Friday, 5 February 2016

Reviewed by Arianne: Inferno by Catherine Doyle.


Product details:
Publisher: Chicken House.
Paperback, 416 pages.
Release date: January 7th 2015.
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Ages: YA
Series: Blood for Blood #2.
Other Books in Series: Vendetta.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.

 Romeo and Juliet meets The Godfather in the second installment of Catherine Doyle's Blood for Blood series.

Sophie's life has been turned upside-down, and she's determined to set things right. But Nic, the Falcone brother who represents everything she's trying to forget, won't give up on their love - and it's Luca's knife she clutches for comfort. Soon another mafia clan spoils the fragile peace - and with her heart drawn in one direction and her blood in another, Sophie's in deeper than ever.

Vendetta – Catherine Doyle’s début novel - was a real statement: a full-throttle collision of first love, family ties and ferocious blood feuds, written with surprising skill and remarkable confidence. Inferno has a very different feel. It’s darker, edgier and more dangerous. There is no innocence here: gone is the shaky start, the wistful naïveté, the old adage to love against the odds. This time, the skill is as sharp as a knife, and the confidence comes armed to the teeth. 

Bound by omerta and lucky to be alive, Sophie is seeing the dark side of Cedar Hill everywhere she goes, and with a rival Mafia clan baying for blood and a long-held feud stirring once more, the lost secrets of the Falcone family threaten to leave more carnage in their wake. Sophie is slowly realizing the danger she’s in, but what she’s seen can’t be unseen. Her fate is tied with that of the Falcones – which isn’t ideal, what with them being friendly neighbourhood Mafia-trained killers – and with trouble brewing, even her good heart may not be enough to save her.

Sharp, sensational and utterly addictive, Inferno plunges us headfirst into a story overflowing with drama. It twists so fast I almost got whiplash – it keeps you guessing and will have you racing to find out what happens next. It’s a deliciously sizable read at over four hundred pages, and Doyle’s pacing is near-perfect. The prose itself oozes cool - Doyle’s modern, sleek writing style makes a thundering, pacy tale feel easy as well as exciting – and it’s full of little Easter eggs for eagle-eyed readers, including now-iconic scenes involving flowers and a doughnut that already seems to have gone down in series history.

Heroine Sophie started out very much as a relatable, every-girl, cardboard-cut-out choose-your-own-adventure protagonist, but here she reasserts herself as conflicted; she’s stubborn, rash and deeply feeling. Inferno for her is wave after wave of experiences which will undoubtedly leave their mark. For me, however, the real revelation of Inferno was just how much I found myself rooting for her. Luca may be hot and Nic may be the boy who first caught her eye, but with danger lurking in every shadow, first and foremost I think I ship Sophie with survival! There is romance in the book, but it definitely takes a backseat to thrilling chases and heart-pounding discoveries.

Sophie’s best friend Millie is the only character in the book with any common sense, bringing much-needed light relief to an otherwise heavy drama with her resourcefulness and humour. Millie and Sophie’s friendship takes fantastic prominence, too: traditionally female friendship is swept aside in favour of spectacle in YA like this, but Doyle makes a concerted effort to give their camaraderie the attention it deserves.  The introduction of secondary characters is handled fantastically: we finally get to see more of matriarch Elena, but the big surprise is Sara. This is a book which pulls at your heart and your loyalties, and it keeps you hooked from the start.

The Falcone brothers are great characters, but they’re terrible people. This series isn’t about loveable rogues or moral ambiguity: even Nic knows his life is one of hideous crime and sickening cruelty, and he chooses it anyway. Much has been made of Vendetta’s star-crossed romance and sizzling quintet of Mafia brothers, but as ever there is more than meets the eye to this story. There’s a sense that Doyle is writing with a very different intent here; her focus has shifted to revealing characters – for better or worse - for who and what they really are.

As Sophie is dragged deeper into the web of horror hatched by Doyle’s début, there are distressing scenes that will cause even the toughest of readers to flinch. Inferno is incredibly dark and horrifically violent. The world of the book is sick and twisted, full of sickening atrocities, and the characters do some pretty unforgivable things; it really isn’t for the faint of heart. You’d think the trilogy couldn’t possibly get any more explosive than this, but Doyle will undoubtedly ratchet up the tension for the series finale: with the stakes higher than ever, the stage looks set for a thrilling showdown next year. 

In short: Dark, defiant and utterly engaging, Inferno is an electric, unputdownable read. It’s Romeo and Juliet meets The Sopranos (with the emphasis on The Sopranos) and not for the faint of heart, but if you liked Vendetta then you’ll love this sequel. It reads like a gut-punch and remains one of the most unique YA series on the shelf.


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