“Demon’s on the Dalton” is the second in the Hell Hole’s serial trilogy, and picks up pretty immediately from where the first in the series left off. Although, this book spends a decent chunk early on recapping and re-familiarizing the reader with what happened in the first novella, so if you don’t read the first one, I don’t think you’ll be totally lost, though I do think the excitement of the first book is higher than in the second. We get Angela’s perspective this time as our trio of survivors race across the Dalton. The majority of the story is spent with our characters in their vehicle, barely able to stop to pee on the side of the road before all manner of hell spawn is on top of them. Their mission is still primarily to survive, to get to Fairbanks, and safety. But as the U.S. military mobilizes and starts their counter attack, their mission shifts, becoming more than just survival, but helping the powers that be to end the unending wave of demonic creatures that are pouring into our world.
The action in Firesmith’s novella rarely lets up, which is exactly what you want with these kinds of serialized series. But there’s not a ton new in this story that we didn’t get from the first one. We are still only presented with the same four types of demonic creatures, though they do use slightly different types of weapons this time around, and the stakes largely remain unchanged in this story from the first book. The one complication is the pair of survivors our main characters come across and need to whisk to safety, the military personnel they encounter, and the members of Aileen’s order. However, most of that doesn’t come until closer to the end of the story. But the characters felt flat in this novella. As odd as it sounds, they all got along too well. There was no conflict from the characters, no difference of opinion, and if it weren’t for Aileen’s powers and the change in narration from Jack to Angie, they all would feel pretty indistinct from each other. When they all agree, you don’t get a sense of their personality, just the one dimensional layer of what purpose they serve to the greater story. The most you see personality wise is from Angie when she cares for the survivors. Those instances were cute and pretty touching, and I found that I enjoyed those moments most. It’s just too bad they were rather fleeting and were resolved come the end of the story; Adam and Amy will most likely not return for the third book now that they are safe.
I did like how, and where, this book ended more than the first installment, however. This story felt complete; things had been accomplished, a plan settled on. The characters and the army personnel they meet up with all know what needs to be done, which will lead to a thrilling conclusion in the next book, no doubt. The author does a great job ensuring that the weapons and military vehicles etc. are all shown accurately and those moments really shine, especially against the paranormal horror show they are plucked in front of. I also appreciated that the author took the story a bit back to the science fiction arena with the theories around Aileen’s demon amulet. But I wasn’t as surprised, or thrilled, by this book as I was the first. I wanted more personality and growth between the main characters, and there’s not a lot of that, certainly not as much as I was expecting from a second book, either. It was still fun and exciting, the demons are all interesting, even if we have seen them all before, and the flight across Alaska is definitely intense at parts, and described in enough accurate detail that you feel you are there driving with the characters. If you like paranormal horror, and action fantasy, I think you’d enjoy this fast, and easy-to-read series. And while I think I liked the first book a little more, ultimately, when both books ended, I felt pretty much the same, so it’s another 3 stars from yours truly. And thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for an honest review!
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