This dark and gritty urban fantasy is the third book in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s appeal to a more PG-13 audience. (I hadn't read the previous two books, but I have read several from her adult paranormal romances that occur in the same universe, and introduce many of the overlapping characters.) While it did take a while to center myself, I would argue that there is effort put forth to make this book stand somewhat sufficiently on its own.
Nick Gautier isn't your typical angsty teen from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s also half-demon, and it’s his alleged destiny to destroy the world. Assuming the world doesn't destroy him first.
Here's Nick in a nutshell:
“My name is Nick Gautier and this is the story of my life.
First off, get the name right. It’s pronounced Go-shay not Go-tee-ay or Goat-chay (that has an extra H in it and as my mom says we’re so poor we couldn't afford the extra letter). I’m not some fancy French fashion designer. I’m just a regular kid… well as regular as someone with a stripper for a mother and a career felon for a father can be.”
Nick, as followers of the series already know, is scathingly sarcastic yet uniquely noble. As far as male teen heroes go, you couldn't ask for much better or more believable—supernatural influences notwithstanding. While he is our primary point of view character, Kenyon doesn’t shy away from using an array of different peripheral characters to further her storytelling. The pacing is swift, the characterization consistent, and the actions scenes abundant. I particularly enjoyed the array of support that Nick has unwittingly built up and how it comes into play as he winds up in a few brutal bouts of trouble.
Themes of bullying and suicide prevention run through and through in this plot arc. Kenyon’s maternal side comes out loud and strong as the narrative repeatedly stresses the underlying value of life and the potential for even minor interventions to turn the tide in someone’s personal struggle. While the extent of these “teachable moments” sometimes comes off a bit heavy-handed, this reader greatly respects that the author takes seriously her potential to influence an impressionable YA audience. She’s not simply seeking to entertain them, she’s striving to get them thinking (and coping with adolescence) more effectively.
The biggest drawback to this book? Nick’s mother. -_-
Cherise swings from smotheringly hyper-maternal to dementedly accusatory and back at the drop of a hat. On top of that, she has to be the worst judge of character in the history of literature. >.< Every time she's in a scene, I want to smack her upside the head with my shoe.
Did I mention I’m wearing cleats? >.>