Sunday, 23 September 2018

Book Review: Aaru: Halls of Hel by David Meredith*

“… Let them have everything - health, food, a place to live, entertainment. They are and remain unhappy and low-spirited for the demon waits and waits…”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Rose is a Veda.

In Elysian Industries’ virtual paradise of Aaru, that means she’s practically a goddess. She is immortal. She is powerful. A limitless paradise is hers and her friends’ to command. They are free from sickness and pain, old age and death. She should be ecstatic over her prestige and privilege, but the gilded utopia has lost its luster. 

In a reality where anything can be hers with a thought, and Rose can master any skill instantly with nothing but her imagination, to what can she still aspire? She has all of eternity to fill, but what will her purpose be? Rose adores her sweet, Latin boyfriend, Franco. She loves wiling away endless immaculate days with her friends, but shouldn’t there be more to life than mere play? Also, Rose is dogged by deep concern for her little sister, Koren, the Elysian Industries spokes-model and reality star back in the “Before” world.

Though Koren is wealthy, famous, and idolized by millions of adoring fans, her life is spinning out of control. Her parents’ marriage is on the rocks, and the boyfriend of her dreams, Jonas Perry, seems suddenly indifferent. Koren finds her celebrity increasingly isolating, her gruelling work schedule exhausting, and the constant scrutiny of her personal life unwelcomed and intrusive. To top it all off, she has regular nightmares about the death of her friend, Kiku, and the still-at-large Magic Man who nearly stole away her everything.

Koren and Rose have more to fear from this quarter than they know. Magic Man’s obsession with the teenage idol has not lessened, and he is far from defeated. With vital aid from an unexpected source, his nefarious schemes to make Koren his own and to hack the Aaru mainframe are on track and moving forward. Unless the sisters can thwart his sinister designs, everyone and everything the girls hold dear could be destroyed.

I read and reviewed David Meredith's first novel in The Aaru Cycle; Aaru. That book ended on a real cliff-hanger, so I was dead excited when I learnt he had a second book in the series coming out this year. I was even more excited when David himself contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in reviewing his second book. Of course I said yes!

Aaru: Halls of Hel* really ramped up the tension that the first novel ended with. Right from the start, David's latest novel promised to be a real nail-biter. And boy, did it deliver. 

It's safe to say that Aaru: Halls of Hel continues the story of Aaru, Rose and Koren nicely. There's strong character development, as we come to understand more about Rose and Koren, as well as learning more about other residents of Aaru. There was a great deal more impetus from Rose and Koren's parents too. And it was great seeing their character development over the course of this novel. 

Aaru: Halls of Hel was dark as hell (pun intended). And it kept me in the dark throughout. I spent the whole novel trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. But I couldn't. And that's where the main flaw with this novel lies; it left me with more unanswered questions than it should have. 

I can see that David Meredith has left this book on another cliff-hanger; open for a sequel. And I'm all for that. But there was still the opportunity to do this whilst answering some key questions about Hel, Magic Man and more. The ending was a little bit frustrating in it's secrecy, as a result.

On the whole, though, Aaru: Halls of Hel was a fantastic, gripping, dark sci-fi read. I'm already eagerly anticipating David's next book in the series. And you'd better believe I'll be reading that one as soon as it's released too! 

*This book was sent to me in exchange for a review. All words and opinions are my own.

Rating: ***

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