Title: First Circle Club
Series: First Circle Club #1
Genre: Supernatural Fantasy
Age category: Adult
Release Date: September 25, 2015
Descriptive Blurb: When Virgil is betrayed and murdered, he thinks his days of catching fugitives as a U.S. Marshal are over. He is condemned to an eternity of filing paperwork in the First Circle of Hell. Then a demon lord gives Virgil an unprecedented assignment. He will return to Earth as part of a team: two souls from Heaven and two from Hell. They must stop another damned soul who escaped and is now murdering teenagers on Earth. The serial killer has supernatural skills and is part of a larger conspiracy which is well prepared for a fight. If he is not careful, Virgil could be murdered a second time.
“A Nice Sparkler.”
My Impressions: Very unique concept/premise…I immediately wanted to read it. Got right into the story, no long-winded soliloquies from the narrator…and thank goodness its written in 3rd person so we get multiple views of the world! Loving the pace of the book, a smooth glide…not so fast that its hard to keep things strait, but not slow and riddled with stops and stalls like some books I’ve read.
The Romance Angle: Nothing notable. There were a few random attractions thrown in just to titillate but since their…eh, equipment is mostly just for show and their furlough is of dubious length, it was pretty obvious from get-go that no real romance or relationship would form between anyone.
World-Building: Niiice. The multi-layered impressions I got from just one chapter’s worth of descriptions of Hell were quite vivid. The sights, sounds, and particularly the smells gave off just the right oppressive, creep factor that one would expect of the place. Plus, Vigil has a slightly humorous self-depreciating attitude that makes his thoughts and descriptions that much more entertaining.
Minor Beefs: 1. Unique concept, same old stereotypes. These “angelic” teenagers that Daniel’s murdering all appear to live in gorgeous suburb type neighborhoods, presumably from “good” upper-middle class families…the implication being that these are the only places to find good heaven-bound kids to murder. Plus, its pretty obvious that they’re all white. I don’t like the implication, and it doesn’t logically follow with the killer’s motivation. There is nothing to indicate that Daniel is racist. Thus, if he’s truly a religious fanatic, killing innocents so they can go to heaven, the neighborhoods and the race should differ at random. The constant should be that they are faithful, church-goers with high religious and moral standards, not that they are white middle class with no scandal in their past (none of which determine a soul’s destination in the bible, which Daniel would know). Of course, we are talking about a warped criminal mind at work here, so perhaps this view is not meant to be taken as “the norm” but is instead a product of his insanity. 2. Also, it bothers me that ALL the minorities in the book are criminals of one sort or another. The angry black woman: thief, dirty cop & ex-con, the tattooed Asian gang members, the black drug dealer w/ pants hanging down and the gun shop thugs. <eyeroll> I guess some things never change. 3. Another thing, Sara seems a bit useless to me. She has no real role and we never learn much about her. Whereas Vigil, Lisa and Alfred are all fleshed out, engaging and have obvious parts to play. 4. Lastly, there were a few ‘convenient’ occurrences where something which is needed just happens to be right there. Honestly, it didn’t happen often enough to annoy me. I only mention it because I know some folks are quite picky and this is supposed to be a review…so, you know, full disclosure and all that.
Random Thoughts: The humor in this story is understated and all the more hilarious because of the subtlety. You don’t really see it coming which makes the laughs fresh and unexpected. The author also doesn’t beat you over the head with trying to be funny. He uses opportunities to inject an amusing tidbit as they naturally arise. Vigil’s take on things is particularly entertaining. I think he’s been dead 30yrs so he’s amusingly out of touch…and honestly I get the feeling that he was a non-modern type of guy even when he was alive. Like he adapted to technology on a need to know basis only. If he didn’t need it to do his job, it just wasn’t something he paid much attention to. That’s the impression I got. Also, FYI, things get a bit eh…ugly, towards the end. (I have a weak stomach. I don’t want to spoil so I’ll leave it at that.) Eh, and I don’t even know what to say about those white-washed weirdos. Seriously… WTF?! Its like ‘crazy’ and ‘stupid’ got drunk, had sex and these poor idiots were the resulting litter (offspring or whatever).
Extra Touch: The conspiracy surrounding the escape, and motivations for the goings-on were all intriguingly nuanced. As a Christian I can relate to some of the irony and hypocrisy that’s hinted at. Also, the interactions between Heaven, Hell and Earth are all very cryptic and odd, frankly. But, it made me think…how exactly will things be done/handled up there…and down there? I mean, I do ponder these things every now and again. This book made me have a longer than usual thought about it.
Cliffhanger: Kinda, sort of. It’s not a traditional cliffhanger, where you’re left feeling cheated or frustrated. The central conflict is pretty much resolved. However, there are some important loose ends left swinging in the wind. Just enough to tease, and make you read the sequel.
The Verdict: Good Read. I really liked the writing style, the humor, and the premise/concept. However, the author might want to lighten up on the stereotypes and toss in a few up-standing minorities to even out the field. Otherwise, he’ll have trouble gaining and keeping a minority readership. Because normally, I’d be off to amazon to purchase the sequel but honestly, I’m not sure I want to read another book where everyone who looks like me is a hell-bound thug. Just saying.
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Alex Siegel has written three series, full of hellish scenarios and diabolical plot twists. The First Circle Club is the first book in his latest series. He is a computer programmer by day and a passionate, even obsessive, writer by night. He lives in Chicago with his wife and triplet teenage boys. A gray cat and two guinea pigs complete the menagerie.
You can find and contact Alex Siegel here: