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 The Gates of Hell – C.J Cherryh and Janet Morris


4 stars.

I picked this up in print, intrigued, as I loved Rogues in Hell and I am trying to get through all the Heroes in Hell books.  Gates of Hell is the second of the series – and a novel not an anthology. It is a lot of fun. 

Where else would one find Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Machiavelli and a whole host of characters from ancient times, medieval times and modern times trying to escape together from Hell, armed with tanks, ancient weapons, Uzis and cavalry? The ancient and modern seamlessly woven together as if it was perfectly natural to consider Julius Caesar riding a Jeep.

For me it was a game of spot the ancient hero and the historical figure.  There are many egos among the players and of course, being Hell, not all goes to plan and that plan itself has more twists and turns than the every changing river of Hell.  Apparently there is a way out of Hell if only one can find it. Or so the rumour is. A rumour in hell? That will not end well. 

There was humour, adventure, great characters, rogues and heroes and a wonderfully crafted universe. Each character has his or her own agenda – Julius believes Alexander and Achilles are part of him, Hatshepsut the female Pharoah wants a kingdom, Alexander wants, among other things his dead lover and the others – well that would be telling.  This is a complex story with alliances and betrayal at every turn.  They have their memories, their prejudices and their affiliations. Lies abound.

In places perhaps it was too convoluted – and keeping track of what everyone was doing makes the brain flip, but that too is fun. Such an adventure is not for the faint hearted or those who want an easy, simple read.  The ending leads to a cliff-hanger – and thus on to the next in the series.

If you can get your hands on this, which is out of print but can be sourced, I’d recommend it for fans of fantasy, adventure and historical fiction.