Review of Hunting in Hell (De La Roca Chronicles, #1 & #2), by Maria Violante

Hunting in HellQuite some time ago, I picked up Maria Violante‘s Hunting in Hell from the Amazon free list. It’s a compilation of the first two books in the De La Roca Chronicles.  I don’t think it’s available anymore, but I notice that the first book is free.

Description from Goodreads:

PART ONE: HUNTING THE FIVE 

It’s a side of the southwest never glimpsed by mortal man – a heartless, barren outback riddled with ruthless demons. In its ignorance, humanity is powerless to stop these escapees from Hell and the havoc they create with their dark magic. Good thing De la Roca isn’t human. A gunslinger with no memories of her previous life, she has fought for the last three hundred years on the forefront of a supernatural war, relying only on her wits, her reflexes, and her own demonic powers – all to pay for her own release from Hell. The Angels wouldn’t send her in alone and unarmed, though; Alsvior, her gifted – if contrary – steed, and Bluot, a legendary revolver with an unquenchable blood-lust, have been with her every step of the way – alone with a series of terrible nightmares that might hold the keys to her past. Then, an Angel appears with a bargain that seems to good to be true – five final targets, and she is free from her penance. Quickly, she discovers that her old methods are not up to the task, and she’s forced to team up with a mysterious gatekeeper and another mercenary – both of which need her for their own plans. With time running out, she has to figure out who to trust and who to kill, and fast, before she’s demon-food. 

PART TWO: HONOR IN HELL 

Can anyone be trusted? Betrayed by both Laufeyson and the Mademoiselle, and sent on a quest by an angel that might actually be her enemy, the demon mercenary De la Roca bolts into Hell with murder in her heart. Her simple mission for revenge quickly spirals out of control. Between the Consortium of power-hungry angels, the serpentine Oracle, a strangely absent God, and the knowledge that her mount just happens to be a man under a curse, just about everyone around her has a secret – and most of them are trying to get her killed. Unless, of course, she can kill them first.

Hunting the FIveReview of Hunting the Five:
I’ll give this a tentative two stars (on a 5 star scale). I hate to do it, because in some ways I was really enjoying Hunting the Five. I say, ‘was enjoying’ instead of ‘enjoyed’ because it just ends in the middle, with no conclusion or wrap up. I was still enjoying the read and waiting for the whole thing to finally make sense…then nothing. Actually, having just typed that I can feel myself getting more irked and wanting to drop that rating to a one star. I hate books that do this (especially in serial novellas that could just as easily have been a single novel).

I won’t even call it a cliffhanger, it isn’t. A cliffhanger infers some aspect of a story ends even if some threads are open still. That isn’t the case here. It just ends. This is literally the first 18 chapters of one story. Why on Earth would I want just the first 18 chapters of a story and not the rest? Anyone? No? Yea, I’m at a loss too. Pissed off reader right here.

But as I said, despite being confused, I was enjoying the book. I liked De La Roca. I liked her horse. I liked what I think her mission was going to be. I think I was going to like the book once the pieces came together. You’ve read books like that, haven’t you? Books that made little sense, but if you stuck with them suddenly gelled together masterfully, providing the reader a gratifying Ah-Ha moment. That’s what I was expecting here. I was working toward it in eager anticipation. So even though I read some of the fight scenes (such as the one with Munnin) and didn’t really know what the hell happened (it was really brief and hardly sketched out), was a little iffy on the world (I initially thought it was the wild west, then microwaves and cars were thrown in, so guess not) and never figured out what the Mademoiselle and Laufeyson’s betrayals were supposed to be, I was still looking forward to each next chapter in the hopes that it would be the one to pull it all together. But no.

The writing itself is pretty good. Based on just the writing this deserves far more than two stars. But everything is kept shallow. At no point did I feel the author had provided me a solid…well, a solid anything. Everything was just hinted at. In fact, my initial thought was that the chapters felt like separate vignettes instead of a smoothly flowing piece of writing. This left everything and everyone feeling disjointed and jerky. It also left a lot of moments in which I reached the end of a section and only vaguely understood what had just transpired.

Anyhow, I have part two (not book two, mind you, part two). Here’s to hoping it’s A) not another ‘cliffhanger’ B) clears up some of the confusion left from this book. C) continues the pretty prose.

Honor in HellReview of Honor in Hell:
What’s with authors writing serial novellas that don’t end? Drives me nuts. It cheats the reader out of something fundamental to the reading experience. It sure as hell doesn’t leave the reader with anything resembling a warm, happy feeling.

Anyhow, this book was less confusing than the first one. I was much more easily able to follow what was going on. It also pulled a lot of the threads that were left waving in a mysterious wind at the end of part one together, so that the reader can actually follow the plot. The writing was still really good and it’s well edited. Too bad it’s just the middle third of a book.

Sorry, I’m too busy being annoyed at having just dedicated two days to reading two novellas, without reaching any conclusion and no indication that I ever will to bother writing anything more about this book. Why would I want to invest two days to something I’ll never be able to finish? (Because there isn’t a third book and by the time there is I’ll have forgotten about what I read here…and refuse to read it out of spite and fear that even then I might not reach an ending.) It was waste of my time, no matter how engaging or well written it might be.

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