Release Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy
The first installment in a fabulous dark urban fantasy series—think Kill Bill with demons and gangsters instead of martial arts—from the award-winning author of the Iron Codex trilogy and Vertigo comic Coffin Hill
Ava has spent the last hundred years as a hellhound, the indentured servant of a reaper who hunts errant souls and sends them to Hell. When a human necromancer convinces her to steal her reaper’s scythe, Ava incurs the wrath of the demon Lilith, her reaper’s boss.
As punishment for her transgression, Lilith orders Ava to track down the last soul in her reaper’s ledger . . . or die trying.
But after a hundred years of servitude, it’s time for payback. And Hell hath no fury like an avenging Ava.
I'd died because I was loyal. Loyalty was for stupid girls and brainless thugs, I wasn't either of those things anymore.
All of the demons in Hell are inhuman monstrosities, but Lilith craves only the end of everything. She wants to taste the ash of the burning world on her tongue.
BLACK DOG is one of those books where it felt like something at first then the world got upended and you end up with a totally different story. To expound on the plot, Ava found herself in a world of shit after aligning with Leo the necromancer. She found herself amongst The Fallen, fighting against, Lilith as she tries to free Lucifer from Tartarus. Yeah I know it's a lot and it does sound good lined up like that, right?
Well here's the thing, BLACK DOG by Caitlin Kittredge is predominantly made up of high intensity, high powered action and chases. If you're an (bookish) adrenalin junkie like me then you'll get a kick out of all the shitty situations Ava found herself in. Right off the gate Leo got her, struck a deal, and off they went to have more terrible adventures together. It's this breakneck speed that made BLACK DOG such an enthralling read and a quick one at that.
The thing is, the plot kept on growing where it felt like there's too much going on to the point where some of the earlier threads felt unnecessary. Like Leo's deal with Ava? By the end of BLACK DOG it felt like a distraction and nothing more. Then there's the Lucifer business. I've read a LOT of books where the Prince of Lies was the final prize but the writer usually nips it in the bud before his prison break. CKittredge didn't back down though and the build-up for The Morning Star's freedom was so ripe I was so ready to oooh and ahhh in awe. I mean really, Lucifer as a character in the story?! It ought to be EPIC right?! Like devastatingly good that I want to know HOW CKittredge is going to make such an infamous and colossal character small enough to fit the story but still big enough to be formidable and almost invincible.
That said, BLACK DOG is obviously a very character driven story. Lots of interesting personalities from Russian mafioso, brothel whores to redneck shifters and rogue Fallen. A great salad of creatures that would appeal to most UF readers. Ava is an okay heroine to me with a big potential to be great. She started as a pawn, an errand chick and ended up being the top dog pun intended! I liked her history too, the flashbacks provided a great breadth of her growth as a character and naturally made me understand why she's the way she is. There's not much stuff on Leo though so maybe we'll know more of him in the next book?
BLACK DOG is one of those books whose strengths also became it's weakness. The pace is great and fast but too fast that the potent parts of the story felt like it was plunked in the middle of chaos. We started with hellhounds and a simple soul collection tale and ended up with Lucifer, Death (the guy on a horse), and an impending powerplay in Hell. And there's a lot of scenes where Ava was just snatched and found herself in new locations, new places, and new shiznit to deal with. Didn't work too well for me. However, BLACK DOG is the first in a new series so I'll cut Hellhound Chronicles some slack, beginnings are usually wonky so maybe, hopefully, book 2 is better.