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Review: Death’s Hand by S.M. Reine (Descent #1)

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Death's Hand by S.M. Reine // VBC ReviewDeath’s Hand (Descent #1)
S.M. Reine

Published: Oct. 21, 2011 (Red Iris Books)
Purchase at: Amazon

Reviewed by: Jo

Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars

The deadliest of all the Kopis (demon hunters) is not a title you can get away from easily, but that’s exactly what Elise has been trying to do. Rescued by James after being kidnapped and orphaned, Elsie spent her teenage years traveling and killing hell’s worst with him, her Aspis, at her side. After a near-fatal run in with a death goddess, the pair decided it’s high time for retirement.

Five years later, Elise is content in her new role as an accountant. While she still encounters some lesser demons through her job, her days of slaying are behind her. When James comes to her saying a desperate family has been in contact with his coven, worried their daughter has been possessed, Elise wants no part in it. When the child’s behavior escalates to dangerous levels and Elise is attacked by hellish minions and zombies, the choice is taken out of her hands. She finds herself in a race against time, not only to save the girl but also those closest to her before hell on earth (and possibly the zombie apocalypse) becomes a reality.

I really, really like the concept of this world. The scenes with the young girl and the effect on her family were particularly vivid with moments that reminded me of the movie The Exorcist. The demonic side felt truly threatening and the magic potent. I was fascinated by the idea of the Kopis and Aspis (meaning sword and shield in ancient Greek), one being the fighter and the other a power source of magic for protection and back up. I say concept because not much back story is given on the organization behind this fighting team, nor the demons and their hierarchy. At times I found it confusing and wished we had more information.

Hardened by a tragic past and years of brutal fighting Elise keeps everyone at arms length and I found her quite cold for the first half of the book. It’s not until she began to open up to some of the characters around her that we start to glimpse the girl behind the armor, showing some vulnerability. Once this happened she became one of the most complex and interesting female characters I’ve come across in a while.

The relationship between Elise and James is deep, sharing a past and many secrets but I loved the fact it wasn’t romantic. Even though she experiences bouts of jealous at his involvement with another character, it is much more akin to a sibling bond. Whilst Elsie trusted him implicitly, I came away not being totally sure about James. Secrets lie there, ones I want to know.

The journey taken in Death’s Hand is a dark one, filled with demons and magic. It has characters who are damaged and a world that is brutal and gritty. With a combination of full-out action and chilling moments of horror, the tension builds though out to a pretty dramatic climax. Raising more questions than it answered, at times Death’s Hand left me frustrated, but overall I was intrigued and ready to know more.

Sexual content: non graphic sex scenes

Note: the prequel novella to this, Death’s Avatar, tells the story if what happened five years ago to Elise and James, causing them to go into hiding. It gives great background for the characters and is worth reading before picking this up. It is included in the latest edition of Death’s Hand (Dec. 19, 2012).

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