Once Upon a Time in Hell

Once Upon a Time in Hell by Guy Adams, Heavens Gate Trilogy #2

A weird western, a gun-toting, cigarrillo-chewing fantasy built from hangman's rope and spent bullets. The west has never been wilder. A Steampunk-Western-Fantasy from Guy Adams.

"Heaven? Hell? There's no difference. Angels, demons, we're all a bit of both. This could be the most wondrous place you ever experience or so terrifying it makes you pray for death. Not that death would help you of course, there's no escape from here"

Wormwood has appeared and for twenty four hours the gateway to the afterlife is wide open. But just because a door is open doesn't mean you should step through it;

Those who have travelled to reach the town are realising that the challenges they've already faced were nothing compared to what lies ahead. The afterlife has an agenda of its own and with scheming on both sides of reality, the revelations to come may change the world forever.

Last year I read the first book in the Heaven's Gate Trilogy, The Good, the Bad and the Infernal, as was blown away with the powerfully imaginative story that Guy Adams managed to put down. I have also become more familiar with Guy Adam´s books and he has become a must-read author for me, I really enjoy his creative feat that he manages to put down, and not only in his own devised worlds but also in the establishes Sherlock universe. The Good, the Bad and the Infernal introduced the reader to a weirder western tale with a lot of steampunk influences. 

The Good, the Bad and the Infernal focused on showing the story from a multiple point of view cast, all different pilgrims that were traveling to Wormwood for the doorway into heaven, in their journey so far they have encounter the supernatural many times each in a different way, but it now seem that the challenges they have faced so far are nothing compared to what lies ahead. In Once Upon a Time in Hell, Guy Adams doesn't spare one moment for the reader, it BAM Wormwood is there, I have had dreams as to how to imagine Guy Adams' Heaven and Hell interpretation. I must say that I am very impressed with how he has created it. When you look at the background of the story, a sort of spaghetti western - steampunkish style in 1889, it fits. It's part rough, part dark and gritty but also there is this light at the end of the tunnel. I was impressed and Guy Adams does what he does best, if you think you have encountered a rich imagination wait till you read one of Guy Adams' creations. 

Ok like I mentioned above Once Upon a Time in Hell opens up with the gate to Heaven appearing in Wormwood. But this doesn't mean that every pilgrim directly gets to venture into Heaven itself, it's only a few at a time. However once some of the pilgrims are transported into Wormwood it soon starts to dawn on them that Heaven isn't exactly how they imagined into to be... And to get to Heaven they have to venture through Hell. 

This brings me to I think the main protagonist of the story, Elwyn Walace who traveled with the enigmatic-obscure "old man" who goes without name but is pretty bad ass. They scheme to get through the gate, once they are through there story readily pulls forward and bolsters the creativity of Guy Adams. The Hell they are in is western inspired, card gambling and hard drinking. But the stakes are much higher than just money. You buy yourself in buy exchanging memories or life experiences. Elwyn here makes perhaps a devastating mistake that I think will bite him in the back later on. He gains a lot but possibly has to give up a lot as well. By this action and a lot more you see Elwyn character in many fronts. He was already leading the story back in The Good, the Bad and the Infernal, he was partly determined but also didn't really know what to do and by the "old man" he got some direction back but now that he is somewhat on his own legs in Hell, his naivete really comes to show. With these things, Elwyn doesn't become predictable at all but he is acting a lot in the spur of the moment, making his adventure great to read about. Accompanying Elwyn is the old man, a determined gunslinger, he also starts to grow and loosening up and as a reader is was very nice to finally start to learn and understand more about the old man... just his name would be nice, but still having this level of obscureness does make and keep me eager to see how it will unfold in the third book. 

Another character that gives a nice point of view is Patrick Irish, who formally went by the name of Roderick Quartershaft, a world renowned author of many adventures. With his pilgrimage to Wormwood, he now has the chance to write the story of his life... only if he can live that long... A addition to the series is Meridiana who travels along with Elwyn and the "old man", she is a hellish creature and doesn't mind to use that in her favor. She is succubus and I really liked how Elwyn first reacted toward this fact and also how he was a bit put off by everything that she did. It really further shows that Elwyn on some parts isn't really acquainted and perhaps comfortable with the weirdness that is going on but that he is trying. Just lastly I wanted to mention Alonzo. Alonzo was the one person/being who drew each pilgrim to Wormwood, his intentions remained to be guessed at best but along the way of the story in Once Upon a Time in Hell, his intentions become clear and he has his eyes on a selected view with a much larger plan in mind that many reader had heretofore dared to imagined. I think it was quite a bold move to introduce such a twist (I mean to say this in a good way ofcourse well a best way) I was surprised but Guy Adams does it with his own flair and just as the development of the character with this sudden plot twist he has gotten me even more addicted to his series. 

As for the setting of the books, above I already mentioned that Guy Adam's kept the whole setting true to the first book, but it felt for me that the whole surroundings in Wormwood and Hell were much more dynamic than in the first book. I have to say that the single encounters of the pilgrims are still in the back of my mind, but the flow of the book was definitely much better that The Good, the Bad and the Infernal. It might by due to the fact that the build-up of the story was done in a superb manner and with that in the back of my mind, the whole new setting of Wormwood and Hell just paid of in full. What I also very much liked about this sequel is that Guy Adams doesn't shy away to into a new direction with his story, completely changing, for me at lest, a premise I had imagined. Here he keeps you on the edge of your seat with the book strongly gripped in your hand. 

Once Upon a Time in Hell and the Heaven's Gate Trilogy so far has been a true weird western adventure that grabs you and pulls you in and keeps you there even long after the story has finished, only then when you let it all sink in I got this second WOW affect. In this relative short story Guy Adams manages to dish out quite a few heavy punches in terms of developing a strong storyline that is exciting, fresh and new but also creates a set of interesting characters that don't stop to developing as the series progresses. Guy Adams showcases his creative talent with combining many different elements that all work for the better of the story. The ending of the book was something I hadn't dared to imagine... it's bold... it's brave but in the hands of someone like Guy Adams I think we will be in grand finale in the third book of the Heaven's Gate trilogy. Can't wait!!


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