Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Happy Hour in Hell

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews the second Bobby Dollar novel, Happy Hour in Hell, written by Tad Williams and published by Hodder in the UK and DAW in the USA. This urban fantasy novel was recieved for review from DAW via NetGalley, and was released on September 3rd.

“An excellent second outing for Bobby Dollar, Tad Williams has crafted an extremely fine book here that once again, is one of my favourites of the year. Readers who loved The Dirty Streets of Heaven will adore Happy Hour in Hell. It’s brilliant, amazing and engrossing.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

Bobby Dollar has a problem or four of epic proportions. Problem one: his best friend Sam has given him an angel’s feather that also happens to be evidence of an unholy pact between Bobby’s employers and those who dwell in the infernal depths. Problem two: Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell, wants to get his claws on the feather at all costs, but particularly at all cost to Bobby . Problem three: Bobby has fallen in love with Casimira, Countess of Cold Hands, who just happens
to be Eligor’s girlfriend. Problem four: Eligor, aware of Problem three, has whisked Casimira off to the Bottomless Pit itself, telling Bobby he will never see her again unless he hands over the feather.

But Bobby, long-time veteran of the endless war between above and below, is not the type of guy who finds Hell intimidating. All he has to do is toss on a demon’s body, sneak through the infernal gates, solve the mystery of the angel’s feather, and rescue the girl. Saving the day should just be a matter of an eon or two of anguish, mutilation and horror.

I recently read and reviewed the first outing for Bobby Dollar, The Dirty Streets of Heaven, and really enjoyed it. It’s a strong, fast-paced book that I view as one of Urban Fantasy’s greatest works. So of course, I was going to enjoy the sequel – and Tad Williams has really delivered here with another stunning entry, taking the protagonist to places where few writers dare to cover. Hell. If you thought Happy Hour in Hell was just a pun for something clever and didn’t really connect to the overall story, then you’d be wrong. The book does what it says on the tin, with the vast majority of Happy Hour in Hell actually taking place in Hell, as Tad Williams delivers a unique and horrifying vision of what Hell looks like. Okay, there’s still a pun thrown into the title – of course, Bobby Dollar isn’t going to solve the problem in an hour. But that doesn’t really matter when the follow up to the spectacular The Dirty Streets of Heaven is just as spectacular.

Happy Hour in HellI was lucky enough to receive an early copy of this book and I was so glad that I did, because that way – once I finished The Dirty Streets of Heaven, I could jump straight in. Bobby Dollar’s fast paced narrative is strong and gripping, and the character’s quips puts even the likes of Harry Dresden and Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark to shame, with some fun, likeable and interesting pages that really get you behind the main character, who once again remains the only Point of View in the entire book.

Like The Dirty Streets of Heaven, Happy Hour in Hell continues the trend of being pretty much a noir-themed urban fantasy with a strong emphasis on Heaven and Hell. However, the noir-themed element only really remains in the scenes not set in Hell, which roughly accounts for about 10% of the book. There’s a good reason then, why some people feel like that the sections set in Hell drag on for too long and could have been cut down, but I for one – wasn’t really bothered by this flaw and for me, I loved the exploration of the dark and unforgiving world that Tad Williams has thrust Bobby Dollar into.

From the get go, you know that Bobby’s out of his depth. He’s up against all odds here, and the book mostly throws him headlong into one sequence after another. The character goes literally as well as physically through hell in this book, proving that Tad Williams is not one to treat his main characters kindly. You’ll be pleased to know that the book doesn’t bog down the once-more lightning fast pace by having Bobby drone on about why God would create such a place and allow people to exist there, but the question does pop up throughout the book. However, don’t expect to get any answers.

Williams’ writing is confident, firm and effective. I was hooked right from the beginning and read the whole book in a couple of sittings, proving that I move through books a lot quicker with a lack of Internet, as this was one of the books that I took with me on my Kindle to read when I was in France earlier last month. Readers who liked book one will equally enjoy book two – and it will leave readers on the edge for the third book. I can’t wait to see where Williams takes the series following Dollar’s return from hell, and the book itself allows for an excellent read.

A book of the year contender once again – I enjoyed this second instalment as much as the first one. Urban fantasy readers cannot afford to miss this.

VERDICT: 5/5

BOBBY DOLLAR SERIES: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (2012), Happy Hour in Hell (2013), Judgement Day (Forthcoming)

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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