When I reviewed the first book in this series for Rosie’s Book Review Team, the author was kind enough to send me the second. There are, at least for the moment, four more to come (you can check them in the author’s website), and I, for starters, I’m looking forward to them.
The second book in the series picks up where the first one left, a few months after the protagonist, Philip visited Hell, and we see what has happened to him when he went back to life. Things are looking up for him. He has made some new friends, and he has become more popular. But then, strange things start to happen, he cheats death a few times, but eventually…
This time he is brought back to the Underworld (well, Underworlds), by Death himself, because Lucifer and Mortimer (Death) think he is the boy for the job. This time, the job involves retrieving the die of death (as you might have surmised from the title) that has been stolen. With Satina’s help (his girl-demon-friend) he starts investigating, and the search gets more desperate when the stakes become much higher and more personal.
I really enjoyed this book. Although there are reminders of what had happened in the first book in the series, and I guess regular readers of the genre might be able to pick up the clues quickly enough and follow the story, I would advise reading the books in the right order. There is much background covered in the first book that is relevant to the second book’s adventures, one gets a much better sense of how the different characters have evolved, and there are beautiful details and insights that would be lost if this book was read on its own.
For those of us who enjoyed the first book, this novel allows us to meet some of our favourite characters again (and some, perhaps, not as favourite), we discover some wonderfully creepy new locations and characters (death’s horse and his home are chilling, but I was particularly taken by the Purgatory), there are new dark jokes, and we get to know the fate of some interesting historical figures, like Hitler, Epicurus, and even Elvis!, and there are plenty of adventures. There are red-herrings and betrayals as would pertain a book about Hell, but I was gripped by some of the themes touched upon, like immortality (and, of course, mortality), fate, sin and guilt, getting old. If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to be immortal, this book will give you pause. (Yes, in most stories, the immortal are eternally young, but what would happen if they grew old?)
Although the book starts slowly, because trying to find clues about the whereabouts of the die proves hard and frustrating, the adventures soon pick up, and there are rich details all throughout the story that we need to pay attention to if we don’t want to miss anything. The rhythm increases quickly, and once Philip returns to Hell, we know we are in for a wild ride.
As I said when talking about the first book, this is a book for young adults and adults, especially those who enjoy dark adventures and fantasy with paranormal elements included. But, although the cruelty and violence are not described in extreme gory detail, this is a book that some would include into the horror category, and I would not recommend it for children or adults who are squeamish or scare easily. Some of the topics are also quite difficult, as we have broken families, illness, death, and matters of heaven and hell, and I’d recommend parents to check the book first themselves.
The book is well-written, has great characters (we get to see a more reflective Philip, who has to confront personal challenges and make some extremely difficult decisions), and it succeeds in building up the world of the series and in increasing its complexity. We also get a sample of the next book in the series, The Wrongful Death, which is scheduled for publication in the spring of 2019, at the back of the novel. Personally, I can’t wait.