Rating: 5 out of 5
In Luke Walker’s horror novel The Unredeemed, Benjamin Harwood has been dead for 400 years. He spends his time carefully destroying lives and families by haunting them, something that he enjoys. He escaped going to Hell in the first place because he made a deal with a demon, Drude. Now Drude is coming after him in order to send him to the Pit, a place below even Hell itself. Drude’s attention seems to have been drawn by a newer ghost, Cooke, who is so appalled by Benjamin that he’s going a bit crazy trying to destroy him. Benjamin’s only chance is to rile up every ghost and shade he can to fight back.
Don’t get the wrong idea–Benjamin is as bad as they come. He killed untold people while he was alive, and all because he enjoyed it. His idea of haunting people results in ruined (and sometimes ended) lives. His own “friends”–ghosts who are almost as bad as he is–know how self-centered and narcissistic he is. He makes a strange choice for a narrator.
Drude has come for Benjamin, and in the only detail that didn’t work for me in this book, I still don’t know why. Benjamin killed a bunch of people for him 400 years ago, so why is Drude suddenly desperate to send him to the Pit, to the point of breaking the rules that govern demons? I felt this really needed to be addressed more.
The various dead characters are really interesting. Benjamin has sort of been collecting bad guys, and although he doesn’t particularly want to be a leader, he finds the possibility too useful to set aside. There are also some interesting living characters who get caught up in this, such as a teenaged girl and her mother. The rules surrounding what demons can and can’t do to/around mortals make this quite intriguing, especially since some rules cannot be broken no matter what Drude may want.
The worldbuilding is excellent. Hell is different than the usual depiction, and the purposes of most demons are unexpected as well. Drude is actually something of an anomaly. The ghosts also display some unusual abilities.
SPOILER WARNING: Benjamin can be charming when he wants, but he’s definitely not terribly likable. And sometimes we need a reminder as to just how selfish he is. What we’re looking at is someone who’s so bad, it takes a major revelation to make him even slightly less objectionable, and honestly that’s fascinating. I’m used to seeing only two kinds of bad guys: the ones who don’t change at all, and the ones who make near-total turnarounds. This is much more believable and interesting. End Spoilers
This is a really neat book, and the ending gave me chills!
Content note: murders, child murder, and a character who’s a pedophile.