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Reaper's Walk: Hellstone based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
From the first sentence of this book, I was hooked…and the more I read the better it got. How Mr. Franklin could come up with such a new and fresh story is just amazing. I love the way the book starts with the curse and then it explodes. What a great mind Mr. Franklin has…to not only imagine such a exciting adventure but to also put it into a book that makes you feel like you are in the middle of all that is going on. This book scared me but I couldn’t put it down wanting to know what was going to happen next. It is brilliant the way that the author has woven together so many monsters and it works. If you like vampire stories it has it, if you like werewolf stories it has that also, or demons or witches or voodoo hoodoo it has all that also…and it all works/flows together seamlessly. I loved this book and can’t wait for the next story.
To begin with Reaper's Walk: Hellstone (which I henceforth might refer to as: RWH) is the start of an ambitious 5-book project by Vermont-based author, Don Franklin. This may be his first novel, but it's clear that he's no stranger to the world of contemporary fantasy fiction, as he draws on a melange of sources from European, African and American mythology to construct a dense weave of a tale that revolves around Lita Harper, her cousin Lydia, and their two witchy grandmothers (Dora and Eva) as they struggle against an ancient contact that may well end with Lita having to surrender her very soul to Satan. At the heart of this struggle is a race to discover four magical stones (one of which is the Hellstone of the title) that can control (and offer great power to) demons, witches, vampires and werewolves respectively. These stones may offer Lita a chance at saving her soul, but soon draws some terrifying and interested parties including an ancient vampire, a do-gooder werewolf gang, and a variety of demons, Satan, and Satan's chief aid, the Grim Reaper (who graces the cover). This fine blend of adversaries and myth is one of the hallmarks of this book; in fact, you would be surprised to discover just how many characters Franklin has tucked into this relatively slim novel. Another strength of RWH is that Franklin does a deft job of bouncing back and forth between story lines. The plot has a tightly-knit feel which is important because- for our heroes and villains- every minute counts and in fact, some important elements from the front thrid of the book (especially a planned exchange between Lita and Satan himself) play a big role in the final act. You get a nice sense of control throughout the book. Consider me a Don Franklin fan, however, from my own perspective, there were a few things that could have used a bit of development. One was the rushed tone of the narrative which often felt like it was being delivered as part of a newspaper report. Scenes bounced quickly from one to another leading (honestly) to an ending that while smartly executed, felt a bit rushed and not as rich as it should have been. Also, our two heroines, Lita and Lydia could have benefited from a bit more shading and complexity, and differentiation. A few other notes of interest: 1. I was also very interested in reading HRW because Don Franklin is not a white author, which may seem like a funny reason to some people, but I recently became involved in a diversity reading challenge after I learned that- in my own reading habits- I read almost exclusively white authors (around 98% white). I also learned (as part of this diversity challenge) that the grand majority of published fantasy authors are white, so it was great for me to step outside of my own familiar zone and get a different POV. Franklin (who is African-American) does a solid job of integrating elements of cultural experience (including African lore and the painful history of slavery) into Hellstone. 2. This book also contains some great/ terrifying elements of horror, in particular in Franklin's creepy description of dark magic (brujura magic). In particular watch out for a spell called "the hunger" and a circle of protection that is cast with the aid of a dead cat; that's the stuff of nightmares. All in all, Hellstone: Reaper's Walk is a finely scripted and bold thriller and I recommend it to fans of fantasy and horror.