Hell’s Horizon begins a bit differently than its predecessor as a murder occurs and we get to see who had a hand in it. We are then introduced to Al Jeery who is a lowly soldier in the Cardinal’s gang. He is recently divorced however is still happily in love with his ex-wife Ellen. When he returns from his fishing trip, he finds that there is a major upheaval going on in the Cardinal’s hotel as the murder of a young woman without the Cardinal’s know-how or consent is a major no-no! Al is caught between the Cardinal’s two security heads Ford Tasso and Frank Weld. However he soon gets a call from the Cardinal after an inadvertent discovery connects him rather morbidly to the event occurring in the prologue.
Al then gets his first proper meeting with the Cardinal who touches on his past and while enlightening him about his father; also gives him an offer which he cannot refuse [as to do so means certain death]. He agrees to do a “task” for the Cardinal and in the process becomes the man he was deemed to be. As he goes about his way in trying to figure out the why and how of the murder, he also runs into one of the Cardinal’s most feared weapons, Paucar Wami. Paucar however seems to interact with Al on a rather comradely note, which troubles him greatly as knowing Paucar and the legends associated with him, and not knowing the assassin’s thoughts makes him very wary and curious at the same time.
Al is then forced to consider a lot of things about the City which he never bothered with, like the fog which goes and comes, the blind priests which people rarely see, the City’s Incan origins and the cult of the sun worshippers who seem to be linked inextricably with the murder and the girl. Entwined along with the plot threads are events from the first book as both the books occur along the same time frame. The reader gets to see a bit of the action from the first book in a different perspective, Capac Raimi gets spoken about and many characters refer to him however he does not make an active appearance. We also get to know how Al had an active hand in facilitating Capac’s meeting with the Cardinal. Lastly this book lays bare much of the Incan mythology associated with the series. We get a deeper understanding of who the priests are and what they are attempting to do, in the last book the focus was on Capac and the Cardinal, in this book a similar focus is provided on Al and Paucar Wami, we also get more time with minor characters from the last book like Ford Tasso, Frank Weld, etc.
The prose in this book is similar to that of the first, the city and characters hold your attention completely and the mystery is deepened with the overall addition to the Incan mythology, however this book is much different from the first in the sense that this is a murder mystery. The central thread revolves around why the girl was murdered and what does Al have to do with it! The other plot threads involve his connection to the city, with Wami and the other characters. The overall feel is again similar to that of the first with a gritty mysterious aura prevalent through out the book but by the end of this tale the reader is much more awakened to what is truly happening in the City.
Negative points for this book are that while the first one was a fast paced tale, this book trades in a bit of the pace for a deeper understanding of the plot. The first book had a very captivating narrator whereas in this case, the narrative struggles a bit from time to time as Al Jeery is thoroughly misplaced in his role as a detective but manages to hold his own when push comes to shove. This book reads more like a detective novel than an urban fantasy one; this isn’t bad as a lot of readers might enjoy this nuanced aspect of the tale. Darren Shan has taken a risk by not rehashing the first book and making the readers experience a different type of story while enhancing their understanding of the preceding story.
CONCLUSION: Earlier it felt like that this book was a bit of a letdown after the fast paced Procession Of The Dead however on a re-read this book is seemingly the stronger of the two in terms of character and plot development. Either ways the stage is set for the third and final book in the City trilogy, wherein we will get to see Capac Raimi & Al Jeery after the events of their respective stories and with the Priests not yet done with them. The City trilogy looks set to end in a tremendous fashion and I can’t wait to read what Darren Shan has planned for the finale!