Date of publication: July 27th, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Series: The Aaru Cycle
Aaru: Halls of Hel—Book 2
Where you can find Aaru: Amazon
“… 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…”
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 a 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 grueling 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 was so excited when I accepted the invitation to review this book. I will admit that I hyped up Aaru: Halls of Hel in my mind more than I should have. Usually, I get burned by the book. It ends up not being as good as I thought it would be. Not in this case. Aaru: Halls of Hel lived up to my mental hype.
Aaru: Halls of Hel takes place shortly after the events of Aaru. Rose has been made into the Arch Veda of Aaru. As she grows into the role that she was given, Rose deepens her relationship with Franco. She also becomes aware of Residents who were not allowed past the firewall because of different issues. While she is concerned about Koren, her first responsibility is Aaru and its Residents. Koren is not doing so well. She barely speaks to Rose. Her mother is cheating on her father. Her father is content to sit home and drink all day. Her boyfriend isn’t there for her and is seen stepping out with another girl. On top of it, she is having disturbing nightmares about Kiku’s death and the Magic Man’s assault. It is taking a toll on her and she is about to break. Hel is the Magic Man’s creation. Kept isolated in another computer, she is tortured and maimed. She has a dual nature. While loving and kind, she also is vicious. It is her dark nature that shows when she is in Aaru. How is Hel connected to Koren and Rose? Will Rose be able to look out for her sister and the Residents of Aaru? Will Koren reach a breaking point with her life? What is the Magic Man’s end game? And more importantly, who is the mysterious man helping him?
I was disappointed that I didn’t see as much as Rose as I did in the first book. I wanted to see more of what an Arch Veda could do in Aaru. I did like seeing her interactions with the other Vedas, though. I thought it was interesting what they could do and how much control they had over the Aaru’s landscape. I also liked reading about her relationship with Franco. I also wish that there was more interaction with Koren. But, that did come towards the end of the book.
Koren was a hot mess in this book. I felt so bad for her. She was spiraling out of control and had no safety net. I wondered as I read about her intense guilt over Kiku’s death and the Magic Man’s assault if she had received any sort of therapy for it. It seemed like Elysian Industries kept working her and turned a blind eye to what she was going through. She acted like the adult in her relationship with her parents. Which is sad for a barely 15-year-old. What I did like was how she was able to interact with Rose. Loved it!! I also got her confusion over meeting Hel. I would have been confused too.
I was a little confused when Hel was introduced. At first, I thought her chapters, which were brief, were Koren having nightmares about the Magic Man. I didn’t put two and two together until the Magic Man started interacting with Hel. He couldn’t have done that with Koren. Then I started to feel bad for Hel. What the Magic Man did to her was awful. What she was used for was awful. What she was programmed to think about Rose and Koren was frightening. Her skills were frightening. I winced at what she could do to the other Veda’s and Residents. But, I am curious to see where her character development goes.
The Magic Man was as slimy as he was in the first book. What he did to Hel was awful. What he wants to do to Koren was as bad. I thought he got what he deserved when he was left in Mexico. But, I was also interested in his backstory. I wanted to know how he got the way he did. There were hints and I hope that more is explained in the next book.
As always, the secondary characters added more depth to the story. I will say that I thought Koren and Rose’s parents were awful in this book.
The first plotline in Aaru: Halls of Hel was the one with Rose. It showed Rose’s rise to Arch Veda. It detailed her relationship with Franco and the other Vedas. It shows her confusion about Quarantine after Dani was snatched away from her. Her relationship with Koren was also discussed even though they didn’t interact much with each other. It also showed her confusion when Hel arrived and wrecked havoc in Aaru.
The second plotline in Aaru: Halls of Hel detailed what was going on in Koren’s life. It showed how bad Koren’s life had become. She had no relationship with her mother and barely had one with her father. All she did was work. When she did decide to take a vacation, she ended up going back after a couple of days. Because of her work schedule, she wasn’t able to talk to Rose as much as she could. Her boyfriend was a huge jerk. Things did start to get better for her towards the end of the book but man, she was a mess.
The third plotline was about Hel. It showed how much she was tortured by the Magic Man. What happened to her when she was behind the firewall was horrific. Her joy at seeing Koren was heartbreaking because of what happened to make Hel react the way she did. The same went for when she saw Rose for the first time. She loved her and she hated her. All because of what the Magic Man did to her.
The secondary storylines, like the secondary characters, added depth to the story. The author did a great job at wrapping them up and incorporating them into the main storylines. I will say that I have a good idea at who Simon was, or at least who he is in Aaru.
The end of Aaru: Halls of Hel was insane. The author left all the storylines up in the air. Which in turn left it wide open for book 3. There was a twist in the plot that I did not see coming. It took me by complete surprise when Hel introduced that person in the book. I went “No way“. Then the book ended. So, yes, a bit of a cliffhanger but man, it was good.
I gave Aaru: Halls of Hel a 4-star rating. This was a fast paced book that I enjoyed reading. The characters and their situations were relatable. I will say that the twist at the end of the book took me by surprise. It left me wanting to know more.
I would give Aaru: Halls of Hel an Adult rating. There is sex and sexual situations that were not graphic. There is violence. There is language. I would suggest that no one under the age of 21 read this book.
I would reread Aaru: Halls of Hel. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.
I would like to thank the author for allowing me to read and review Aaru: Halls of Hel.
All opinions stated in this review of Aaru: Hall of Hel are mine
**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**