John Wayne Cleaver is back and he’s still hunting demons, this time he has a government agency at his back. Or is that on his back?
John has a team that hunts demons with him and they all have a list of secrets that make them ideal members of a hidden agency. However John chafes at their involvement. He plans and orchestrates how to kill each demon but isn’t allowed to participate in the action because he’s a teenager.
On top of that they have found a town where there are several demons living and one of them seems to be hunting John and his team in turn.
This book opens up the world that seemed so isolated in the previous three John Cleaver books. The world is larger and the demons themselves are expanded on so that we can see a bit of where they come from and who they are.
Dan Wells has grown a lot since those early books. He’s become a master of emotional ties and twists that turn in the gut.
John Wayne Cleaver is a sociopathic teenager who has been rendered sympathetic through the magic of literary depiction. John struggles with his personality. He wants to murder things and kill things. He feels a need to do so. However, he knows that it is wrong so he builds rules and patterns in his life to keep himself away from temptations. Unfortunately events are once again about to spiral out of control and John may have to turn himself loose in order to save himself and the people around him.
John’s friend Brooke is there but she has been driven insane by the stored memories of Nobody, the demon that formerly possessed her. Brooke tries to remember things for them but her memories are frequently colored by centuries of possessions and depression. John feels partly guilty for the state she’s in.
The story here is fascinating and emotionally powerful. It is also terrifying, but not because of horror elements. The fear comes from John. He knows how closely he has to monitor himself in order to be a good person and when that starts to fall apart it becomes more scary on a personal level than anything else could have been.
If John loses control then he is lost. Those stakes are far higher than being murdered or possessed or hunted by millenia-old demons.
I really liked this book and found it to be even better than I had hoped. If you haven’t read the previous books in this series this is a good place to start.