Hemlock by Jesse Teller

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This is the second book in a series and a review request from the author. I read and enjoyed the first one, and looked forward to the second. Per usual with second book reviews, this will be shorter since anyone who’s interested in this will have read the first one and already have been familiarized with much of the world building and characters.

Also, can I just say that cover is amazing?

r/Fantasy Bingo 

  • Reviewed (once I post this to reddit
  • Self Published
  • Published 2018
  • Less than 500 GR reviews 
  • One Word Title 


Rayph comes to an abandoned village where everyone is either dead or missing, even the animals have either died or fled the area. He finds a lot of corpses, but most of the blood is missing, there are no pools of blood under the bodies like would be expected.

A vampire has been left behind in the village to give Rayph a message, that his old nemesis has woken an ancient vampire and plans on wreaking havoc.

Rayph heads to the city of Hemlock where the vampires are hiding out, and tries to win over different factions of the city to be allies against the vampires. He has to convince a witches coven and a poisoner’s guild – neither of which were easy sells.

Aaron is following a different storyline that eventually intersects with Rayphs when they are both in Hemlock. Aaron serves King Peter, and he’s loyal beyond sense. When faced with being turned into a vampire, his thoughts were how he couldn’t serve his king any longer if he was turned, and not so much about self-preservation. He and his group were separated when they were caught and sold into slavery, and his luck hasn’t been great. He was caught and captured by a lady who kept him as a slave there to torment him for her own pleasure. Then he gets re-captured by vampires and is forced into being a blood slave, being drained every once in a while to bring the vampire queen back to full strength – the same vampire queen who Rayph was told had been “awoken”.

The vampires keep human “drones”, people who are still human beings, but under the vampires control either through threat or bribery. The end goal for the vampire queen is to enslave all of humanity and turn as many people into vampires as possible.

Final Score: 11/15


Rayph is a 12,000-year-old character who’s seen a lot of shit, but there are still things in the world which fill him with dread. He’s not an overconfident and cocky person despite a huge amount of raw power he has at his disposal. He’s been away from his wife for a while and thinks of her a lot. Overall he’s a good person, he wants to be on the side of justice and tries his best to help people. It feels like he’s one of the few people left in this world that isn’t out for just himself. He’s a fairly emotional person, crying over the deaths of his friends and dreaming about being with his wife again.

Aaron is younger and more self-assured, he’s determined to get back to his king and it doesn’t seem to matter how he gets there, just that he fulfills his duty. He’s enduring a lot of pain and getting through it by turning it into a rage that keeps him going. He likes to taunt his enemies into getting too angry to think clearly, and it gives him an advantage in fights.

Final Score: 9.5/15

World Building

This is one of the more fanciful and almost mythical like settings and storylines I’ve read in a while. There are lots of different kinds of magical creatures and different sorts of magic prevalent in the world – holy magic, wizards magic, vampire magic etc. There’s definitely no mistaking you’re reading about a secondary world.

There’s an ancient feeling to this world considering one of the POV’s is 12,000 years old, one of the cities they travel through has a wall that was built over 100,000 years ago and is held together through magic.

There are witches that live in covens and rarely interact with people outside of their society. There’s a guild of poisoners that trade their stocks throughout the world and have their own Poisoner King.

There are minotaurs which are mindless beasts and also the raksa which are bull-human like creatures that have intelligence and speech.

One of the characters is a half dryad and able to take the form of a cherry tree, and every step in between, keeping a half tree half woman type form. There’s also a sentient tree-queen who’s made of Iron wood, and Iron wood is one of the only weapons that can work against the vampires. You know you’re safe from vampires when you’re walking through an ironwood forest, they’ve been enemies for thousands of years and vampires don’t venture into the woods.

Magic can do anything from allowing Rayph to read peoples minds and take their memories, to levitation, to instant communication like a radio. It’s all very old school mysterious magic, most of it is done with Rayph whispering certain words/casting spells.

Final Score: 13.5/15


This world is very brutal, the tone is very dark and not just because of what happens in the book, but also the way it’s written. The sky was once described as “a bruised purple with blood red clouds”, which sort of sets the tone for the whole book.

There’s a lot of imagery used and a lot of descriptive gory scenes, so if that doesn’t appeal to you, this may not be the book for you. However, if you like fantasy bordering on horror given how many demons, gouls, and vampires show up – this could be your bag.

It’s written clean, and it’s written well, my only gripe would be that the dialogue sometimes sounds old-fashioned and sometimes comes out very modern, “Nope, you’re with us now, sugar. Get comfortable”, but also, “I need not your body to do you a favor. Anything you ask, I will provide out of love for your kind. I need not be bought.”

Final Score: 11/15


This is a very fast paced book, as was the first. There’s almost always something going on, whether they are helping out Tree Queens, or seeking out vampires, or putting spies into vampire nests, or being caught and enslaved – there’s always some kind of jeopardy that keeps the pages turning.

Final Score: 12.5/15


I don’t see many 12K year old protagonists, and I really don’t see a lot of sentient and human morphing half tree women either. There’s honestly a lot going on in this book I don’t see done often, or done at all. The entire book has a very surreal and mythical feel to it that’s something unique to itself.

Final Score: 14/15

Personal Enjoyment:

I am typically one for more light hearted stuff, and I have to be in the right mood for a darker story like this one. In an attempt to get this review out before the release date I read this when I was really in the mood for a comedy. Lol, this is not a comedy, nor is it light hearted at all, this is a book for people who like Bakker, or Abercrombie, or King.

Final Score: 6/10


  • For people who like darker stories
  • For people who like a LOT of magical elements
  • For people who like mythical like settings
  • For people who like multi pov
  • For people who like a lot of action
  • For people who like fast paced books
  • For people who are looking for something different



Final Score: 77.5/100 (4 stars)

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