I received this book for free from J. C. Marino in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
It took me a while to finish this book, but I want to stress that it had nothing to do with the book. It was like I started the book, read a few chapters, and BAM! I was swamped with school work, my job, church obligations, and a couple of extra things like my GRE exam and a choir gig. I always had the intention to read a little when I got home every night, but I was usually so exhausted I would go straight to bed.
When I began Dante’s Journey, I expected to find a simple story of a guy making his way through hell, seeking vengeance for his family. I thought it would be exciting and funny. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the story I actually found. This book isn’t just some darkly funny book about the circles of hell. It’s a story about a man finding himself and his faith in the most unlikely place, Hell. The deeper I got into the book the more attached I became to the story and the characters. It wasn’t just about Joe. His run-ins with people he knew in life give him and the reader a different look at them. We see the parts of them they kept hidden during their lives. Isn’t it funny how some people hide the best part of themselves?
Marino’s writing is great. It doesn’t get in the way of the story. He writes Joe Dante’s voice well, with the perfect dose of sarcasm and dark humor. It was really the first thing I liked about the book. Joe’s just a funny guy and I like funny. I like his blend of genres. Though the book is labeled as fantasy, there’s also an element of mystery to the novel. Why is Joe is Hell in the first place? Who or what is Virgil, really? What actually happened to Joe and his family? These questions are answered slowly, mostly by Joe’s memories of home.
My favorite parts of this book were Dante’s memories from home. It was nice to have a glimpse of his life on earth. The memories also serve to show him what happened to him and his family. They uncover the truth slowly in this story shrouded in mystery, not only for the reader, but for Dante too. His journey through Hell helps him look back on the memories through different eyes and see what was really going on.
The story is paced well. There’s plenty of action, but we also get nice trips into Dante’s mind. There are strong themes throughout on the nature of faith, truth, love, hate, and sin. There’s also a surprisingly large amount of history. Dante’s comes across all kinds of different people who lived in different times. I found this very entertaining. I’m not a big history buff or anything, but I think they were all tied into the story in a clever way with great references to human nature and the changes that take place in society over the years.