Hellgate by Morgon Newquist

Hellgate: The Neighborhood Watch book 1 by Morgon Newquist [Silver Empire affiliate link] is a story about things that are more than they seem. Which is entirely appropriate, since the cover image and the urban fantasy tag normally would have made me steer clear of a book that ended up exceeding my expectations.

Emilia, the pink-haired girl on the cover, is what I take to be typical of female-oriented urban fantasy. Or perhaps more precisely, paranormal romance. Although my impressions really come from the cover art of books I don’t read, with the exception of The Hunger Games [Amazon link] by Suzanne Collins. She is young, fashionable, very pretty, but also vain about it. She’s on the rebound from a relationship with a man with Dark Triad personality traits, and swears she’ll never do it again, but of course we all know that isn’t true.

Needing a fresh start, Emilia moves in with her widowed grandfather who is suffering from dementia. Everyone of course thinks she isn’t up to the job, including Emilia’s very accomplished mother, and Emilia herself is full of doubts. It would be easy to cast aspersions on Emilia’s vanity and fecklessness, but if I’m really honest with myself, was I any less foolish when I was her age? It is easy to conveniently forget all the dumb things we ourselves have done.

What is interesting about Emilia is while she is not precisely an example of φρόνησῐς, the virtue of judging rightly in all circumstances, her heart very much is in the right place. For example, Emilia’s mother Lydia is notably absent from the care of her own father. Perhaps she is too busy, and her time is very valuable, but ensuring that your own father is cared for is a very basic building block of right action.

Of course, as the book goes on, it becomes clear that Robert would have resisted otherwise reasonable requests to move either into his daughter’s home or into assisted care, reasons far beyond elderly stubbornness, so perhaps we can also cut Lydia just a little bit of slack. There is a sweet sadness in caring for someone with mental decline, a person who is a shadow of themselves. It may be that Lydia, for all her worldly accomplishments, isn’t cut out for facing the reality of who her father has become.

Emilia very much lives in the shadow of, and in constant rebellion against her mother. There is a very basic personality clash at the root of this. Emilia simply isn’t as organized or put together as her mother. It is quite challenging to parent when your children end up with a personality that is opposed to your own in some basic dimension. For example, my wife and I are both introverted, but my daughter is extremely extroverted, to a degree that honestly puzzles me because it is so foreign to the way my own mind works. It is a constant struggle not to impose myself on her. So I have some sympathy for Lydia, even as she has clearly gone too far in trying to form her daughter’s character.

And as the events of the book make clear, Emilia is made of stronger stuff than her mother imagines. Which is good, when Hell threatens to break loose in her grandfather’s purportedly sleepy suburban neighborhood. And since this really is at least a little bit of the kind of book that the cover promises, there is a hot jerk guy and a hot dweeby/sullen/kind of strange guy. Not being the target audience for this part of the book, I can offer no comment, other than it seems to conform to type as I understand it.

The Neighborhood Watch will probably never be my favorite series, as it is written in a mode that is primarily designed to appeal to women, but I was entertained by Emilia taking on the role her grandfather had filled, and impressed by her willingness to do what it takes. I am sufficiently intrigued to read the next volume in the series, just to see what happens. Which is all you can ask for from a book.

Hellgate is available at Silver Empire direct from the publisher or on Amazon. I was provided an advanced review copy through my affiliate relationship with Silver Empire.

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