Hell’s Bells by John Connolly

Samuel Johnson Vs. The Devil Round II

a review by Nalini Haynes

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release date: 2011

Samuel Johnson is a 13 year old boy at high school with a loving dachshund (weird looking dog) called Boswell. In the first book in this series Samuel met Nurd, a demon with whom he made friends and saved the world. Nurd now lives back in Hell with another demon called Wormwood (there always has to be a Wormwood!). Four dwarfs, Jolly, Dosy, Mumbles and Angry (all appropriately named) also featured in the first book and return for round two, along with the police who would like to lock them up. Mrs Abernathy, AKA Ba’al the demon who tried to destroy Earth, is once again trying to reach Earth but this time to entrap Samuel in Hell for revenge as a precursor to another invasion, hence the title Hell’s Bells.

Connelly’s writing seems to be a mixture of Eoin Colfer and The Office-style humour (at a PG rating), but occasionally he falters out of this style into a more formal style that works less well. Somewhat subtle spoofs of classics such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Lord of the Rings abound. Comic-style gore will appeal to boys in the target audience without alienating most parents and teachers.

At first Connelly refers to Samuel as ‘a small boy’, which may annoy the readers for whom this book is intended. Early in the book we meet two demon guards, whose names are switched by the end of the book for no apparent reason (editing error?) At one point late in the story a new kind of demon is introduced, making the action on the next few pages no surprise at all. I prefer authors who seed this kind of introduction early, and surprise us later with the return of this character at a crucial point.

Overall an enjoyable story with humour targeting its audience well. Recommended for fans of Eoin Colfer, and readers in upper primary to high school.

Previously published in Dark Matter issue 4, July 2011, blog post predated to reflect the original publication date.