Posted on August 6, 2012 by Michael Holland
Available at DriveThruFiction.com
Hell’s Door Open
by Jon Creffield
Prince Calgus found himself standing before a mirror, regarding his own face but seeing something alien; blood surrounded his mouth, his garments were torn and faded, stained with wine and food, his blond hair matted, and his hands coated in gore.
A story’s first sentence is always an important one. Although this is not the first sentence of the novel when you take the prologue into account this is the moment readers meet Calgus, Prince of Sept. It is also the moment when you realize that Jon Creffield is going to take the classic tale of swords and sorcery and turn it on its head. Hell’s Door Open is equal parts fantasy and horror with healthy doses of great storytelling.
Prince Calgus has only recently come into his throne but he has proven himself to be a just and capable ruler. Unfortunately, he has also been saddled with the fallout of the evil works of those who came before him which have culminated in a night of utter madness afflicting all of Sept. The city is covered in blood and the enemy is at the gates.
Sevenet is a thief and a jack of all trades who had the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time committing the wrong crime. Some might call that justice but others would call it fortune. Sevenet is a survivor but there is something about the prince which moves him to act against his nature.
Jessela is a talented wizardess and the daughter of Elivas, former Astrologer Royal. Her mage craft skills are potent but will they be enough to aid the prince when he needs it most? She feels herself drawn to the prince and feels a strange stirring within herself when she is near him.
Semara is a trained courtesan as well as a secret member of the Short Fingers, female assassins under the control of the mysterious Mistress. Oh how she loathes Sevenet and his frequent advances.
This is the first book in Jon Creffield’s Hell’s Door Series and it amazes me how he is able to balance the fast moving pace of the story with an honest development of each of these four characters. Calgus and his companions struggle against the physical threats which assail them but also against the psychological and spiritual strains of having your world turned upside down in a single night. Each of Creffield’s protagonists is a product of their forbearers and they are forced to question their place in a world much larger than themselves.
Hell’s Door Open examines the relationship between mankind and deity with an eye towards the mysteries of understanding a divine will which would allow bad things to happen to good and innocent beings. Why do the gods allow evil to thrive? Where does it come from? Is anyone truly good and how does virtue survive in a vicious world? Sevenet has a few choice words on this topic and Creffield explores these issues in interesting ways.
This book is a bit of an experiment for Jon Creffield as he delves into the realm of self-publishing fantasy and science fiction. His intentions are to share what he learns through experience with the community to help others forge ahead into this young corner of the publishing industry. Hell’s Door Open is currently available in ebook format and he is working on bringing the book to print. He is also considering options for an audio book release.
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. Reading self-published fiction can still be risky at times but Jon Creffield has delivered a fine example of smart, well written literature that will entertain fans of both fantasy as well as the macabre.
Review by Michael Holland