Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Review: Hellforged by Nancy Holzner

Hellforged (A Deadtown Novel)After saving the world from the clutches of the Destroyer Demon and its evil puppeteer, Victory Vaughn is finally falling back into the routine of professional demon hunting. Victory pays the bills by exterminating the myriad of demons that inhabit the DEADTOWN world. While on a routine case Victory is paid a visit in a dream by the Destroyer she thought she had banished. She might have been able to handle the fact that the Destroyer has returned, but that’s not quite all... Every time the demon stops by to say hello and deliver an evil message, someone close to her bites the dust. Victory has to piece it all together. Her friends are dying and she’s running out of time.

The storyline for Hellforged takes Vicky out of Deadtown. Deadtown is a fun and crazy place, but it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the players. Hellforged simplifies the story a bit by pushing a lot of the first book’s characters out of focus so we can spend more time getting to know Victory Vaughn. It was refreshing to not have so many people to keep track of. Vicky is such a great character, and the more time we have with her, the better.

I also like how things start to get a little more serious. In the line of work that our typical urban fantasy heroes engage in, it’s amazing how often everyone ends up OK in the end. Hellforged doesn’t necessarily hold to that philosophy. Granted, Nancy Holzner’s stories are not like a George R.R. Martin novel in which you should give up getting attached to anyone. She does, however, give you reason to doubt that everyone will make it to the end of the book. That doubt hangs in the back your mind throughout the story, giving serious depth to the suspense.

Deadtown was good, but Hellforged is even better. A superficial glance would suggest that this series is typical leather-clad bad-girl urban fantasy, but that conclusion would be a mistake. Dr. Holzner surprised me in Deadtown with her writing ability, and her original twists on some classic urban fantasy tropes, and Hellforged surprised me by taking everything I liked about the first book a few steps further. The writing is airtight; her characters have been honed to an edge. There is comedy, drama, romance, and a whole lot of ass kicking. Hellforged is the total package, and a superb example of why I still love urban fantasy.

Like I said, Hellforged is great urban fantasy, but that might also be its limitation. Holzner doesn’t take many risks that might make her story appeal to those not already on the urban fantasy bandwagon. The DEADTOWN series is not going to convert anyone who already has a distaste for zombies, werewolves and vampires. I would, however, recommend the series to anyone who might be sitting on the fence. If you love urban fantasy, then buy Nancy Holzner’s books right this minute. If you are not sure whether you like urban fantasy, then pick these up the next time you’re in the mood for a change a pace. I think you’ll like them. —Justin Blazier

You can also learn more about Nancy’s books at the Fantasyliterature Nancy Holzner page

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