I eagerly got Ally Blue’s second book in her Hellscape series but then realized how little I remembered of the first book a year ago. I re-read my review so I would have some idea of who the characters were though I remembered the concept surprisingly well. I commented in my review of the first book that I would love to see books about the secondary characters such as Sandman. Well apparently I got my wish because the second book is all about Sandman, a character I literally did not (and still don’t) remember from the first book. That didn’t really phase me and the second book in the series is actually much stronger than the first. It also can easily be read as a stand alone, a fact that I am extremely grateful for as I was not going to re-read the first one. So dystopian fans – check this one out, it’s really good and can be read on its own.
Sandman was once a Gutter, an orphan left to fend for himself with one eye among the gangs of children on Hell’s End. However, once they get too old the teenagers are chased out by the rest of the gang if not outright killed and eaten. It’s a savage, vicious cycle and one Sandman ruled himself. Knowing his time is about up though he bribes his way onto a passenger ship for Mars, thinking to start a new life for himself. However before he can even leave the ship, he’s caught up in a terrorist plot and earns himself a one-way ticket to a lifetime imprisonment on Earth. Politics, intrigue, and bad navigation have him and fellow passenger Vijay as the sole survivors crash landing on Earth. Now they must rely on each other to figure out what is going on and whom they can trust.
The world building is the same as the first book, although there are only references made to Hell’s End. Instead there are entirely new worlds introduced, Mars and Earth, that connect to Hell’s End but are entirely separate entities. This helps for new readers and any, like me, that don’t remember all the details of Hell’s End. It’s not really important to have read the first book as any additional information is offered here. The plot can be somewhat convoluted at times and not altogether logical. I didn’t really mind though because some of the corners the plot got into would have been nearly impossible to get out of in a rational manner so some hand waving had to happen. The high level of action and near non-stop tension helps smooth over these hiccups in a really satisfying way. I’m usually a stickler for such things but honestly it never bothered me. There is really too much going on for most readers to keep close track of details so I don’t think most will mind.
Additionally what makes this particular story better than the previous book in the series is that the main couple, Sandman and Vijay, has real chemistry. Unlike the other couple that I struggle to connect to, I was rooting for them from the very beginning. Sandman is an extremely engaging narrator and I quite frankly loved almost everything about him. He’s complex and difficult and likely aggravating and annoying to everyone around him but he’s such a good character that I adored him almost instantly. His real passion and chemistry with Vijay helped bring their relationship much needed weight and depth. Vijay is less charming but he holds his own as both a narrator and character. The two men alternate third person narrator and it works very well for the story. Their individual flaws, fears, and strengths shine through with stark contrast and interest.
If there are any flaws it’s definitely in the plot. There is so much going on and the ending is really tacked on. The tension and action is high and non-stop for the entire novel, only to have the most difficult part take place off page with a pseudo-epilogue to show everyone lives happily ever after. I wanted to know so much more and felt as though this wrap up was too easy and hand waving. They were facing one of the most difficult fights for control and oh months later, all’s great! Getting into all that detail would have necessitated another book so I understand the desire to wrap up this one in a happy ending but it did leave me wanting. Though once again there are so many good supporting characters that I simply enjoy reading about this world. The characters are rich and the plots, while convoluted and not entirely logical, are entertaining and interesting. I’m more than willing to suspend disbelief for this series and I hope there are more to come. This is a book I’d read again and I think dystopian fans will enjoy the entire series, no matter which book they start with.