Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“When a man of heavenly worth sins in Hell, darkness shall reign upon the Earth.”
Anyone who has read Duncan Thompson’s Shadows Of The Woods has been DYING for the next book in the series, and here it is in all its glory! I’m yet to find an author who can fully capture the terrifying and the downright gruesome as much as D.T can, and in book two of The Shadows Series, we revisit Joe Costello right where we left off from book one. That cliff hanger alone made me so desperate to read this book! I’m so happy to be on the blog tour today – make sure you check out all the other reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!
A message from the other side – an omen of the impending apocalypse. A message intended for one man, the only man who can prevent Armageddon, saving the soul of every man, woman and child on Earth. That man is Joe Costello.
But, not only is Joe trapped in the underworld, he is also the same man who has the power to unleash the shadows of hell upon the world.
Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, Joe must battle his way through the nine circles of Hell – his escape being the key to salvation. Not only will he face all manner of Hell’s demons, he’ll also face his own.
However, Joe is not alone on his journey, as he is guided through each level of Hell by medium and psychic, Layla Thorne. Shadows of Hell is the epic follow-up to Shadows of the Woods.
I remembered how the author had a really clever way of pulling you into any one scene in book one, and even before I’d finished that very first paragraph in this book, I got that familiar chill down my spine that I recognised from before. This was a seriously creepy opening! I really warmed to Joe in the first book, so it was brilliant hearing about this character again. I appreciated how we revisited those vital parts from the ending of the first book, reminding us how Joe had been face to face with Shadowmen, cutting his hand to spill blood for a sacrifice that didn’t work, and being torn from his fiancée, Linda, who he was desperate to get back to. The transition between books was flawless and the opening was incredibly strong. I loved the setting we’re introduced to here, and I was mesmerised by the detail from the author. This place seemed to be somewhere I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to end up, and I was so excited to read more about it. What exactly would Joe experience here?!
I loved hearing about how Joe’s fiancée was coping (or not) with Joe not being in her life anymore, and this switch in perspective worked really well. As years had passed since his disappearance or ‘death’, her lifestyle had changed, and it was rather saddening seeing this change in her character. We also see how some other characters respond to potential sightings of what they named, “Shades” – just the smallest mention of this made me think of book one once again, and just how terrifying I found the Shadowmen. It seemed they hadn’t truly disappeared along with Joe, and the thought of how they could potentially terrorise a whole new group of people turned my stomach. Despite my feelings of horror here, I was also incredibly excited for what was to come, and I knew we were in for treat. Would Joe ever make it back to what was left of his family? Or would this new found place consume all that was left of him?
“I can’t move on! I’m trying, I really am, but I can’t shake this feeling that he is going to walk through that door at any minute and everything will go back to how it was.”
I loved every description we come across; the chill felt by characters as these creatures are near, the stench that permeates the air around them. Each sentence is written in a way that makes you unable to take your eyes from the book, desperate to know the outcome for these characters. It’s quite a surreal feeling, but a familiar one after loving the author’s way of writing in book one. It’s easy to feel scared, and the fact that the author can effortlessly inflict this feeling on his readers through words will always amaze me! Going back to Linda’s experiences, she finds herself sat watching a medium in a pub with her sister, and the last thing she expects is hearing a message from Joe – he’s in trouble (or so he says through the meduim) and his plea for help brings Linda to her knees. Hearing from Layla the medium’s point of view was also a refreshingly different angle to take. Genres were already colliding so far in the book and I was really enjoying the author’s direction here!
Joe wasn’t alone in this new place he’d found himself in – there were others, pleading him to save them and set them free from the hell they were in. These scenes were particularly gripping, and it’s so easy to place yourself in Joe’s shoes, feeling his fear and thinking of ways he could save himself from what may lay ahead of him. I had a strange feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach as we’re taken through such thrilling paragraphs, and I’d even convinced myself there was no way out for Joe at this point. How on earth would he be able to escape and live to tell the tale of his experiences? Already, I found this book to be much darker than book one, but the author has nailed everything about it, taking the story in a direction I never expected. The opening of the book was truly fantastic and I couldn’t fault anything I’d read – I knew this would continue throughout this horrifying journey!
We soon learn that Charlie, Joe’s friend before his death, was actually the one who spoke to the medium, giving her the message that he was still alive. I was really impressed by this change in events and just how unexpected this was, but even so, it made sense and just increased my curiosity even more. I felt saddened that Charlie’s spirit was stuck among the living, but passing on a message allowed him to cross over and finally find his peace. Would this message help Joe and Linda reunite in some way? Could Joe’s life be saved or was it simply too late now? The story had some brilliant fantasy elements that I felt really brought out the best in this book, and I was so happy the author explored this. Fantasy has never been my ‘thing’ but I do enjoy it when it’s been done well – this was one of those occasions! I got so much enjoyment out of this, and it really did make me lose track of time at certain points.
Chris soon became one of my favourite characters, and I loved how we follow his obsession with the “Shades”, finding out all he can and keeping a diary of his experience with them. He reminded me of a ghost hunter or something! Deciphering Charlie’s message was quite the task, but he was 100% the right guy for the job and I love the attention to detail at this part of the book. The author’s concept of Heaven and Hell was just perfect and really intriguing to me. It soon becomes clear that Joe is quite literally in Hell itself, and I quite liked how quickly the characters accepted this, like it was possible for someone to get sucked into a void and be transported to this awful, awful place. This is one of the many things I love about the author’s work – anything is possible in this world he’s created! The story was getting so involving at this point and I was dying to know Joe’s fate!
“It was the blackest of black magic, no doubt, and that can only be bad.”
After recently watching Behind Her Eyes on Netflix and loving it, the mention of astral projection in this book really excited me! Would these characters agree to willingly allow their souls to leave their body to go to Hell itself? Layla was a fantastic character who was willing to go to extreme lengths to help Linda, and that meant guiding Joe through the circles of Hell. Reading about the horrors Joe and Layla have to endure in each of these circles was so gripping, and the author creates such an impressive version of this place that I’m sure anyone who reads this will appreciate. He’s created such terrifying creatures that really come to life and pop out of every page, and this in particular was something that will stick in my mind from this book. I loved going on this journey with them and everything felt so real! I was concerned for Joe’s sanity after all of this, and even if he did return back to the real world, I wasn’t sure he’d ever recover from the trauma he faced in the pits of Hell.
Just when we think Joe could potentially find a way back to normality, disaster strikes once again. I knew it wouldn’t be all plain sailing! He finds himself reliving his worst memories and being reunited with some not so friendly beings, which was a phenomenal route to take in the story, and really gives us a deeper understanding of his past, involving readers even more in Joe’s life. However, it isn’t until he revisits the place where it all began, the old police station, that he begins to question exactly who he can trust in the real world. Was what he was hearing the truth, or was it simply the Shadowmen and this whole place messing with his mind? I loved how attitudes changed depending on which circle of Hell he was in, and I just hoped he’d get through them quickly before someone else ended up dead. Things were so full on here yet perfectly written, and I was desperate to know the outcome for Joe. I hoped he’d be able to get through all this and return to the real world!
There was so much drama and suspense as we reach the end of the book – Joe’s considering suicide after what he thinks he’s done in Hell, and on hearing this news, Linda even takes it upon herself to to try and end her own life. These shocking scenes are explored in great detail, with the author explaining things in such a way that blows your mind a little! As Joe gets closer to the ninth circle with Layla’s guidance, I found myself holding my breath, just as cautious as the characters were for what they were about to discover next. However, even though this was the deepest part of Hell, it was also a chance for Joe to finally get out of there. The reading experience was brilliant and I didn’t want their journey to end, but I also wouldn’t want Joe to suffer more than he had done already! Would the Shadowmen stop him from ever leaving, or would he be able to get creative in a way to beat them and even eliminate them once and for all?
Part three of the book was definitely my favourite as we join Joe and Layla braving that final circle. What we experience here was something I did not expect, and I loved the tension of every sentence, whether we’re hearing from Joe and Layla’s perspective or Chris and Alexis in the real world. Joe continues to face obstacles and intense danger, and even up until those very last chapters, the author sure knows how to completely shock his readers and create the ultimate finale. I was not prepared for who was sitting on that throne as we reached that final circle and I couldn’t predict what Joe would have to do to get out of this place. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t be easy… The author’s creation of the devil was fantastic and something that will stick in my head for a long time. How he spoke and how he acted was rather mesmerising!
“But it wasn’t the crossing of the bridges that worried him. It was what he would find on the other side of the swamp that scared him the most.”
Joe experiences torture with some brilliantly gruesome description from the author which turned my stomach on multiple occasions! I had to do some Googling about torture devices and that awful Spanish Donkey that I never knew existed – absolutely horrifying! However, this really interested me, so much that I forced myself to take a break from reading and do some research. I was fascinated but also disgusted by what I found, but it really made the book stand out so much more. The author has really thought about every detail in this book, making it so memorable and something that you can’t help but develop a kind of addiction to! I was sad the book was coming to an end, but the experience had already made me desperate for a third book. Would the final few pages end on a fabulous cliff hanger or would we get the answers to all of our burning questions?
The book left me feeling unexpectedly happy, but also concerned for what lay ahead. I had the feeling that all this wasn’t over yet, but it was unclear exactly when the characters would experience more darkness and terror. I loved the author’s approach to the ending and everything fits together perfectly. It’s clear how much the author has planned every detail and the perfect plot throughout the whole story, and it really does deliver and exceed all expectations. The epilogue was the perfect closing chapter, giving us hope for an exceptional third book in this series and potentially new characters to follow too. I had no doubt that the next book would be just as dark and gripping, and I can’t wait to see what these characters have to endure next. An absolutely fantastic book and I already want to read it through a second time! I feel like giving this book an applause right now!
I thought book one in this series was impressive, but this book is definitely my favourite so far. I loved how unexpected Joe’s journey became, and the idea of travelling through the nine circles of Hell amazed me! Things get darker than ever in this book which worked perfectly and the terror the author makes you feel is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The author has created a dark, thrilling masterpiece with a really intense atmosphere, it’s so good I’m finding it difficult to describe it in a way that will do it justice! He certainly knows exactly what his readers want from this series and delivers just that and more. Would definitely recommend for fans of horror, the supernatural and even dark fantasy!
A huge thank you to the author, Duncan Thompson, and Emma at Damp Pebbles for my copy of the book and place on the blog tour! You can purchase your own copy of Shadows of Hell over on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates on future releases.