”

Genre: Fantasy / Supernatural

Print Length: 402 pages

ISBN: 979-8733019697

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