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Edward Lee's 'City Infernal': A Review

Updated on August 24, 2013

City Infernal

Pages: 366

Rating: ****

My first trip into Lee's Hell was with 2010's 'Lucifer's Lottery' and I decided to make a return trip with 2001's 'City Infernal'. Typically, a writer's skill matures as time goes by, but I found myself enjoying this earlier work a lot more. 'Lucifer's Lottery' was a lot of internal political structure and hierarchy, demography and industry with a little story mixed in. While 'City Infernal' is more story with those complex details as a mere side note.

'City Infernal' introduces us to Gothic twins Cassie and Lissa Heydon. Lissa, the fun loving, impulsive drug use, sex exploiting, wild child is an over emotional girl who is quick to jump to conclusions. Cassie is Lissa's polar opposite. Dark, depressed and would rather kill herself than sink to her sister's level. One night at a popular goth club, Cassie finds herself in a compromising situation with Lissa's boyfriend. This is not something that Cassie would normally do, except that 'somebody' slipped a little something into her drink. When Lissa walks in on a potential betrayal, she pulls a gun on her lover and then on herself.

City Infernal
City Infernal

Don't be afraid to give Edward Lee a try. He certainly changed my thoughts about the horror genre.


Two years later, a cleaned up, sobered up and more mentally stable Cassie is still haunted by her sister's memory. Cassie and her father decided to start life with a clean slate in a new town. However, as Cassie learns, her new home runs blood red with a very sinister history. As she becomes aware of the atrocities that plague her home, three apparitions begin to make their presence known. Three semi demons using a special portal to escape Hell's unbearable punishments, make Cassie an offer that she can't refuse. In exchange for guiding Cassie to find her sister, she must give her blessing which would allow the three to remain in her home as permanent residents.It seems like such a small price to pay to receive atonement for her sister's death.

As Cassie descends into the fiery depths, she discovers special powers that she has been given to protect herself in the land of the damned. Cassie and her companions sneak through streets full of abominations, quickly uncovering trails of deceit that would make a smile cross even Satan's evil lips. As her powers develop and grow, she joins an anti-Satan group who opposes the Devil and all he stands for. Hoping to utilize Cassie's new powers as the backbone of the pioneering movement, this group instills the hope that she can set Lissa's soul free from the fiery depths. Yes, there are beacons of holy light even among the most horrid sinners. Using the opportunity to free Lissa from her prison, Cassie aids in an all out attack against all things demonic. However all is not as it seems and the biggest player of all is.... Lissa?

Lee really left me guessing until the very last page with 'City Infernal'. While not terribly fast paced, and a few small stalled sections, I still flew through the story in roughly five days. The surprises that are in store for the reader are definitely the work of a dark imagination. I felt myself really sympathizing with the three ghostly stooges, and fearing for the welfare of Lissa the whole time, proving Lee is a master of character design. I can appreciate the intrigue of the story, it just wasn't as exciting as it had the potential to be. Not a bad story, but a little more adventure wouldn't hurt. Another novel that isn't meant for the weak of heart of those with high religious beliefs. I'm only going to give this novel four stars, but I still count Lee as one of the great horror writers of my generation.

Lee has a very unorthodox view of purgatory, is this a story you might be intrigued by?

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