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Review: Aaru: Halls of Hel

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Title:Aaru: Halls of Hel

Author:David Meredith

Series:Book 2

Rating★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Note:I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. You can find the review for Book 1 here.

Synopsis

“… Let them have everything – health, food, a place to live, entertainment. They are and remain unhappy and low-spirited for the demon waits and waits…”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Rose is a Veda.

In Elysian Industries’ virtual paradise of Aaru, that means she’s practically a goddess. She is immortal. She is powerful. A limitless paradise is hers and her friends’ to command. They are free from sickness and pain, old age and death. She should be ecstatic over her prestige and privilege, but the gilded utopia has lost its luster.

In a reality where anything can be hers with a thought, and Rose can master any skill instantly with nothing but her imagination, to what can she still aspire? She has all of eternity to fill, but what will her purpose be? Rose adores her sweet, Latin boyfriend, Franco. She loves wiling away endless immaculate days with her friends, but shouldn’t there be more to life than mere play? Also, Rose is dogged by deep concern for her little sister, Koren, the Elysian Industries spokes-model and reality star back in the “Before” world.

Though Koren is wealthy, famous, and idolized by millions of adoring fans, her life is spinning out of control. Her parents’ marriage is on the rocks, and the boyfriend of her dreams, Jonas Perry, seems suddenly indifferent. Koren finds her celebrity increasingly isolating, her grueling work schedule exhausting, and the constant scrutiny of her personal life unwelcomed and intrusive. To top it all off, she has regular nightmares about the death of her friend, Kiku, and the still-at-large Magic Man who nearly stole away her everything.

Koren and Rose have more to fear from this quarter than they know. Magic Man’s obsession with the teenage idol has not lessened, and he is far from defeated. With vital aid from an unexpected source, his nefarious schemes to make Koren his own and to hack the Aaru mainframe are on track and moving forward. Unless the sisters can thwart his sinister designs, everyone and everything the girls hold dear could be destroyed.

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Rose was a bit confused and troubled in this book. She struggled with finding a purpose and finding meaning in her new life.

Koren was very stressed out in this book. She was tense and desperate for some kind of support. She definitely needed a parental figure.

Amy was such a great addition to the book. I loved how supportive and kind she could be. She was dedicated and strong.

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“Who are we?” murmured Auset quietly. “Why are we here? They are the oldest questions Mankind has ever asked itself, and they are not any more clearly answered in Aaru than they were Before…” 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own!

After reading the first book in the series, Aaru, I was so very excited to be able to get my hands on the second book as well. I really loved the concept for Aaru as a system that keeps people alive and lets you connect to your loved ones, but I also enjoyed the questions and issues that grew organically out of having something like that exist. These were two really strong points in the first book that I was hoping would be in the second book and I was not disappointed!

Aaru: Halls of Hel takes place a little after the events in Aaru. Of course, after Magic Man’s big moment in the last book, I was dying to see what he was up to. Magic Man was a bit of a mystery in the first book and he didn’t make too many appearances until later in the book which is why I’m glad this book expanded on his character. We did get to know a little more about what makes him tick and what his childhood was like. It didn’t make me like him, but I think it gave some interesting insight.

And of course, we had Koren and her family’s fate to be worried about. I was really hoping that after the events with Magic Man her family would get a wake-up call and pull together but they remained as fractured as before. What’s great about the situation is how well it’s written. I love that we have all these different conflicts rising up out of Koren’s wealth and fame. We have a father who is trying to cope with losing his role as the breadwinner. A mother who loses sight of what’s important and starts putting her own interests first. And of course, we have young Koren who is dealing with the lack of direction and affection she’s used to from her parents. That’s not even adding in the fact that Koren’s life is being micro-managed by Elysian Industries.

It was frustrating to see all the mistakes Koren’s parents were making. Koren’s father was too busy wallowing in his self-pity and being self-destructive to be a real father to her. He was also too focused on fighting with Koren’s mom to realize everything that Koren was carrying on her shoulders. But, despite how incredibly infuriating they could be I enjoyed the complexity they brought into the story.

❝ Wouldn’t that be simplest? She thought. Wouldn’t that be easy? What if I could just close my eyes and leave everything behind? What if I could forget about it all, and just wake up in Aaru with Rose and the rest of forever to fill together.

Silent tears slid down her cheeks. That option was sounding better and better all the time. 

There did feel like there was a subtle shift in this book. Whereas the last book felt like it was really about Koren (her grief, adjusting to Rose’s physical death, and the danger of Magic Man), this book felt like it was more focused on Rose. Halls of Hel really brought up the issues of eternal life (which is essentially what people in Aaru are faced with within the system). Rose had begun feeling some of that restlessness in the first book, but in Halls of Hel, she really starts to question her purpose. And it’s not just her, many of the other minor characters express this need to have a purpose and to have something to work towards. The author really highlighted that emptiness that comes with being able to have everything instantly and not having to work for anything. There was a little bit of a religious angle in there as well that was interesting.

As always, I loved the thought that was put into the conflicts in this story. There were always multiple levels: physical, psychological, emotional–the writing and attention to detail really made the characters come off the page and made them feel real. 

Besides the character detail, I also enjoyed the plot. Again, the attention shifted from Koren to Rose, so the danger was less physical and out in the real world. Instead, trouble started brewing inside Aaru’s paradise. I liked this angle because it gave Rose more to deal with and added an interesting element to the otherwise perfect world of Aaru. Plus, I think it created a nice bridge between the real world and Aaru because now Rose and Koren were fighting a common enemy.

Overall, I think Halls of Hel was an excellent sequel to the Aaru Cycle. It continued to build upon its world and characters in a way that kept me invested in the story. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next and what obstacles Rose and Koren (and Hel) will face in the future! This is a series you’ll definitely enjoy if you like sci-fi/dystopian!

Aaru: Halls of Hel was released on July 27, this is a series you’ll definitely enjoy if you like sci-fi/dystopian!

 

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