Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Michael Dean
Length: 7 hours, 49 minutes
Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks
When Achim’s sigil goes off, he knows he has to heed the call, even though it burns and feels different than when the Goddess usually calls him into action. When the flames of the portal are blue instead of the usual red, Achim’s cautioned not to go. But Achim is a hellhound, champion of the fire Goddess, and he would never ignore her call. Of course, he ends up trapped in literal hell and meets someone running from actual hellhounds.
Ozias is the prince of hell, and he’s astonished when a human shows up in his realm. Together, they escape the hellhound pack, but there’s a pull between them that they can’t ignore. Hiding out from the terrors of the landscape, they connect on every level. And it’s only after they’re faced with another threat that Ozias learns the man who intrigues him so much is not a human, but a hellhound shifter. Even though they both know Achim can’t stay, Ozias marks him as his own. And with Ozias’ mother’s help, Achim goes back to the human realm with the promise that Ozias will follow.
It takes him a while, but Ozias finally makes it to Achim. They get off to a rocky start, mostly because Achim can’t believe that Ozias is finally there. It doesn’t take long for them to work it out, and they get to know one another even more. But there are nefarious beings afoot, and Ozias is the only one who can even hope to stop them. Together with the hellhound pack, as well as other champions, they track down the evil with the intent to stop it. But that sets off a whole new set of events that will change the world, and Achim and Ozias’ bond and mating may not be enough to keep them together. Not when they both have duties and loyalties they can’t set aside. Unless they can somehow find a way.
Hell Breaks Loose, as part of the Chosen One Universe, is part of the larger metaplot that has been weaving its way through Blake’s various series. It doesn’t work well as a standalone and, at the very least, needs to be read after the rest of the Hellhound Champions series. But even more importantly, it should be read within the context of the universe at large. Blake has most of the universe in box sets that make it easy to read in order, and there’s also a tab on her website that gives the reading order if you need it. All books leading up to this point are also now out in audio, so if that’s your preferred method of consumption, then you can dive right in.
This book has a slightly different feel than the rest of the series, and by that I mean it’s a little more in depth than the ones that come before. It still has Blake’s trademark style, fun and fleshed out characters, and lots of love and hot sex. Achim has been a secondary character throughout much of the series, so it’s great to see him in the spotlight here. Ozias is a good counterpoint to him, and I liked the way they balanced each other out. Ozias is a little more stiff, and it makes sense since he’s the actual prince of hell. He definitely has a royal air about him. But Blake manages to make their connection believable and real, and it’s easy to go with the fated aspect of their mating. Neither man quite believes that at first, but the way they’re drawn to each other speaks volumes. As far as the romance plot line goes, it’s fairly typical for what you would expect from this world. It works though, and I was glad to see Achim meet his mate.
But the rest of the story is, for me, where the plot really shines. And to be honest, things have been building for a while across all the books. I’m not going to go into too much detail here, because that’s definitely spoiler territory, but I will say there are twists that are quite surprising. Certain problems come to a head, and the resolution is quite dramatic. New characters are introduced in the last quarter of the book that open up a lot of new questions, while at the same time set things up for what we’ll see from this series and universe in the future.
If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve both read and listened to all the books for this universe. Michael Dean’s narrative voice is wonderful, and I really enjoy listening to him perform the story. It’s smooth and easy to listen to, which really makes it easy to fall into the tale. More than that, I think Dean has really nailed the emotion behind these characters. After having spent so much time in this world, it really feels like Dean embodies Blake’s voice well. However, I had a major sticking point in this one that brought things down for me. To be honest, it’s a problem I’ve had with several audios. It’s clearly not enough to keep me from listening, but the character voices are inconsistent and it really twigs my ear. Sometimes it’s from book to book, but often, and this book is an example, the voice changes within the same scene. While it’s a relatively subtle thing, it sticks out to me. Here, Ozias started out with kind of a nasally voice that eventually mellowed into something easier to listen to, so I was grateful. Other characters who have played bigger roles in other books have different voices here than they did previously. At times, it’s difficult to differentiate between who is speaking, as Dean’s choices make several characters sound very similar. After having listened to so many books, it’s something I’ve come to expect, and so I acknowledge I may be more tuned in and listening for it. As I stated though, it’s not enough for me to abandon the audios altogether, however, as Dean makes up for it with the rest of the narration.
Overall, I really enjoy this universe and the way it’s growing and changing, becoming more in depth and complex. I’m looking forward to more of what the author puts out and I’m glad to have audios in my ear when driving or crafting. Ultimately, the voices are something you should be aware of, but don’t let it deter you from listening.