Hemlock by Jesse Teller


The Plot

The busiest pirate bay in Perilisc is newly infested with vampires. These monsters will soon overrun the world, but the Manhunters must try to stop them in secret. Agents of the king are hunting Rayph’s vigilante crew. With one false step, they could all end up at a royal execution.”

My Thoughts

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the second book in The Manhunters series, but it grabbed my attention pretty early on. Rayph investigates a village where all the inhabitants have been murdered, including the animals. It’s a creepy, atmospheric scene in which he learns that an ancient vampire has returned and that the pirate bay of Hemlock, and consequently the whole of Perilisc, is in danger. Naturally this means that Rayph must call on his band of Manhunters to thwart the vampire threat. These vampires are definitely on the more disturbing side, so if you want sexy ones you’re in the wrong place. I dig the scary kind though, so this had me excited.

I’m not sure how much time has passed since Song, but I’m assuming at least a few years since between books Trysliana has gone from a barmaid who’s a bit handy with a frying pan to a stone cold badass. Konnon and Glyss sadly don’t make an appearance in this novel, and I felt their absence pretty keenly since I enjoyed them a lot in the previous entry. Here they are replaced with a new player, Aaron the Marked – he’s a sort of fervent zealot type but he worships his King rather than a god. His loyalty borders on insanity. He’s a pretty renowned fighter, and his whole deal is that he psyches out his opponents by taunting the shit out of them and laughing a lot. He’s interesting, but his cockiness and arrogance made him pretty unlikeable so I found myself unable to root for him.

If you have read the previous novel, you know what to expect in terms of violence – there’s plenty of gore and brutality, twisted torture scenes, you name it. If this is something you find distasteful, it’s one to avoid. I recall mentioning with the first book that there was a disproportionate amount of violence towards women, and it was good to see that it wasn’t the case for this entry (and we have a few badass ladies in the Manhunters this time around). However, if male gaze happens to be a pet peeve for you then you may want to look elsewhere – it’s a dark, carnal world and as such there’s a lot of mentions of whores, breasts, nudity, sexist characters, etc. If that’s not your cup of tea then I’d give it a miss. But if you’re looking for a fast-paced adventure with sexy ladies and some crazy violence for good measure, this is definitely a good place to look.

As before, the biggest strength of Teller’s work is his worldbuilding. Perilisc is a pretty fascinating place filled with intriguing magic, much of which is shared with us in an organic way with little explanation provided. It is a world that doesn’t feel like it stops when we close the book, which I rate as a huge plus. There’s a lot of grey morality, and a good amount of character development (for Rayph in particular this time around).

However, it’s not without a few problems. The quality of the prose and dialogue at times felt inconsistent. Rayph’s struggle to come to terms with being forced to beg on his knees to save lives seemed out of character given that IMO he hasn’t been shown to be especially prone to fits of pride. The final battle was a bit abrupt, and it seemed to me like there were a lot more overpowered characters during the fight scenes this time around – every fighter was faster than fast, impossibly strong, etc. Though it’s worth noting that while for me that’s a negative, for others it will be exactly what they’re looking for. Overall, I thought this entry wasn’t as strong as its predecessor, but it’s solidly written and fans of ultra-grim action adventure will enjoy it a great deal.

Score: 5.7/10 (3 stars)

Bingo Squares 2018

  • Reviewed on r/Fantasy
  • Self-Published
  • Published in 2018
  • Fewer than 500 Goodreads Ratings
  • One Word Title



Lockian Old Fashioned

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