Okay. You know how when you really want to read a book but it's not in the library system, and you have no money, and you have no booking friends off of which you could steal it, and so you start stalking the author's blog and any place where they might be mentioned?
Yes, I'm here to say- don't do that. I managed to spoil every single plot point of his book for myself before I read it.
BE WISE, MY READERS. RESIST THE LURE OF BLOGS WITH FUNNY AUTHORS AND TEMPTING SPOILERS.
So, as a result of my rash behaviour with spoilers, I can't really comment on the unexpectedness of the plot. I can only comment on how well the plot and characters are stitched together. (btw, now I'm reading all of SRB's blog post with great care, and if "spoiler" is even breathed about, I don't click. I learned my lesson. Hopefully.)
Right, so the book. Plot wise, Alan and Nick are teen brothers, who live with their insane mother. I do not mean eccentric, I mean insane. Screaming fits are customary, and if she takes off her necklaces she'll die. But Nick and Alan get on pretty well by themselves. Alan works, and Nick is in school, and they move whenever the magicians get too pesky.
Ah yes, the magicians. One of the necklaces which Mum is wearing? It's a charm which she stole, and magicians from all over the country want it. So they're going after it. And by "going after" and "pesky" I don't mean annoying letters, I mean trapping children into circles which can only be broken when someone inside is burned alive, and sending homicidal crows and demons in through the the kitchen window.
Right, demons. Magicians have power to alter things in this world, but they always want more power. It's part of the lifeblood of being a magician. They can get more power by summoning demons and bargaining with them. Yes, Demons do not take Visa. Think payment in the bodies of enemies, or people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe your friend who drew the wrong straw.
Anyways, Nick and Alan have managed quite well to herd their insane mother along, avoid demons and magicians, and lie low. And then one day two teen siblings, brother and sister, appear at the back door, and Nick hadn't even had time to get the body of the latest magician out of the kitchen. I mean, inconsiderate much? Even more inconsiderate, the boy has a third tier demon mark on him, which means he's gonna die. Sooner, rather than later. In nasty ways.
Nick's all for leaving the kid to die and moving away, but Alan has a crush on the girl, and so he insists on helping her, and then things get serious when Alan tries to protect the useless children, and is marked himself.
The book is inside Nick's POV, which raises the bar for characters everywhere. He's so UNsympathetic that I liked him for it. The boy is nothing if not consistent...
Nick is rude, mean, harsh, laconic, hurtful, angry, violent, and very good looking. He is never not rude, mean, harsh, laconic, hurtful, angry, violent, and very good looking.
"Children, teachers and dogs liked Alan. Girls liked Nick. He thought it was a fair trade."
Despite many references to Nick's debauchery, there weren't any actual scenes of it, which was both disappointing (show me, don't tell me about it!) and very, very good. I am not old enough for those scenes. Especially with Nick in charge. Whew, is it warm in here or is it just me? Moving on... He has NO sense of humour, or if he does it would probably involve hurting children or small animals. He likes knives. Not because they're shiny, because they're good for killing people. He's a good dancer and he's the one in charge of getting rid of the bodies. He's honest. He's so honest... When he said he wishes you'd die he's not just speaking in anger. He wants you to die, and he can help with that.
Completely on the other side of the spectrum is Jamie. Jamie who is quiet, wordy, sarcastic, physically weak, hiding things, and gay. (Probably the only way to be more on the other side of the spectrum would be to wrap himself in electric lights and sing showtunes. With feathers. Which Jamie might do someday, on a dare, if he were not still running for his life.) He's the one with the demon mark, and I have an uneasy feeling he's been being visited by an incubus, but let's just skate over that issue. I'm definitely too young for that. Nick writes him off almost immediately, and he doesn't get his hilarious one-liners, so sadly the book doesn't spend as much time around Jamie as I'd like. I would like to go on record right now, though, as saying that I don't trust him. He's too good at hiding. And sarcasm.
"I'm not all that accustomed with the walking dead. Is it alright if I cry with terror now?"WATCH OUT FOR JAMIE IN BOOK TWO. (Also there's spoiler related clues to him being dangerous, but still. I shan't share spoilers. ^_^)
Jamie's sister is Mae, who is Alan's crush. She's also a girl, which means that Nick thinks she's his lawful prey, at times. Did I mention that this book is from the POV of a boy? And that Mae is a girl? Who wears skirts? And shirts Nick can and does look down? And yeah. It's kinda hard to separate Mae-in-nick's-head from Mae-Who-Is-Real. Mae IRL is brave, pretty, smart, loyal, stubborn, and trying so hard to keep everyone together. Mae in Nick's head is- less awesome, and more of a pawn. (Though she does flirt well.) Cause she's a girl, and not Alan, and Alan likes her. She's something to be used against Alan, and therefore gets more attention than Jamie. But the focus is still on Alan.
Alan, Nick's brother. He reads Ancient Sumarian, did you know that? He also carries a gun, instead of the swords which Nick favours, and he never misses. He's crippled and nerdy and very, very good at lying. Children and dogs like him. He's not, really, trustworthy. But not only do you have no choice but to trust him, you want to. He's just so GOOD at lying! But he's probably lying for a good cause. Depending on your definition of what a "good" cause is.
The characters are REALLY, really well done. This isn't one of those "subvert the stereotypes" characters casts. They seem so individual that you (if you're me) are halfway through the book before you realized that they might adhere to a stereotype at all. "Wait, Alan's a nerdy boy, and Nick's the strong silent type? HAHAHAH. Ahem." I'm really looking forward to Demon's Covenant. ^_^
I gave it four stars out of five.