Friday, October 19, 2018

Book Review: "Hellbent" by Gregg Hurwitz

When I finished Hellbent, the third book in Gregg Hurwitz's fantastic series featuring rogue government assassin Evan Smoak, I got to thinking. You literally could spend the entire year reading books in different series, between YA, mysteries, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, even romance. It certainly would make things easier in terms of figuring out what your next book to read should be!!

There really are some amazing series out there, and this one is no exception.

When Evan Smoak (not his real name) was young, a man rescued him from a troubled life and he trained Evan how to kill. He was part of a fully deniable black program buried deep inside the Department of Defense, becoming Orphan X, "an expendable assassin who went where the U.S. government would not and did what the U.S. government could not."

But eight years ago, Evan went rogue from the program and became the Nowhere Man, the last resort for a person in desperate trouble. No one knows who the Nowhere Man is, but they know if they call him, he will help rescue them from a seemingly helpless situation.

"Evan had simply stepped off the grid, keeping only the operational alias he'd earned in the shadow service, a name spoken in hushed tones in the back rooms of intel agencies the world over."

Jack Johns was the man who brought Evan into the program, and he was the man who helped Evan remain human despite the things he had to do, the things he saw. Essentially, Jack has been the only father Evan has known, and when Jack calls him out of the blue one night, they both know his time is running out. One of Evan's fellow Orphans, Charles Van Sciver, is now in charge of wiping out any traces of the former program, and he's hellbent on finding Evan to enact some deep-seated revenge, so he strikes at Jack in an effort to get to Evan. Jack sends Evan on one last mission, to rescue his last protegé before she falls into Van Sciver's clutches.

What Evan finds is not what he is expecting, and this recruit leaves him with his hands full. He's bound and determined to make those who hurt Jack pay, and he knows he must strike at Van Sciver and his cohorts—some of whom are lethal former Orphans themselves—before he becomes the next target. But he has no idea just how high up the command to wipe out the program—and him—comes from.

In the meantime, Evan must also balance his responsibility as the Nowhere Man, which leaves him with a complex and potentially dangerous mission, and he is forced to both confront the path his life has taken, and wonder if he's destined to spend the rest of his life alone. If so, is that what he deserves?

Hellbent is an excellent combination of kick-ass action, pulse-pounding suspense, and complex character development. The characters aren't one-dimensional, even the villains—you get to understand what has made them the way they are. The one thing I always have trouble keeping in mind when reading this series is that Evan seems so world-weary, so wise beyond his years, but he's only in his late 20s or early 30s at best.

While I would recommend reading this series from the start—and Orphan X is one heck of a start (see my review)—you could start with this book and not feel utterly disoriented. However, you'd definitely miss some of the nuances that make this series such a find.

We could all use a little Evan Smoak in our lives. I'm excited that the fourth book in the series is slated to be released in January—I'm finally back on track! Seriously, if you're a thriller fan and you've not dived into this series yet, take my advice. Do it.

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