Author: Hayden Thorne
Length: 319 Pages (Kindle)
Category: Historical, Gothic Romance
At a Glance: I highly recommend this one, guys. Super cool, spooky, action-packed, New Adult spec fic. Go grab it!
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Decima is a centuries-old Italian city on the water, a vanity project meant to be a fairy tale escape for the titled and the privileged. But something in the distant past had turned it into a murky, putrid dreamscape instead, a crumbling city haunted by a scourge of revenants whose origins and purpose now seem destined to be hidden in the shadows forever. Not even the brave, dogged attempts at fighting midnight creatures by the descendants of a select bloodline can rid the city of the near-daily threat.
Michele De Santis is a young minor sorcerer, a reluctant champion who, along with his twin sister and his cousin, has lost too much through the years and has resigned himself to a life of endless midnight hunts while selling healing and protection spells and artifacts during the day. A life of loneliness, of a forced solitude in a desperate bid at keeping collateral damage at a minimum appears to be his only future.
When long-dead corpses suddenly turn without vampire bites, logical patterns no longer hold true, leaving the weary hunters baffled and unsure for the first time. Decima’s bronze guardians fall silent for no reason, a dark, binding spell muting their warnings. A long-abandoned church shows signs of life in the most grotesque ways imaginable. And everything seems to point to an unknown threat, one that’s long lain dormant but has been awakened by the arrival of a young English heir and his amateur antiquarian uncle.
Romance and the gothic layer ‘Hell-Knights’ with the dark, rich textures of an alternate universe Europe, a nineteenth century world where magic reigns supreme, and love knows no gender.
Review: As one can tell from my reviews, I tend to read more contemporary romances than anything else. Lately, though, I have been reading more and more speculative fiction, and I do have a handful of favorite authors who write it: Jordan L. Hawk, Andrea Speed, and KZ Snow, to name a few. Hayden Thorne has now joined those ranks. Hell-Knights totally wowed me, you guys. Wowed me. Historical paranormals are among some of my favorite books to read, and this one gripped me from start to finish.
The setting is alternate universe, 19th century Europe—this book takes place mainly in Italy, and specifically, the island city of Decima—and it couldn’t be more bizarrely fantastic. There’s magic, mystery, vampire hunters, romance. I feel like the grandpa in The Princess Bride… “Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” It’s true, though! Hell-Knights delivers with all of that and more.
Originally planned and built as a place where more prominent Italians could show off their wealth, Decima is now a dying city. Strange happenings, long-time rumors of dark magic, and a sickening fog that blankets the city each evening have continued to drive people away, creating population decay and the crumbling of many of Decima’s structures and neighborhoods. The rumors and speculation, however, have dwindled over the centuries, until the Decimans basically pretend there is nothing untoward going on, and that it’s perfectly normal for no one to go out after dark. Despite the rumors, no one knows that their city is plagued with a vampire scourge, and dark magic that is more deeply ingrained in the city than anyone realizes. No one, that is, except for the De Santis clan.
Michele De Santis runs the family magic shop along with his twin sister, Evelina, and cousin, Ignazio. They are minor sorcerers, but that’s not all they do. Born into a family of magicians and vampire hunters—one of the twelve bloodlines tasked with protecting Italy—it’s their duty to fight the revenants threatening the city whenever they are called. Which lately seems like every night. Michele has resigned himself to this life of what is expected of him. Run the shop. Hunt and destroy the vampires with his sister and cousin. What he doesn’t expect is to fall head over heels for the Englishman who wanders into the shop one afternoon.
Gabriel is visiting Decima with his Uncle Vincent to assist him on a research trip, but mainly to get him away from his overbearing and uncaring grandparents who are unhappy with Gabriel over a scandal with his ex-suitor. Gabriel is immediately drawn to Michele upon meeting him in his shop, and is clearly fascinated and awe-struck by all things magic. The fact that Michele is also drawn to Gabriel just ups the ante due to the magnification effect of Michele’s being a minor sorcerer. I loved the concept of magnification to further explain/justify the insta-love between our two MCs. I was already on board with them as a couple, but the theory behind the magnification was very cool.
Everything worked for me in this book. The mystery is fabulous: Why are there suddenly so many revenants to dispatch? Why are the city’s Guardians no longer speaking to Michele? How can the strange things Gabriel has personally been experiencing be explained? The AU worldbuilding was amazing, and all the book’s descriptions and visuals were so lush and intriguing. I loved the tenet that magic is commonplace knowledge among all people, with Italy’s magic being a slightly different brand than that in other countries. There are no ‘muggles’. And, I also loved the romance between Michele and Gabriel. They were passionate and sweet together, and I adored the epilogue.
Hell-Knights was my first Hayden Thorne, but will undoubtedly not be my last. I look forward to reading much more of her work! I highly recommend this one, guys. Super cool, spooky, action-packed, New Adult spec fic. Go grab it!
You can buy Hell-Knights here: