Review: Hemlock by Jesse Teller

Very, very great cover!~

I read Song last year, and really enjoyed it, as it was a bit of a breath of fresh air comparatively to the other Perilisc books I had read up to that point. Still pretty dark, but not quite as in-your-face-dark, with characters I rather like!

So, when I was offered a review copy of the next book in the Manhunters series, I happily accepted.

So, I got a free copy of this book, and in exchange, here is my honest review of it!~

The busiest pirate bay in Perilisc is newly infested with vampires. These monsters will soon overrun the world, but the Manhunters must try to stop them in secret. Agents of the king are hunting Rayph’s vigilante crew. With one false step, they could all end up at a royal execution.

“You are a city that kills. You produce many exotic poisons that infect the world, yet your people have not become dark and twisted by this work. You have much to be proud of, Hemlock, and it is an honor to come to you in this time of need. Not many cities could survive the kind of horror that has descended on you. But I fear not the lack of mettle that I would in a normal city facing such a plague.”

I found myself quite immersed in this one right from the get-go, despite not really remembering a lot of the characters from Song. The main character, Rayph Ivoryfist, I did remember, as he’s a thousands-of-years-old mage of pretty unparalleled skill who also acted as the warden of a giant asylum/prison of the worst of the worst. Like Arkham Asylum if it was like Joker + Ra’s al Ghul = the average resident. Also, literal demons and vampires and whatnot.

Anyways, since they all broke out, Rayph and his buddies have formed a team called the Manhunters who… uh… hunt… them down? 😀

In this volume, there is a pirate port city called Hemlock, which has been infested with vampires. Vampires are rather quick to reproduce, so if Rayph and his team don’t get stuff under control, the entire world is going to be plagued by them sooner rather than later.

So, Rayph and his band are trying to stop the spread of vampires, while being hunted down by the bounty hunters of the king he spurned in the last volume, while also trying to get all the different guilds and mercenary groups in Hemlock to join forces to get rid of the vampires. Which is harder than it sounds, because the vampires are doing the very same thing… only with biting, I guess.

This volume also introduces a new character, named Aaron the Marked, who looks about 15 years old, but is presumably a bit older than that. He’s very good at what he does… and what he does is usually killing people. But most of all, he serves his king. To the detriment of his own self-preservation sense, or anything else, he serves his king. But even being… I dunno about 18 or so, he’s made a name for himself, where mercenaries who are really known for their brutality are like, ‘Aaron the Marked? I’ve heard of you!’ so, he’s got that going for him, which is nice. He is also the catalyst for bringing a familiar face from another (more recent for me) Perilisc book into this one, Mort, the priestess for the Pale from Mestlven. So, that was nice. I like Mort.

I really liked Aaron as a character. I thought he was rather unique, and while he’s not always likable, he leads a life that, at least for the timeframe of this novel, isn’t boring. While I really liked most of Aaron’s POV chapters, I also continue to cheer for Rayph and his friends, hoping they’ll achieve their goals and live on to Manhunt some more people in future volumes… even if Rayph and the gang make some poor decisions from time to time. Truth be told, it’s kind of nice that they’re fallible and that there are consequences to their decisions. It’s interesting to think about where this series will go in the future.

Well written and rather engaging, while still being dark and gritty, but perhaps not always super-duper dark and gritty (there’s a naked wedding, you guys!). Plenty of twists and turns to keep you reading. I put this one down halfway through to beta read another book (on a deadline, or I would have just kept going, lol), and when I came back it was like I’d never left. That’s always good, because I’m one of those people who needs to stay pretty engaged in a book or else I start forgetting some details.

Actually scary vampires are scary. (And fun to poke with arrows, in my experience of this particular example)

All told I rather liked it. It was dark, but not so dark that it became a detriment. It had vampires that were legitimately rather frightening, which is nice. And it was compelling and hard to put down. I felt like it was a solid 4/5 stars!


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