Synopsis: Steven was having a pretty good time for a guy who helped release a captured god. He had a nice place in Colorado, a pretty girl sent him a picture of herself in a bikini, and he had neighbors that left him alone. Everything was looking pretty good until he woke up to find two people in his house that were planning on killing him; one was old coworker and the other was an old boss.
It seems that releasing the God of Dreams was caused some ripples in places best left alone and Eve's atonement was to kill Steven for his part in the transgression. Wilford wanted to kill Steven because that's just how Wilford is. They all soon find themselves trapped between a runaway God of Dreams bent on expanding his domain and the personification of Fear. If one doesn't get them, the other will.
The only solution is to get the gang back together again and find something that can stop at least one, but preferably both, gods before the world comes crashing down around them. They've got more help this time, though; Wilford is tentatively on their side and a mysterious Native American gentleman has offered some assistance, but just how trustworthy the new allies are remains to be seen.
There's also one more wrinkle for Steven to sort out: The God of Dreams wants his girl.
From a shootout in Tijuana to a strange base in Dulce, New Mexico, Steven has his hands full just trying to stay ahead of the god that wants him dead, the girl he's finding himself more and more smitten with, and new allies that may or may not be up to any good.
Some days it's hard to be one of the henchmen.
Review: Henchmen was an utter delight to read, so it's perhaps no surprise that I would like the second in the series, called Arise. I'll admit that Eric Lahti's writing style took me a little while to get into. But for anyone who thinks this will be a hard read, I offer you Steve Buschemi's take on this:-
The MC, Steven, narrates both tales, and the first person narrative totally works. It's interesting to see in book one how he becomes of the Henchmen, and yet if you're expecting more of the same in Arise, yes you do get that, but so much more too.
There's greater character development in this second story, with the delectable Jessica taking more of a central role. She was introduced to readers in a rather unique way in book one, and her role is so much more satisfying here. Every time Jessica is on the page, expect fireworks. You'll get 'em.
One of the most beautiful things about Eric Lahti's series is how he places you in New Mexico, or over the border in Tijuana. The places are described so well, you can feel the sand dust crunch under your tyres. Just make sure you're driving a Lamborghini, otherwise you might not fit into this story.
Arise does not end the series, but answers a lot of questions that remained with me after completing book one. You'll want to know who and what Eve is, and it's a satisfying answer, believe me.
I love the idea of a Valkyrie hanging out with these guys, but she doesn't talk like Helmsworth in Thor (no criticism of him, he plays the role well) - Eve talks like the other Henchmen, and it works.
Honestly, even when the Dreamer sequence kicks in, which admittedly takes the story on a different and unexpected route, it is not that distracting. In fact, I think it was a courageous choice by the author.
Both books are fun filled capers, with realistic martial arts action (YESSSS!!!) and snappy dialogue. I make no pretences here - this is a story that Quentin Tarantino needs to get his mitts on. He would do this justice on the big screen.
Honestly, Henchmen and Arise are two of the most enjoyable books I have read in a while. Often I like thrillers with dark twists, crazy characters and so on. That's not to say this series is light on that - it's got it. But it told with a great style and swagger that simply makes you love the story.
Great lines I liked:-
"Normally, I'm petrified of spiders, but I'm more scared of dying alone and forgotten."
"In fact, ju jitsu was developed by samurai who realised punching a guy in armour would just hurt your head, but throwing a guy in armour would knock the wind right out of him."
Yep. I'm 5'9" and weigh 160 pounds. If a 220 pound guy wants to hurt me, I smash his shins, destroy his leg ligaments, puncture his windpipe with my fingers, and stab his eyes out too. That'll teach him to jump the queue when I'm next in line....
I should also mention the presentation of the book. It's beautifully formatted, with the chapter headings supported by cool imagery. It links back to the author's blog too, which uses similar imagery.
Plot wise, the story is the star, and if Henchmen was an introduction to Steven, Arise could be called Jessica Rising...because of all of them, I enjoyed her character arc the most.
Get this, and the first in the series today.