Publisher: Aladdin Books
Release Date: March 8, 2016
When Donny Taylor finds out that his dad might be a murderer, he runs away to an abandoned building to think. Of course, as these things go, it would be that night that the place would decide to go up in flames. Certain death is on the horizon, which is why Donny agrees to work for a mysterious girl who appears in the burning building promising to save him. What he quickly learns is that the girl is Angela Obscura, an ancient demon from the Underworld who needs the help of a mortal. Hades isn't what it used to be though. Lucifer has been gone for over a century. Gone are the pitchforks, fiery pits, and dismemberment. And not everyone likes it that way. Some of the other residents of the underworld believe that things were good the way they were and will stop at nothing to return hell to its previous terrifying incarnation.
When it comes to books about the underworld, most of them seem to focus on the Greco Roman versions of the fiery pit, which is why this Dante-esque underworld felt so refreshing. It wasn't a true Dante hell since it lacked most of the various references like a river of boiling blood and fire or a burning desert. Yet, it was different enough to set it apart from Percy Jackson and its ilk.
Donny is an interesting character in himself as he doesn't appear to miss his father that much throughout the book, although it is a bit understandable considering that he discovers at the very beginning of the book that his dad is not a good guy. He really is a normal kid though as he does make mistakes and, as you would expect, does have a hard time with the whole hell thing. Catanese manages to make some of the characters in Hades light enough to offset some of the creepier characters, the serial killing butcher being the main one. The set-up and politics of the story are probably the most interesting thing though. Angela is the one who made Hades the way it is now, where the dead are tormented, but in a way that eventually could lead to redemption. This is especially important as the story progresses and is the very thing that the antagonists hate. But the reason why they hate it is the most interesting. It isn't because they necessarily like torturing souls, it's that they fear what Lucifer will think should he return. Their fear is part of their faith, an interesting element to a story that could easily gone a different way.
A fun action adventure story that, despite some light moments, isn't afraid to take its characters to hell and back.