Have you ever read a book, or watched a movie/TV series, where you just didn’t understand why anybody would like this (in your own opinion) utter dreck? You then voice this opinion, only to be shot down by fans who tell you either to stick your head where the sun doesn’t shine, or: “Oh, episode/book 1 was terrible. But I persevered and fell in love with it.”
Generally it seems that’s what happens with a lot of media. Catching Fire was, in my opinion, better than The Hunger Games. Every series has its weak points and strong points, and it’s glorious when you find just what you’re looking for from whatever you’re trying to get into.
But I have not seen any praise for the sequel to Halo, Alexandra Adornetto’s magnum opus about these powerful angels (plus one Mary-Sue tagalong) who should have rightfully been shipped off somewhere in more desperate need than a small Southern US town with decreasing church attendance and precisely ONE demon lurking around.
Yeah, book one was bad enough.
But will you believe me if I tell you that book two is actually worse? Yeah, Hades is WORSE than Halo.
First of all, Bethany and Xavier are even stupider than they were before. Their relationship is not romantic. It’s almost like a robot wrote this, programmed to believe that: Humans call each other pet names like ‘Huggie Bear’; they make unfunny jokes with each other; and sometimes couples seem to be bonded at the hip. (Admittedly, I give credit to Adornetto for at least getting her minor characters to pull Bethany away from Xavier for 5 minutes to tell her that their relationship is unhealthy. The rare moments of clarity in this book were quite refreshing.)
The main event of the first act of the book is a party that all the dumb teenagers (who seem to speak like they’re way younger than 18) are arranging for Halloween, in a creepy old mansion. Bethany is unsure of going, but decides to tag along to please Xavier, as well as her female friends who are guilt-tripping her for spending too much time with Xavier.
The girls, being silly teenagers (yeah, if you’re a minor teenage character in this series, expect to be characterised as a moron with no two brain cells to rub together), decide to hold a séance at the party. Bethany tries to chicken out several times, but each time she’s guilt-tripped back into it, because the silly cow doesn’t want to be labelled a ‘buzz-kill’.
Spooky shit happens during the séance, and they end up letting bad boy demon Jake Thorn back into this world to wreak havoc. For those of you who don’t know Jake Thorn, he’s supposed to be one of the princes of Hell, but Bethany defeated him with the power of love in the previous book. A demonic being of pure evil gets the same defeat as No Heart from the Care Bears cartoons.
During the séance, Xavier went off with his guy friends, and everyone starts running around like headless chickens when somebody is seriously injured. Oh, and it nearly breaks Bethany’s heart in two when it’s rumoured to be Xavier. Her darling boyfriend is actually alright, but she accepts a motorcycle ride from someone in the guise of one of Xavier’s friends… Who then reveals himself to be Jake Thorn.
OH NO! OUR HEROINE IS ON A MOTORCYCLE, SPEEDING OFF WITH HER ARMS ROUND THE WAIST OF A VERY BAD MAN WHO IS ALSO GRIPPING HER HAIR. WHAT CAN SHE DO?
Seriously, that’s ALL she had to do. Just summon up some upper-body strength and wrench herself out of his grip. She’s an angel, it’s not like she’s going to die if she lands on the asphalt. I remember angels being able to heal themselves and others in the previous book, so basically, Bethany has doomed her own self. By being stupid enough to agree to the séance, for believing that random stranger on a motorbike was going to take her to Xavier, and for not taking control of her situation and ROLLING OFF THE BIKE.
So yeah, a portal to Hell opens up, and Bethany STILL makes no attempt to escape. After traversing through the murky nightclubs in the third circle of Hell (playing tunes by LMFAO, I kid you not), Jake checks Bethany into the penthouse suite of a swanky hotel, with her very own maid.
While in the hotel with Bethany, Jake continues to try to get into Bethany’s pure white cotton panties, trying to be dastardly but failing. He reveals he’s obsessed with Bethany, and wants her to be the Queen of the Underworld with him.
Jake darts about doing all these devilish things we aren’t really privy to, but of course we’ve got to learn about Hanna. She’s a young German girl damned to hell after being drafted into the Hitler Youth and working at a concentration camp, selling her life to Jake in exchange for her Jewish friend, who was in no fit state for hard labour, and who ended up dying anyway. Yeah, um, let’s just say that it isn’t written as some kind of heartbreaking revelation. It’s just a cheap ‘hey something very sad happened to me’, whilst Bethany whimpers about how sad it is.
You may also be wondering how Xavier, Gabriel, and Ivy are doing now Bethany is stuck in Hell. Gabriel is an archangel and Ivy is a Seraphim. But it seems nothing can be done to save Bethany. There’s no such thing as divine intervention. Apparently you must submit requests 6 weeks in advance and then give another 8 weeks for approval and then you can do something.
Nah, it’s not exactly 14 weeks of waiting around. I made that up, because it’s never actually specified. All that happens is that Xavier confronts Gabriel and Ivy about why they’re doing nothing, and Gabriel and Ivy reply that there is nothing they can do until the powers that be give them the a-okay.
Oh, seriously, just let Bethany burn. Don’t go to all that trouble.
Heck, later in the novel Xavier asks why the angels couldn’t save Bethany earlier, to which they reply that they just had to wait for God to observe their faith and loyalty. Only THEN will something be done about Bethany’s predicament.
Since the book is written from a first-person perspective, how do we know what Ivy, Xavier and Gabriel are doing, considering Bethany is a dimension away from them? Well, one of Jake’s lackeys decides to show Beth this magical body of water she can go to that gives her the power to project herself into the world of the living. She can’t interact, but she can watch. Rather than split the narrative between the boy and the girl like Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, let’s have our main character observing what’s going on.
Well, anyway, these scenes are tedious and just drag on and on. Like so:
Yes, after much thumb-twiddling by the Heavenly authorities, Michael comes in and it’s all serious business.
At least, it would be if Bethany stopped going on and on and on about people’s physical features. Sorry to sidetrack, but it really does bug me how Adornetto almost never talks about anything other than the face, hair, or physique of her characters. Her males are strong, tanned/slightly pale, and muscly. Her females have blonde, brown, or ‘titian’ hair… ugh. I’ll let these quotes do the rest for me:
Blond hair framed his sculpted face and his silver eyes gazed at her attentively. (Page 186)
His boyish beauty contrasted strangely with his marble-sculpted body. (Page 191)
Xavier scraped his walnut-coloured hair away from his face. (Page 345)
I remembered the moment I first saw Xavier sitting on the pier. He’d looked up at me, the light of the setting sun picking up the golden strands in his honey brown hair. (Page 397)
Xavier’s hair had always been a soft shade of brown like honey or walnuts… (Page 397)
He was just as I remembered him, tall and broad shouldered with eyes of liquid blue. The honey-coloured strands of hair that fell across his forehead were still streaked with gold. (Page 423)
Right now I feel like every two seconds I was reminded Xavier and Gabriel and Michael are gorgeous paragons of manhood with rippling muscles and sparkling eyes. Yes, Adornetto. Of these things I am certain: the sky is blue, the Pope is a Catholic, bears shit in the woods, and you’re not a very good writer.
Anyway, Michael comes and says that they have to go and consult a possessed nun in Tennessee. Xavier then says a really stupid line:
“I wasn’t aware it would result in the Apocalypse,” Xavier said drily. “That would be an unfortunate side-effect.”
Is he a sociopath? The apocalypse means the deaths of billions of people, the total razing of the earth… but that doesn’t matter because he’s so in love with Bethany. Gag.
Also, during this road trip from Georgia to Tennessee, one of Bethany’s friends is dragged along: Molly! Remember her? The idiot who thinks Africa is a country? She’s still just as annoying to read, because she and Xavier bicker all the time. This serves no purpose other than to pad the story out even further. You could stuff some bras, mattresses, pillows and duvets with how much stupid fluff there is in this novel.
When Bethany wakes up back in the underworld, she’s attended to by Asia, one of Jake’s personal assistants. It’s interesting here to see that Adornetto has clearly taken writing classes from P.C. and Kristin Cast, because pretty much every time Asia is in the picture, her skin colour and other racial features are described. It’s either ‘milky coffee’ or ‘milk chocolate’. Her hair is black and curly, ‘like spun wool’. Hey, Adornetto? I can imagine what characters look like without needing to be reminded all the time.
Sorry, but it really does annoy me when characters are over-described. One of the golden rules of creative writing is to not assume that your audience are thicker than two planks, after all.
Bethany goes clubbing with Jake, and here’s where I kept getting annoyed. It’s so clear to see that the author has very conservative Christian beliefs. Wearing make-up and clubbing gear is described in a very bad light. And oh my goodness, what goes on in Hell’s nightclubs would make the Pope cry! Bethany is SO upset by this that she wants to go back to her hotel room!
Seriously, Hell has hotels and nightclubs. Just like the Sunset Strip, except for the odd public torture session. Bethany is currently residing in the third circle, so if you’ve read Dante Aligheri’s Inferno, you’ll know it’s where gluttons are cursed to drown in muck for all eternity. I believe Aligheri is spinning in his grave now, especially when Adornetto described the ninth circle as the hottest, when actually, for the most part in Dante’s Inferno, it’s frozen. Research FAIL.
Going back to the hotel in disgrace, Bethany peeks around a conference room with an open door and sees… Big Daddy. Yeah, that’s what the demons call Lucifer.
3, 2, 1 – *headdesk!*
Guess how Adornetto has interpreted such a classical character? She dresses him in a snappy white linen business suit and cowboy boots. Also, he gives Powerpoint presentations to the other demons on how they’re going to bring about the Apocalypse. (Heaven and Hell at least have one thing in common – bureaucracy!)
More of Adornetto’s conservative views come into play here. Lucifer pretty much says that the earth is ripe for the taking because people are now doubting religion. Pfft. I’ve taken a few Sociology and Religious Studies classes in my time, and while it is true that church attendance is decreasing, and post-modernists say we can pick and choose our religious beliefs just like walking down an aisle at a supermarket, religion does still exist in many people’s lives. It’s not dying, a huge percentage of people are religious in some way. So this makes no sense.
Shortly after, Bethany is asked to accompany Jake on a parade. Like an idiot, she shows off her angelic powers when she sees someone in need of help, and all the demons turn on her. Hooray for characters who are so kind that even the Care Bears would tell them to stop being so sentimental.
Lucifer gets wind of this rule-breaking, and like the school headmaster, demands Bethany be brought into his office so he can tell her off. It’s really hard for me to take the Lucifer in this novel seriously. He’s called Big Daddy, wears a white suit with spangly cowboy boots… Just like a rodeo performer.
Bethany and Jake are summoned into Principal Morning-Star’s office, and while there he reveals that Bethany’s capture was used to send a message to the Heavenly authorities: he intends to cause the apocalypse.
Oh no! Surely Heaven has to seriously pull their socks up now. One of their kind is being used to cause the death of billions!
Or you could authorise the paperwork that means Bethany is no longer an angel. Bada-bing, bada-boom. Job done.
But no, we get some more astral projection. Bethany finds her way into Xavier’s bedroom. Xavier feels a spiritual presence, so Bethany writes ‘XAVIER + BETHANY’ on the foggy window-pane. Yeah, communicate the IMPORTANT information, or tell your boyfriend you love him. Your priorities. Sort them out.
What follows is a tedious sequence of events in which Molly tries to confess her undying love to Gabriel. Gabriel, being a jaded old archangel, isn’t keen on the idea of falling in love with a human, so he rejects her. ISN’T THIS SAD, READERS? THEY CAN NEVER BE TOGETHER! BOO HOO!
Back in the Underworld, Lucifer decides that a fitting torture for Bethany would be being burned at the stake. But unfortunately, Heaven intervenes. Wait, the Heavenly powers can cast some kind of divine magic that stops Bethany being engulfed in flames into the bowels of Hell, but a simple rescue mission has to be waited on for God’s approval?
Beth is then taken to prison and astral projects some more as Ivy, Gabriel, Xavier and Molly drive from Georgia into Tennessee. More bickering and purple prose describing the scenery follows.
They get to the nunnery and are greeted by Sister Faith (ooh, I remember you from Timesplitters!), who introduces them to the possessed nun: a stinking, twisted being who was once Sister Mary Clare. This demonic possession subplot was so dragged out I was almost cheering when it was over. I don’t need to know the characters are booking into a motel and eating fried chicken and confessing their feelings. Just get to the point. Go to the nunnery, find the nun who’s possessed, get the information, cast the demon back into the pit. But no, we have to wade through pages of this dreck.
The angels extract the information they need: the nearest portal to Hell is on the site of a 60 year old train-wreck in Alabama.
Bethany comes out of her projection and out of prison. She then lets slip that she’s been doing all this astral projection crap to Jake and naturally, he’s angry with her.
What follows is basically Jake being jealous of Xavier and trying to make him crash his car, including a very stupid scene in which Bethany’s spirit uses the power of TRU LUV to merge with the radio waves so she can warn him. She uses the power of true love again to manifest physically in the car with Jake and Xavier and to stop the car careening off the edge of a cliff. Aw, boo.
Then Bethany’s taken back to the Underworld, and from there it’s just a rip-off of Phantom of the Opera. Jake drags Bethany down into a dank cavern decorated with candles, rose petals, a bed with satin sheets, and even summons a gondola from a misty lake. Jake offers Bethany a deal – if she has sex with him once, Xavier will never be harmed again. Bethany reluctantly agrees, but then goes into ranting mode.
”It’s not a big deal.”
“It is a big deal! You’re supposed to have sex with the person you love, the person you trust, the person you hope to be the father your children. The purpose of sex is to create life.”
Hey, Adornetto? What if a man and a woman can’t create life naturally due to infertility or genetic issues? What then? Are they supposed to remain celibate? And what about people in same sex relationships, huh?
Well, anyway, Bethany whines a little while longer, and then…
I heard Jake let out a vicious stream of curses right before the far wall exploded in an ear-splitting shower of dirt and stone, and a familiar 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible plunged through the jagged hole. The car seemed to soar through the air in slow motion as it ploughed into the cave and landed meters from us with a sound like a thunderclap.
You just read that right. I am not making that up. Xavier’s car just somehow burst through the wall. Deus ex automobilis.
Jake is then soundly defeated, and Beth has to go quickly back to the portal with them because it’s going to close soon! Just like Metroid.
Well, Bethany leaves behind Hanna and Tuck, and some months later, she’s graduating high school. Xavier takes her to one side and proposes marriage. Between a human and an angel. He even tells her that the local priest has been informed and they can elope right away!
…Except you can’t do that. Not in most countries or churches, anyway. It’s not that easy, Adornetto. It might be as simple as clicking ‘propose marriage’ on The Sims, but in real life there’s paperwork and legalities to go through.
Just as Xavier makes this revelation and hands Bethany her engagement ring, the ground starts to tremble, almost as if the forces of Heaven itself are against this union. Guys, you’re kind of being a bit selfish here. You could trigger the apocalypse…
Please, somebody remind me how Bethany hasn’t lost her angel wings yet. She’s doing all this things angels consider to be huge no-nos (such as being lustful and selfish), yet manages to get away with it. God should punish her the same way he punished Alexiel in the manga Angel Sanctuary – encase her in ice and curse her soul to forever reincarnate into humans destined to lead miserable lives. But no, Bethany’s going to get married in the next book. That’s a new track record. She knows Xavier for a year, and he proposes marriage? Even the Twilight books didn’t move that fast!
It’s like the awfulness of this book was scripted, or something. Please tell me nobody uses that much purple prose, repeats character attributes or shitty dialogue in the real world. Bethany is stupid, Jake is an absolutely pathetic villain, and even though Lucifer has all this build-up, it’s completely destroyed with Adornetto’s interpretation. Also, he barely does anything! He chastises Bethany twice… then when Jake lets her out of prison, all seems to have been forgotten, as Lucifer never makes an appearance again. Where did he go? I guess he needed to go pick up his dry cleaning or something. Whatever the case, this novel was awful, and there’s ANOTHER ONE coming out in August. Going by the trailer, it’s going to be just as cheesy and just as full of padding, bad writing, and unlikable, stupid characters as the first two. 1/5.