A promise of a Hugo-award finalist retelling of one of my favourite greek myth caught my interest for a quick read.
Thank you to Giles Kristian who provided me with the audiobook edition of Hellmouth. This did not alter my opinions on Hellmouth, or my review. All opinions shared are honest.
Giles Kristian is known for his historical fiction, from Arthurian inspired Lancelot, to The Rise of Sigurd in 8th century Scandinavia. In Hellmouth, Giles Kristian deviates to a style of historical fiction with a twist of horror, which is executed equally well.
This is a fantastic novella. Thrust into the shoes of a mercenary band in Bohemia, 1370, the reader is greeted by blood-pumping action, lyrical prose, interesting characters and an engaging plot. The story diverged from what I expected when initially starting, but that by no means demeaned the enjoyment.
In the short space of this novella, Giles Kristian simultaneously builds an authentic feeling world that is gritty and tough, whilst also creating a memorable band of warriors led by leader Galien, who is forced into carrying out a mission for the Mother Church. In this, we see the band fall out of their depth and see how they adapt in attempt to deal with what approaches them. Giles Kristian engages with a dark, brutal and tense mood and atmosphere that whilst being authentic like his other works, relies much more on tension and suspense, which personally I loved.
The audiobook is narrated by the fantastic Philip Stevens, who I would say is one of the best narrators out there. The sheer variety of tone and delivery is what elevates him above most. Whatever tone that Giles Kristian appears to be aiming for, Philip Stevens adapts the delivery and pace to suit and deliver. Wonderful to listen to. Also, this is the first time I have ever actually felt scared by an audiobook. So, if you’re up for an interesting dose of fear in your read as well, this is the one for you.
Overall, Hellmouth is an incredibly well-crafted novella in which Giles Kristian expands and explores different themes and tones with much success. Routed in a historical authenticity set in Bohemia, 1370, Giles in this creates a fantastic, engaging story that is brought to life by poetic prose narrated by Philip Stevens. I would recommend this short read to fans of fantasy, horror and historical fiction alike.