Book Review: These Hellish Happenings by Jennifer Rainey

9694732Title: These Hellish Happenings
Author: Jennifer Rainey
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Dark Humor, Vampires, Demons, Adult
Rating: 4,5 stars
Goodreads | Author Website
Review copy provided by the author.

In 1707, hapless vampire Jack Bentley made a pact with the Devil in order to escape a vampire hunt. Dealing with Satan seemed better than your standard angry mob at the time. But three centuries later, Satan is ready to collect His dues, whether the vampire likes it or not. He’s taking Jack down to Hell, and He’s even got a job picked out for him down below: an eternal position at the Registration Office of the Damned. Jack attempts to adjust to life on the Administrative Level of Hell where fire and brimstone have been replaced by board meetings and the occasional broken copier. But the whiny complaints of the recently-deceased are the least of his problems. Try adding to the equation a dead ex-lover, a dangerous attraction to his high-ranking demon companion, Alexander Ridner, and the sticky and distorted anti-vampire politics of a Hell that is surprisingly like our own world…

In These Hellish Happenings, we follow vampire slash music collector Jack Bentley, as he is reminded of a bargain he striked with the Devil himself about three centuries ago. Although three centuries is a long time, even for a practically-immortal vampire, the Devil never forgets anything. Jack is brought down to hell, where he begins his new job as registrar at The Registration Office of The Damned. There, he is forced to write down the names of the recently-deceased, and tell them where to go next. Although his new job proves to be extremely boring, there are some quircks about it. For instance, Jack gets to live with a demon called Alexander, who is basically Satan’s second-in-command. Without counting Belzebub in, that is. He gets to meet new friends, learns that life in the pit isn’t all that different from life on earth as here too his species is discriminated against, and he might just start the revolution that will change Hell forever. Mix all of that with some dark humor, and you’ve basically got what These Hellish Happenings is all about.

Jack Bentley makes an interesting protagonist. Whether or not he’s evil, isn’t even debated throughout the novel, as basically everyone who ends up in hell has stepped over some line once or twice in their lifes. He is an interesting character, with a two-sided personality (we think: vampires bad, but what we see from Jack he turns out to be a rather okay fellow in that department, since he drinks bottled blood at a bar, for instance), with an undeniable and highly enjoyable sense of humor, and a mind that’s not too stubborn or stupid to demand change. When he’s thrown into Hell – as a matter of speech – the place below is on the verge of a revolution, with two parties battling each other. The one party wants to make demons rule in hell, and demote all other species to low-level jobs, like for instance, Cerberus shit-cleaning duty. The other party battles for equality between the species, and they soon see in Jack a possible leading man for their ideals and opinions. This brings Jack in a rollercoaster of events, all of them equally original and hilarious.

Who could have imagined any of the things Jennifer Rainey brings in this novel? Hell divided in offices, and every demon, vampire or poor soul sent to the bottomless pit, with a job of their own. A hellish environment with politicians – like it’s not enough that they make life a living hell already -, parties, struggles, elections, possible promotions, and an 8 till 6 working schedule. It’s safe to conclude that Jennifer Rainey’s take on hell, her world-building in particular, is both very original and very impressive. Jennifer Rainey basically gives us our view of modern-day society, our politics, our human rights actions and our work ethics, and presents them to us agaisnt the facade of Hell. There are brave political statements touched in this novel, which make it all the more interesting.

And not only does the author provide us with an authentic, original view on Hell and the Underworld, she also has an entirely new take on vampires, as they are usually portrayed in literature, and on demons. Jack Bentley is anything but an ordinary familiar-looking vampire, and Alexander, his demon roommate, is anything but the demons we are used to. Humorous, original, with an impressive storyline and fantastic characters. These Hellish Happenings is an excellent read, not only for its originality and marvellous characterization, but for its impressive writing style and enjoyable humour as well. If you like fantasy, and even if you don’t, you should just try this book. It’s a rare jewel in the fantasy genre.

These Hellish Happenings is the first book in a series, and I cannot wait to read the sequel.

Book Review: My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond

10384734Title: My Sparkling Misfortune
Author: Laura Lond
Genre: Humor, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Epic Fantasy
Rating: 4,5 stars
Goodreads | Smashwords
Review copy provided by the author.

Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle readily admits that he is a villain and sees no reason why it should stop him from being the protagonist of this book. After all, Prince Kellemar, an aspiring hero, has defeated him in a rather questionable way. Bent on revenge, Arkus attempts to capture a powerful evil spirit who would make him nearly invincible, but a last-minute mistake leaves him with a sparkling instead a goody-goody spirit that helps heroes, watches over little children, and messes up villains plans. Bound to Lord Arkus for five years of service and sworn to act in his best interests, the sparkling is not easy to get rid of, and of course his understanding of best interests is quite different from what Lord Arkus has in mind.

My Sparkling Misfortune is the hilarious fantasy tale of the evil Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle. Being a villain, and pretty good at that, Lord Arkus is well on his way to becoming the most notorious villain in the entire kingdom. However, when a deal with Prince Kellemar – the supposedly good guy of the story and hero-in-the-making – goes horribly wrong for poor Arkus, involving a raging animal and the destroying of several protective white towers, Arkus is forced to leave the kingdom, and hopefully find a way to protect himself from the monster that’s trying to eat him alive, and meanwhile re-establish his position as criminal mastermind. In an effort to solve his problems, he incidentelly catches a sparkling, a creature often seen accompaning heroes. While Arkus certainly is no hero, the sparkling called Jarvi feels like giving the ol’ lord a shot anyway. That’s when Lord Arkus goes through an adventure that might not only change his life, but his entire reputation as well.

The award for most hilarious villain ever definately goes to Lord Arkus. Whereas he is a nasty fellow who enjoys torturing messengers, doublecrossing princes and backstabbing other villains – but only after they have backstabbed him first, he does have manners – there is quite a noble side to him as well. He is hilarious in the way he describes both himself and his opponents, how he analyzes his own actions and those of others. He is a brilliant character who at times made me laugh out loud. A lot of books try to be funny, but it feels forced and unnatural; that’s definately not the case with My Sparkling Misfortune: this book simply is hilarious, even without trying.

Although aimed at middle graders, the adventure of Lord Arkus and his sparkling Jarvi, may appeal to fantasy fans of all ages. While telling a humorous tale, the story offers some valuable lessons as well. One of them being that a villain must not always remain a villain, and that not all heroes are as good and decent as they might appear. Prince Kellemar is the prime example of this. Although being a prince, and aiming to become a true hero one day, he doublecrosses Lord Arkus in their agreement at the beginning of the book, and continues to do things throughout the novel that made me very skeptic about his worthyness for the hero status. On the other hand, the fact that the sparkling Jarvi sees something in Lord Arkus that nobody else sees, and decides to give him the chance to actually do the right thing for once, also holds a very valuable lesson, namely that sometimes you just need to believe in people to make them do the right thing.

The story is action-packed, fast-paced and highly amusing. The dragons, castles, magical creatures, all make the story come to life, and actually read like a classic fairytale. Lord Arkus and his misfortunes could be standing right next to Cinderella and Robin Hood on the bookshelf. If I had to give a complaint about My Sparkling Misfortune (and the reason why I gave 4,5 rather than 5 stars) is that it’s too short. It seems like the sequel-virus has gotten hold of Laura Lond as well. She leaves an open ending, and hints at dark events in Lord Arkus’ past on several occasions, leaving the path open for a follow-up. I would have liked it more had she made this book slightly larger, and added all the additional facts, and a proper ending to this one. My Sparkling Misfortune is strong enough as a stand-alone novel, and although I would enjoy reading more about Lord Arkus’ misfortunes, I do also like it when a book is nicely tied up.

Although Lord Arkus is by far the most witty, sarcastic and intriguing character in this novel, Jarvi/Tullip is quite the enjoyable fellow as well. He is entertaining, good-natured and kind-hearted, and totally the opposite of the Arkus we meet at the beginning of the novel. That they even get along at al, is amazing. Another nice bonus is that the book is filled with wonderful illustrations of the characters and their adventures. The art looks really good, and it adds a nice touch.

I would advise everyone who loves a good laugh, from middle graders to adults, to read this book. It’s a quick read, and it will make you laugh aloud and forget all about the world around you. Lord Arkus is an admirable character, for a villain, with an amazing writing voice and a hilarious personality. The story itself is anything but predictable, the writing style is amusing, and the premise (a story from the villain’s point of view) is very original. What are you waiting for? Go read My Sparkling Misfortune!