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Hell's Pawn by Jay Bell

Hell's Pawn

by Jay Bell

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283389,858 (3.86)1



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I actually really liked the premise and how the book ended, but the writing style and plot direction were only mediocre for me. There's some clear lessons here about diversity and acceptance if the reader wants to pull them out, but it's not too forward if they don't. I will say that romance seems to be Bell's forte and not action/adventure, but there is definitely something interesting here. ( )
  Kassilem | Jan 31, 2017 |
With Hell’s Pawn, Jay Bell managed to have me up until the small hours of night since I didn’t want to close this book without knowing what was happening. And despite the theme of the story (Purgatory, Hell and Heaven), it was not at all scaring, so it was not a night with the scared in bed looking for the strange shadows in my room, but more an amused reader who was trying to understand where the author was headed.

First of all, I knew John Grey, the main character, was gay (he makes a comment right at the beginning of the story that let the reader know), but until ¼ of the book I did wonder if there would have been a love interest for him, since Dante, my most likely candidate, was clear was not the one. Second, again John is gay, but I really, really loved that Jay Bell didn’t stress this as the main reason for his quest through Purgatory, Hell and Heaven; on the contrary, the event that John is gay is almost insignificant, for his character and for the mission he has to accomplish he could have been gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, bisexual… whoever he wants, since sexuality was not the engine behind everything. By the way, if you were wondering, John being gay is not the reason why he is in Purgatory and not in Heaven.

When John arrives in Purgatory he finds an aseptic place, a temporary stop for people to redeem from their sins and go in Heaven or to fail on the mission and go down in Hell. The task seems easy enough, but the strange thing is that this Purgatory is overcrowded, by the way from people from every time and religion, and they all seem without “motivation”. More than the horror of living in Purgatory, John is pushed into action by the boredom, by the nightmare of not having stimulation for more than 1 week. At first, let be true, John is not exactly an hero, and I was wondering why he was the chosen one, why he was more suited to the task than Dante, a thief from the ‘80s or Jacobi, an heretic from the XVI century.

Dante and John manage to escape Purgatory and go to Hell (pun intended); the fact that Hell is way better than Purgatory and not so scaring at all was a nice surprise. John was always waiting for the downside of the place, but there is no one; on the contrary, here he meets Rimmon, an handsome incubus who joins Dante and John on their quest. Maybe the only downside is that, while Rimmon is not against the idea of having sex with John (he is an incubus after all), he is already in love with an angelic beauty, someone with whom John cannot compare.

Dante, John and Rimmon start a simil-Divina Commedia-journey, but in modern term, and so, other than the “catholic” afterlife places, they visit all the other religion, from the beginning of the existence of men on earth to today. They are more lucky than Dante Alighieri, their adventures are less scaring, and more or less, no one of the souls they meet are in pain, or suffering, apparently everyone is happy in their afterlife.

I think I understood the metaphor of this story, it’s not religion wronging people, it’s the rigid structure people built around religion; if you manage to get free of all the “tinsels” and go to the core of it, then you are good and safe.

  elisa.rolle | Jan 8, 2012 |
This book was really quite extraordinary. The theme of multiple pantheons dueling it out in the afterlife is not new, and is hard to do well. It requires skill to write in different voices, knowledge to do justice to the subtle differences and commonalities in the various religions, and imagination to come up with an original approach. The auction of Hell in Sandman's Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman is a wonderful example, and this book compares favorably with that work (and Gaiman is on of my idols, so this is the highest praise I can muster). The surprises and pacing of the revelations was well handled, and kept me guessing right up to the end. Even the romantic subplot left me in a completely different place than I was expecting to wind up. I heartily recommend this work to fans of comparative relgious fantasy and gay paranormal romance. Well done. ( )
  Arshad_Ahsanuddin | Nov 6, 2011 |
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From the author of Something Like Summer comes Hell's Pawn, winner of a Rainbow Award for Best Gay Fantasy, honorable mention as Best Gay Novel of 2011, and two wins in Goodread's M/M Romance Member's Choice Awards for Best World Created and Most Surprising/Unique Plot Device. John Grey is dead. and that's just the beginning. Purgatory should have been a safe haven for souls that belong neither in Heaven nor Hell, but instead John finds himself in a corrupt prison, one bereft of freedom or pleasure. Along with his decedent friend Dante, John makes a brave escape, only to fall straight down to Hell and into the arms of Rimmon, a handsome incubus. John is soon recruited as Hell's ambassador, visiting the afterlife realms of other cultures to enlist an army strong enough to stand against Heaven. As interesting as his new job is, John's mind keeps returning to Purgatory and the souls still trapped there. Somehow John must stop a war he doesn't believe in and liberate Purgatory, all while desperately trying to attract the attention of an incubus whose heart belongs to another. --- Five stars from Reviews by Jesse Wave: "--a very enjoyable rollicking ride of a book. There's a great mix of action, pathos, humour, love and camaraderie, all set in a unique series of worlds which are imaginatively described." Praise from Forbes.com: "--I couldn't put it down. Jay Bell has drafted a interesting, page-turning book that tours not only the traditional afterlife, but also the afterlives of many different religions-"… (more)

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