"I force myself to live by one rule: Don’t look at the demons. The two times I broke this rule still haunt me. Tonight I made another mistake. As a huge demon leered at us, I couldn’t fight the urge. I looked. And he saw me. Maybe it’s not a big deal. Nothing happened as my aunt sped beyond it in the car. Besides, I only have one year of high school left. I’ll be fine. But I know exactly what could occur. I’ve seen it too many times. Two men lurked with the demon I saw tonight. Evil clung to them, as if they had given their souls in exchange for something else. I shudder when I consider what they could be. But do vampires really exist? With everything I've seen, I wouldn't be too surprised. Where are the good guys? If there’s darkness, shouldn’t there be light? How come the angels don’t battle the demons if that is the case? Or do they? Maybe there’s a war around me that I don’t see. I just want to be left alone, and after tonight, I don’t think that’s going to be a choice."
This young adult fantasy novel weaves angels, demons, and vampires into a thrilling adventure in which angels and humans wage war on demons and vampires. The action doesn’t stop as Nic, the main character, is forced into choosing which side of the fight he is on while both sides are desperately urging him to join their army. Devil’s Pathway is a Christian fantasy novel for teens who are ready to get serious about their faith. If you like Frank Peretti's "This Present Darkness" or novels by Ted Dekker, you'll like Devil's Pathway.
The Guru's Review:
When I had read enough of this novel to be introduced to the characters and plot lines and themes, I instantly had a gimmick for this novel: This Present Darkness (Frank Peretti) meets The Last Werewolf Hunter (William Woodall) meets Twilight (Stephanie Meyer) meets the Bible! What do I mean by this? This novel has been influenced by This Present Darkness, where angels and demons fight over the affairs of the humans for good or evil; The Last Werewolf Hunter series involves a teenage boy who is prophesied to be either the destroyer of the werewolf existence or its saviour; the Twilight series where we are shown vampire folklore, hierarchy and way of life; the bible where sin is conquered and those who live in it are dealt with accordingly from a loving but just God.
Devil's Pathway involves the same spiritual warfare theme as Peretti's, the fight over specific humans, in this case, the main character, Nic, to influence him to choose which side he will fight on, the demon/vampire side or God's. It also about a teenage boy who is prophesied to be a mighty warrior for good or evil and his own quest to find who he is and which side he should be on (similar to Woodall's novels). Then we have the vampires whose folklore and hierachy is similar to the Twilight series (but, I must stress, whose plot is not like the Twilight series in any shape or form).
Despite these similarities to these there books, I am by no means cheapening what Lucas has achieved here. This novel stands on its own merits and despite having no influence from Woodall and Meyer's world building on Lucas, (my comparison, not Lucas'), she has created a wonderful world of prophecy, supernatural, mystery, intrigue, suspense, horror, spiritual warfare, faith, redemption and fantasy and sets them in a Christian/biblical worldview. It is very successful and not only does it highly entertain, but it educates the reader and its young adult audience (hmm, looks like there is still some young adult left in this middle aged reviewer!) in spiritual warfare, the existence of angels and demons and what their purpose is in relation to humans and God, sin and its eternal consequences, spiritual discernment, resisting temptation, repentance, forgiveness and living for God.
I have not been able to put this one down and everything about it resonates with me. Everything is balanced and in perspective. Lucas has not glorified evil, demons, vampires or encouraged the worship of angels. She has been very careful to adhere to biblical doctrine and her poetic license does not cross this line or compromise this at all. Some authors might find this difficult to do, but Lucas does this very successfully. I am very much in awe of this novel and very impressed with Lucas as an author.
One thing that I found very intriguing about this novel is the inclusion of vampires. Angels and demons, yes, very used to them being essential to a spiritual warfare albeit Peretti-esque type novel that this is, but vampires? I have only read one Christian novel involving a vampire and that was Blood for Blood by Ben Wolf concerning a vampire who never wanted to be such, and wanted to be free and accepted God's offer of salvation. That was treated well biblically. I also wanted to see how Lucas would treat vampires in this novel. I must say, she has developed this very well. She has successfully built their own world. They have a history (tied to a deserted and dilapidated mining town), they have a hierarchy, they have their own rules. Led by Henry and second in charge Liam, they are a force to be reckoned with. Here Lucas ties them in with the demons in that they allow them to exist but rule/lord it over them. Satan owns their souls. If they had their way, the vampires would be banished to Hell. If the vampires had their way, the demons would be subservient to them. Henceforth, the vampires want to be free of the demons rule and oppression and will seek whatever means to break this bondage. Hence, when Henry finds out about the prophecy regarding Nic, he sees how he could turn Nic into a vampire and with the fulfillment of this prophecy Nic could be the mighty warrior/weapon to assist them in overthrowing the demonic rule. As Henry states,
We've evolved from human to immortal. We're on the same plane as them! And yet they think they're superior because they're demons.On a spiritual level one aspect that I found interesting is the hint of salvation/redemption (and I hope is explored more in the next instalment) that one of the vampires seeks when he converses with Eli, the angel guarding Nic. Eli says to him,
You think you lost your soul, but that's not the truth. The Devil is your Master. He holds your soul. It isn't lost.I am looking forward to seeing what Lucas says about this theology when I interview here over the next few days. Seeing that there is no known (that I know of) proof that vampires exist, this could be interesting poetic license that she has included here and it really does make the plot interesting and exciting. It seems that this theology is very much alongside the same as that explored in the Blood for Blood novel mentioned previously. In other Christian fantasy, science fiction novels, authors have extended the salvation/redemption doctrine to the species (not human) of that world so in one sense this is not unique to this novel.
As far as the spiritual beings of demons and angels are concerned, these seem to be based on the biblical narrative. Her demons have a hierarchy, they cringe, and are hateful but fearful of anything to do with God, unrepentant. They are also hateful of humans but will use them for their own purposes, they especially hate Christians, and will do anything to derail their relationship with God and win them over to their side. Lucas' angels live up to their name (Hebrew, malach meaning 'Angel' or 'Messenger' Strong's 4397) and their function in the bible, messengers and warriors. They do not act on their own initiative, but only from specific orders from God. Their behaviour and attitude is out of total obedience, submission and love of God, or as they say in this novel, The King.
Like Peretti, Lucas emphasizes that the strength of the angel's presence and power is in direct proportion to the prayer cover of the saints. The basis of this is that if the saints are praying for a specific cause, then God will respond with instructing His angels to answer this prayer, but that is only one way that He does this. He can and could smite the vampires/demons in this novel or in real life situations as He is Omnipotent but it seems to me, like Peretti and Lucas encourage, that He uses prayer (and His Word) to teach us to be obedient, trust, rely on, submit to Him and accept whatever answer He provides to the situation we are in or our fellow saints are in.
Lucas is very masterful at portraying youthful characters. You know Nic, Megan, Matthew, and others are youth/teenagers by their dialogue and attitudes/behaviour. I really do appreciate this in an author, to be able to create, real like, characters that you develop a rapport with and whom you empathize. Such is the case with Nic, the main character. He comes across as complex due to the trauma he has experienced and the effects of his post traumatic stress disorder of seeing his mother murdered by his father and the demons that he saw encourage his father to commit this, and then witnessing the shooting of the school bully by his teacher. Coupled with this stress is the darkness the wells up inside him that is connected to him being able to see demons and his connection to the prophecy. I related to his emotions trying to come to terms with his loss of mother and recounting these events in flash back at strategic times placed by Lucas to show the effects of the darkness and his valiant attempts to control this in his own strength. What enhances the portrayal of Nic as this relational character is use of the first person narrative as it directly puts you alongside him so you experience what he does first hand. Makes it all the more credible.
Lucas writes well and has crafted this novel superbly. The pace in the first half is more than enough to keep you interested and wanting more and this escalates to be one really revved up machine by the second half and from here on in, it becomes one fast paced, intense and suspenseful ride with everything set in the first half coming to a head and it is here where this novel really shines and Lucas' skill is at her best. I was left panting at the end and on a cliff hanger as the ending leaves it very much open for an exciting second instalment where I reckon the reader is going to hit the ground running.
I was very impressed with the description of the fight scenes at the end between the demon hoard led by Blaise the demon, Liam the vampire second in charge, and the angels led by Malkiel, the angelic leader, together with Nic and Megan. The outcome of this is what sets the scene for a very memorable ending and setting for scene for the opening of the next instalment.
I finished reading this novel, not just panting from this action packed second half but also from the total effect of this well crafted novel. Putting all the events together with all their interaction and connections, all I could say is WOW and WOW!
This is up there with some of the best novels I have read. Vicki Lucas is one author that is in the top list of my favourite authors. I must find the time amoungst my review list and own books waiting to be read to read her other series, The Trap Series.