Hellbender by Dana Cameron
Publisher’s Description: I-Day is near at hand, and soon the Fangborn will reveal themselves to humankind. As a member of this secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles, will archaeologist Zoe Miller be prepared?
Still grappling with the newfound powers she gained after opening Pandora’s box, Zoe shares the responsibility of protecting “Normal” humans. Having long preferred to keep to the shadows, she knows the pending revelation of the Fangborn will set the world on fire. With Fangborn enemies in the Order of Nicomedia forcing their hand, Zoe and her supernatural Family have no choice but to step into the spotlight.
But that decision has garnered the attention of the powerful and otherworldly beings known as the Makers. They claim to have created the Fangborn–not as saviors, but as predators. And it seems they have their own plans for Zoe…and for the fate of all the Fangborn.
The first two books and two novellas of the Fangborn series have been living on my Kindle for a while now, patiently waiting their turn in the spotlight. It’s those Chris McGrath covers that always catch my eye! When Hellbender, Fangborn Book 3, came up for review on NetGalley, I was torn about requesting it. Nell assured me that starting a series with the third book would not cause my brain to explode; so, though doubtful, I agreed I’d give it a try. I’m not totally convinced it was a success, even though my brain is nominally intact.
Main Character: ♥♥♥ Zoe Miller has had an extraordinary amount of power thrust on her unexpectedly, so it would make sense that she’s struggling a little to come into her own. That shows in Hellbender, as Zoe will one minute be exclaiming that she doesn’t know what she’s doing, and the next minute be calmly handling some crisis based on an agenda unknown to the reader. I’m not sure if that was purposeful, though. Either Zoe is a master at “winging it,” or the author wasn’t quite clear on her character’s development.
There was a bit with Zoe and Will near the end of the book I really liked that, to me at least, represented the direction Zoe was moving. Zoe is telling her friend, Will, why they cannot be an item. It’s not because she doesn’t want him (though I think she wants Adam more); it’s because of everything that’s coming, the danger she’ll put him in, and the suspicion that maybe she has influenced his feelings more than he realizes. She hates that she’s doing it and it tears her up emotionally, but she knows it has to be done. That’s some major stepping up.
Other Characters: ♥♥ Stepping into the middle of a series as I am, I expected there to be characters whose backgrounds I lack. I think I did a pretty good job of keeping track of those folks. But, there are some characters introduced in this book that I wish we’d gotten to know better – the Trips, Fatima, Jason with his crows Jill and Jack, and Max. I really like Max. We don’t get a lot of character knowledge about these people, and they are very interesting. I don’t think we get a lot of background on the villains, either. I know there is some background on the Order I’m missing from the other books; but, when Carolina Perez-Smith is introduced, there isn’t much background on her, either. We don’t know why she’s involved in the Order. And then there are the Makers. I’m not sure what to think about them. They seem sophisticated enough to mimic one of Zoe’s favorite college hangouts to make her more comfortable during their talk, but not sophisticated enough to know that screaming in the heads of all the Fangborn will damage and kill some of them and reflect poorly on Zoe? They are supposed to be the Fangborn’s creators and incredibly powerful, but they come off as a bit clumsy and they give up too easily in the end. That makes me suspicious. I LOVE the dragons, though, even when they go crazy for the sparklies.
World: ♥♥♥♥ The Fangborn world is really interesting and not quite like anything else I’ve run across. I like the triumvirate of Fangborn – werewolf, vampire, and oracle. I like the “digs” about the oracles always being forgotten. I like that the vampires aren’t your typical vampires, and certainly not sparkly. And I love that the “monsters” are the ones trying to protect humans. I love that Zoe is hunting up all these artifacts that are being drawn into her as a source of power. And I really like that the bad humans are trying to create their own versions of creatures to fight against what they see as a threat. There are some cool ideas here that make me want to learn more.
Story: ♥♥ While there are a lot of neat things happening in this story, they all happen so fast and seemingly without time to process the event and its meaning. I really did feel caught on a runaway train through most of the book, and it was a little confusing. I’m wondering if there couldn’t have been three books worth of material here – the fight with the Order, the preparation for I-Day, and the conflict with the Makers. I feel there was a lot of detail sacrificed to move the story along, and I need that detail to understand what is going on in the story and to feel invested. As it was, the story felt very rushed.
There were several things mentioned in the book that didn’t seem necessary, either. For example, when the dragons speak, there are many words that are unintelligible to Zoe. When I first encountered that, it made sense but I was expecting it to come back around later. Not only did I assume we’d find out what the words meant, but that they were important. That never really happened, so I wondered why the author bothered. I think it just added to the confused feel.
Overall: ♥♥♥ In the end, I’d like to go back and read this series from the beginning just to be sure the things that bother me about this book don’t stem from my lack of knowledge. If it’s not, then I have to say the lack of detail and the rushed feeling of the book will keep it from being one of my favorites. I hope it is, though. There are some neat things about this world that I’d love to know more about.
If You Like This Book …
Assuming you were smarter than I was and have already read the rest of the Fangborn series, you might like Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series.
A preview copy of this book was received from 47North via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.