“Wow. This book really snuck up on me. I wasn't sure at first, because the writing seemed as though a lot had been cut out initially. I didn't think I was getting the whole picture. I honestly think that this book was not written for the YA market, but it ended up as one because of the younger aged characters. I felt as though the author might have been asked to edit some parts out to make it more 'suitable' for younger readers, and I felt that initially. As CS Lewis has expressed, I think that a good children's book is one that an older person will love just as much, so I don't really agree with writing books 'younger' to make them fit into the YA genre. So that feeling I had when I first started this book sort of threw me. I have read Sarah Rees Brennan before, a short story in The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire, which I enjoyed immensely. So I knew she was a good writer. And the storyline of two brothers fighting demons and evil humans together called my name, as a huge fan of the Supernatural TV series and the Cal Leandros books by Rob Thurman. I was already excited to read this book. So, the beginning was so barebones, I got a little worried. I shouldn't have worried. This turned out to be an excellent book. So excellent, that I really can't knock it down from five stars despite its shaky start.
Ms. Brennan took a story that seemed all laid out for the reader, and gave it depths and twists that had me truly surprised. I didn't expect what happened at all. I had some ideas, and questions, and then things fell into place. I wondered about Nick, how he was so different from Alan. But I thought that maybe it was a matter of having more of his mother in him. Or maybe he was just wired differently from Alan. I think that humans are so unique, we can't expect each person to react the same way to the same set of circumstances. Even close siblings can be very different. But the twist, it makes sense.
This is an edgy book, and quite dark. I think that Brennan can definitely bring it when it comes to this kind of storyline. I don't assume that female writers don't know how to go there, and writers like Brennan show women writers do have the chops to pull off this kind of book.
That sibling bond is the lynchpin of this story. It takes what you think you know and you find you didn't know as much as you thought. You think that you know what love is capable of, but you don't have a clue. People often find their views of the world shaken by the events that occur, and from that point it's either adapt or die. It's a leap of faith to walk through a dark, twisted path, with no light in the horizon. But what choice do you have? Alan, who's so seemingly frail in need of protection, he will surprise you. Nick, who seems so strong and invulnerable, he has a core of need that shows you that strength sometimes is an illusion, maybe even a fallacy. Because we can't be a lonely, inviolate rock and survive in this world. We need an anchor. We need that tie of emotion to keep us grounded, to keep us healthy, sane, alive. Such is the case with Nick. There's definitely some symbiosis between Alan and Nick.
I'll add this series to my favorites about family and siblings because it captures so much that I love about this theme, and so starkly and beautifully. All the pieces fall into place, and the resultant picture is worthy of more than a second glance. It stands up against scrutiny in all the ways that count.
As far as the fantasy elements, very well done. Magicians equal sorcerers in this book. Magic ties heavily into demonology. The theme is inherently dark, but it's not so dark that it makes for unpalatable reading. But dark enough to be credible. Along with the fantasy are the cautions that humans of any persuasion can appreciate. Power comes at a cost. Do we really want to pay that cost? Really? Power corrupts and destroys. But love can change that prognosis in ways we never thought possible.
Yeah, it's clear that I am a fan of this book. I am highly recommending it to people who love the theme of brothers against the world, fighting the bad guys--real demons, and their own emotional ones.
Other books with similar themes you might enjoy:
Nightlife by Rob Thurman
Chimera by Rob Thurman
The Devil You Know by Felix Castor
Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland