Breaking the Devil’s Heart by HA Goodman
Review by Jasper de Joode
When Stewart and Layla recruit a demon to spy on the Devil, their decision takes them on whirlwind ride through the afterlife.
Breaking the Devil’s Heart is part of the Logic of Demons series but can also be read as a stand-alone book. It will linger long in your thoughts and force you to look at life (and the afterlife) from a different perspective.
The plus-points of Breaking the Devil’s Heart. First off I must say the book is unique and something I have not read before. Portraying the afterlife in such a way was for me both funny and engaging – I had never thought about how it must be and during the reading I was wondering, “Hmm… what if?”. Just for a fast reference I think the closest book that has come to this afterlife/hell concept would be Tom Holt’s The Portable Door, where an office firm is run by goblins and the like. But in Breaking the Devils Heart Goodman goes even further in portraying that Hell, yes Hell, is run as a bureaucratic agency with sales, a marketing and telemarketing department and even its own stock market. When I first read that these would be some features in Breaking the Devils Heart, I couldn’t quite imagine in how Goodman would work in these ideas however it was quickly evident that Goodman put a lot of time and effort into these places to really make them stand-out and incorporate then into the story. Well done!
Secondly, the plot line. Although some might say that the plot introduced was too ambitious and too grand I am of the opinion that, in a story where both Heaven and Hell make an appearances, such a plot line was just spot on. Goodman tells Breaking the Devil Heart through the eyes of Stewart. Stewart and his girlfriend Layla have an ambition to stop all the evilness in the world by just one thing. Destroying the formula. It was refreshing that Goodman used this aspect as being the driving motivation behind all the havoc and cause of violence on Earth. In exemplifying the violence that has occurred in the past Goodman takes no sides in which histories he uses, from Hiroshima to the Armenian genocide, which I think was quite daring since it was bold and may put off some readers.
In the beginning chapters of the book I found the pace too slow as Goodman directly throws you into the storyline and doesn’t give you any armbands so it took me a while to fully understand what Goodman’s intentions were with Breaking the Devil’s Heart. The first half of the book followed a linear flow as Stewart and Layla went from setting to setting with no sudden plot twists thrown in. I think that Goodman could have used the departments of Hell better, throwing in a curveball here and there. In the last few chapters Goodman shows what he CAN do. There was already a build to an certain climax but what Goodman did with the ending was original and something which I did not expect. What I thought was brilliantly done was the elaboration on the plot line through the eyes of Stewart, in the final chapter Goodman explains though Stewart eyes how he came to see everything, and now thinking about it everything that Goodman introduced makes even more sense (and just because of this I plan to re-read it again soon!).
In books where both Heaven and Hell play a role there are always angels, demon and often mortals. Breaking the Devil’s Heart plays out in the afterlife so you cross out the mortals… Instead Goodman uses a third class called observers. It took me some back reading to find out what role an observer actually played as they are neither angel nor demon and in this story only at the end does this fully make sense.
I’m a big fan of world building in books because with a good surrounding authors can get more out of their books. Although the departments of Hell were lively described I found that the whole afterlife scene did lack in explanations. For me it felt that Stewart and Layla just jumped from location to location (even through time, from 1960 to 1915 and back to 1943 which was cool) and I would have liked to have seen a more coming together of everything. I also found that the character dialogues were a bit rough, although they did improve on The Quest for Nadine’s Souls they still did not feel quite natural to me. But this could be in relation to the boldness of Goodman’s story.
All in all I found that Breaking the Devil’s Heart was a very unique book. And I’m glad that I had the opportunity to read and review it. The whole concept was well thought through and the scenes in Hell were vividly told. Goodman really sets himself apart with the unique story and throwing most of the religious and political views out of the door, I somehow feel that this won’t be the last that we heard of Goodman. And finally… Hell as a corporate bureaucratic institution… brilliant.
What did you think about Breaking the Devil’s Heart?
Submit your own reader review and award the book the rating you think it deserves.