Hellbender by Dana Cameron (47North-March 31st, 2015)-In Dana Cameron’s Fangborn Series, the Fangborn are among us – vampires, werewolves, and oracles alike. Their goal, as it has always been, is to rid the world of evil. It is not just a desire – it is a compulsion that they are powerless to ignore. Their collective hand has been forced, and they are about to reveal themselves to the public, but the welcome may not be a friendly one. In “Hellbender”, book three in the series, Archeologist Zoe Miller has become the leader of the Fangborn Family, even though she was once known as a “stray”. But with her powers growing, and new ones emerging since she opened Pandora’s Box, she reluctantly ends up making decisions that will affect them all.
However, the Order of Nicomedia is still trying to stop the Fangborn at all costs, and a radical is bent on usurping Zoe’s powers for herself. A new group has emerged in the battle – and it may just tip the balance in a direction no one could have anticipated.
Cameron has covered a lot of territory in just three books. In book one, “Seven Kinds of Hell”, we first met Zoe as she was running from her past. She was raised by her mother constantly on the run, and told only that they were hiding from her father’s family. In the meantime, she is experiencing some strange and scary things that she has no answers to. When her cousin is kidnapped, she will stop at nothing to get him back, and when the legendary Pandora’s Box gets involved, all bets are off. In book two, Zoe’s power continually drive her to find ancient artifacts in different parts of the world in order to assimilate the powers hidden within them. In the meantime, she’s trying to stay alive, as the Order of Nicomedia – an ancient organization with the sole purpose of eradicating the Fangborn – hunts her. As her powers continue to grow, she becomes more of a threat to them, and they are determined to kill her at all costs.
I find Zoe a fascinating character. She was thrust into the Fangborn world quite unexpectedly, and completely unprepared for where it would lead her. The thought of werewolves and vampires existing in the real world was something she struggled to accept. She has lost the only family she ever had, she has Fangborn powers that others in the Family think are impossible, and the artifacts that she has a compulsion to find are assimilating themselves into her body in unique – and often painful – ways. Yet she remains herself, even when it is a struggle. She reads true to me, and that is important in a main character. She has grown from a girl who thinks she is losing her mind, to a young lady who still struggles, in many ways, to accept what is happening to her but carries on regardless. She is growing into her position as a leader, but not always willingly, and without the luxury of time.
I will say that the action comes fast and furious in this third book in the series. In some ways, it’s almost a little bit *too* much. Then again, I’m not exactly up on my “end of times” battles, so maybe that’s how it really would be. With so much going on at all times, some of the nuances (like the smidgen of romantic triangle) can tend to get lost in the explosions.
Speaking of the romantic triangle, I’m not big on romance-heavy urban fantasy. I will say, however, that Cameron handles it well within this series. Will is Zoe’s old boyfriend, and they have definitely had their ups and down. As Zoe begins to grow in power and within herself, Will struggles to see her as she has become instead of what she used to be. Adam betrayed his boss, a high-stakes political player who wants to out the Fangborn, in order to save Zoe. As he continues to help her, they both fight the realization that there may be more between them than either of them wants. It will be interesting to see how this plays out against the backdrop of Zoe’s continuing…evolution. And I don’t use that word lightly.
That said, I’m definitely in for the next book. There has been so much build-up to where Zoe finds herself, and what the reaction will be as the Fangborn are announced to the public, that I’m really excited to see what happens from here. I have a feeling things will only get worse for Zoe before they get better. Throw in the unexpected group (no spoilers here) that emerged in this book as a late player, and the revelation that the Fangborn are not exactly what they always assumed they were, and things are about to get very, very interesting.