Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Review: Hellsbane, by Paige Cuccaro

(Hellsbane #1)
Paige Cuccaro
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Entangled Select, Nov. 20, 2012
Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

Goodreads Synopsis: Twenty-three-year-old Emma Jane Hellsbane just found out she’s not human—or, at least, not only human. She’s half angel, too, and now Heaven’s got a job for her: round up all the Fallen angels and their red-skinned, horned devil-demon minions and boot their butts back into the abyss. Only problem? The demons and their Fallen masters fight back...…and they don’t fight fair.

Luckily for Emma, she can put a stop to the constant threat of having her head hacked off if she figures out which Fallen angel is her father—and then kill him before he kills her. Of course, in the meantime, she’ll have to avoid accidentally seducing her angelic mentor, help an old friend conquer his own Fallen sperm donor, and basically save the world from a cataclysmic divine smack down.

No one said being Heaven’s bounty hunter would be easy. But with a name like Hellsbane, Emma Jane was born for the job.

My Review

What a rocking great read this novel is!  Although the plot strongly reminds me of two Young Adult novels I happen to love -- Forsaken (aka The Demon Trapper's Daughter), by Jana Oliver, and Angelfire, by Courtney Allison Moulton -- this one still had a lot of originality, and the interaction between the main characters was just a delight to follow!

Emma Jane is precisely the type of heroine whose story I love to read; she's not only very resourceful, taking things in her incredible world in stride, but she's undoubtedly very brave, never shrinking from a good fight, as is her duty as an illorum -- the name given to the half-human, half-angels who are chosen to fight demons and the Fallen (angels who have done the forbidden -- mate with humans).  She handles it all with the appropriate aplomb and off-beat humor, while mastering her swordsmanship (or is it 'swordswomanship' ?) skills.

Helping her along is her angelic mentor, Eli.  Oh, Eli.....  At the risk of sounding 'fan-girlish', I have to state that he's totally, irrevocably 'swoon worthy'!  He's strong yet sensitive, the fictional male stereotype beloved by all red-blooded female romance addicts the world over!  Naturally, he's also very attracted to Emma, and must fight his constant desire to have a romantic relationship with her, which is, of course, totally forbidden to angels.  He does his very best to restrain himself, while training Emma in several skills necessary to a nephilim warrior.  (The nephilim are the offspring of humans and Fallen angels.)   Besides wielding a sword effectively (the better to cut off a demon's head, thus reducing said demon to a puddle of stinking brimstone), she must also master the skill of instantaneous teleportation.  There are some wonderful scenes in which Eli shows Emma just how it's done.  Meanwhile, it's all Emma herself can do to master another little skill -- hiding her own growing attraction to her angelic teacher.

I won't reveal whether or not both of these totally engaging characters are able to avoid falling into the relationship each is yearning for.  Suffice it to say that Cuccaro is a master at creating sensual tension in a story, thus creating a very addictive novel, as I can attest from my own experience, since I simply could not put this book down!  Adding to the romantic tension were all the exciting battle scenes, all of Emma Jane's harrowing escapes as she fought demons of the more traditional variety (red, with horns and tails), as well as those who masqueraded as humans.

Another very engaging character is Tommy St. James, a fellow nephilim whom Emma had had a crush on when they were both in high school.  Through him, she is introduced to the invisible world around her -- the world of angels, the Fallen, and demons.  Tommy is described as a 'jock', and he's just as attractive as Eli, in a more 'human' way.  He and Emma get along beautifully together, becoming good friends in a short time.  After a while, however, this friendship starts to become something more....  At this point, I was torn between having Emma fall for Tommy, or for Eli.  The relationship between her and Tommy is more equal, of course; after all, they're comrades-in-arms as well as sharing the same type of genetic heritage.  They often fall into an easy banter that doesn't quite compare to Emma's conversations with Eli, which are a bit more formal.

The world-building is very believable, and full of details that ring true for all the characters.  Even the fact that humans are totally oblivious to the existence of all of these supernatural creatures is accounted for.  The human women who have been seduced by the Fallen, for instance, have no memory of the event, their seducers having erased their memories.  Even the nephilim are unaware of what they really are, until and unless they receive the call to become illorum.  Then their eyes are opened, and they can see the demons, angels, and Fallen.

There is one slightly disappointing thing about this novel, although it doesn't affect my overall impression of it: Emma Jane's family is not featured more often in the plot.  This is something that did take away from the believability factor.  I don't think Emma could really have hidden her activities in the supernatural quite as successfully as she did, to the extent that her family remained totally in the dark about them.  I would have liked to see more of her interactions with her mother and sister, as well as their questioning what she was up to.  I do think that even fantasy novels have to retain some element of plausibility and realism, in order to be fully believable.  I wonder if the author will show us more of Emma's family in the subsequent novels in this series. 

This book is not categorized as a Young Adult novel, but I think it should be.  Even though Emma is twenty-three (and isn't that a 'young adult'?), the prose style is certainly very much like that of other YA novels I've read -- not overly detailed, and very immediate, very action-oriented.  The author certainly does more 'showing' than 'telling', that's for sure.  I would say that this is typical of YA novels, although of course, it varies with each author.  Besides, there's very little profanity, and no sex scenes, although, as I have already stated, there is plenty of sexual tension at times.

Cuccaro's plot builds up steam toward the latter third of the book, leading up to an explosive climax that takes the reader's breath away (at least, it did mine).  Although she does tie all threads together neatly, not everything is completely resolved, so as to lead up to her next book in the series, Heaven and Hellsbane.  Still, the ending is by no means a cliffhanger, so readers are not left with a sense that they will crawl up the walls if they don't find out very soon what happened next.

Summing up, I can definitely recommend this book to all paranormal romance and urban fantasy fans.  It's a very exciting, very compelling read that pulls you right along with the characters to an ending you won't soon forget!  And I now have yet another author to add to my favorites!


Paige Cuccaro

Online Links


  1. Great review. I'm not too fond of the cover and I don't think that I'll pick it up on my own accord (in this instance I do judge a book on its cover). Your review gave the book a helpful insight as to what it was about. You have peaked my interest in it.

    1. Hi, Vonnie!

      Thanks for the compliment! You know, I don't like the cover much myself (except that I love that sword!). However, I read an excerpt of the book on Amazon, and LOVED the story, so I went ahead and bought it. Well, as you know, I couldn't put it down!

      I do recommend it to you highly, even if you don't like the cover. You might prefer the one for the UK edition, which is available at

      Happy Reading!! : )


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