Hotter Than Helltown by S.M. Reine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
**I was provided a complimentary copy of Hotter Than Helltown in exchange for my honest review.**
This is the third book in the Preternatural Affairs series by SM Reine and my first time reading work by this author. While I enjoyed parts of the story - we spanned the full range of emotions with this one - I had a little difficulty with the fact that the main character, Cesar Hawke, seemed so....well, weak.
I think what bothered me the most about him was his ineptitude when it came to his magic. He seemed to have to skill, knowledge or know-how on how to utilize his magic, which to me weakened his character, and during the height of the story, I had the feeling that the use of his magic was more luck, or accident, than anything.
I don't know...maybe I am being too hard on him, but when the main character has a special talent or skill, I like it to be his (or her) fallback - not weakness, as I felt it was in Cesar's case. Cesar, being the main character, actually ended up feeling like the weakest of them all and he definitely was not the alpha male I was looking for.
Rather than his skill with magic strengthening him, bonding him tighter to the story, I thought his ineptitude made him look, well - weak. Additionally, because of this weakness I saw in Cesar's character, and the strength of those surrounding him, I had a difficult time seeing him as "attractive." He didn't seem masculine (enough), outside of his physical appearance.
The difficulty I had with the main character affected my read of the entire book, without a doubt. I felt that Helltown had a hell (no pun intended) of a lot more that could have been utilized in it. What more creepy and frightening location can you possibly get? The author did the world-building part wonderfully, developing a location that appeared frightening at best. But then to under utilize it? I was disappointed. I wanted more scenes in Helltown - more everything. Here is this perfectly shiver-inducing environment, that can feed the story, drawing the reader in further and...what?
In the overall scope of the story, Helltown was left as background music, rather than the featured performance.
All-in-all I enjoyed Hotter Than Helltown, though for me, it could have been much stronger with Cesar's aptitude matching his physical strength. Leaving the character unbalanced made him appear weak. And a weak main character eroded the remainder of the story, allowing me to dig in and find other weaknesses that, most likely, I would have otherwise overlooked.
The question is, after reading Hotter Than Helltown, would I go back, starting at the beginning and read the rest of the series I missed? I don't know. I might if they were on sale, or I had no other reading, simply for the fact to see if the author built on Helltown more, or if Cesar had a place in any of the stories - and how his character was written and developed from the start.
More important, would I read the next in the series? Likely, yes. The reason? I love the premise of the story, no question. I love the world the author has created. Given this, I would be interested to see if the author pulls this into the next novel (more) and how the main character develops, if it's not still Cesar. So, yes. I would read it. Every author has a book here and there that isn't perfect - how well I know - so I would give SM Reine another chance.
Helltown is just too damn cleaver to not.
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