Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Dark Storm by Kris Greene

Long ago, in the seventeenth century, demons invaded the world through a rip in the fabric of reality. Pope Alexander X stood against them, but none of the holy warriors of Christendom could stand in their way. With the armies slaughtered, Bishop Michael Francisco was sent across the world by the Pope to find twelve Holy Warriors from all different cultures to wield the weapons of the First Guard, twelve companions of Jesus whom they protected until they were captured, condemned and put to death.

The Bishop found his Holy Warriors and each took one of the weapons for their own to wield, but with success against the demons, the Bishop was suborned by a Powerful Demon Lord named Belthon, and he led the warriors, who followed him blindly. Bishop wielded a special Trident known as the Nimrod, which had once belonged to the worshippers of the Egyptian God of Death. But as the final battle with the Demons was taking place, Titus, the man who had helped Belthon suborn Bishop, struck Bishop down as he decided to change the terms of the agreement with the demon Lord.

Titus used the Nimrod to strike Bishop down, but when he tried to capture Bishop's soul with the Nimrod, as it had captured the souls of the Demons it slew, something happened. The Nimrod, itself expressing a kind of sentience, took Bishop's soul into itself and made him become a part of it. Redfeather, one of the Holy Knights, took up the Nimrod and struck Titus with it. As he did, the Nimrod went wild, slaying both Knights and Demons. But since Redfeather did not know how to wield the Nimrod properly, one of its three points broke off in Titus' chest. The energy from the Nimrod's attack closed and sealed the rift in masses of lightning and thunder. The few remaining demons fled and hid themselves in the far corners of the earth, waiting for the day when they were strong again.

In the Present, a young woman named De Mona Sanchez is fleeing to a college campus in the heart of New York to find a man named Gabriel Readfeather. Gabriel is a quiet, intelligent young man with a passion for learning old languages and scholarship. He's attracted to a girl named Katie Reynolds, but she mostly uses him to do her homework for her and help her with her projects. She knows she isn't as smart as Gabriel, and truth be told, she's more of a party girl than anything else. He makes a plan to meet Katie at the college Library, to work on her schoolwork, but she never shows. Instead, he runs into his Jock friend, Carter and Carter's friend Victor, who invite him out to go clubbing.

Gabe doesn't want to go, but Carter and Victor tell him that Katie is going to meet them at the club. She blew Gabe off to have a good time. Gabe reluctantly agrees to meet them later, but after Carter and Victor leave, he's surprised by De Mona, who has tracked him down. In her hands, she holds a wrapped package, which has an item which she wants him to read the runes on. She asks for "Redfeather", and he realizes she means his grandfather, but Gabriel is the best one to be able to read the runes.

The item is a two-tined trident, old and rusty, but in the moonlight, strange runes appear on its surface. De Mona tells Gabriel that the Trident was responsible for her father's death, and she needs answers. He manages to read the runes and finds out the name of the object: The Nimrod. He decides to take her to his Grandfather and ask his advice, but on the way, the two are attacked by a demon named Riel, and the Nimrod speaks telepathically to Gabriel, telling him to call on it.

Scared out of his mind and with no other way out, Gabriel does so, and the spirit of Bishop enters into his mind, calling on the power of the Rod to slay the lesser demons, and injure Riel. Gabriel also proves to have the power to call upon the storm, bringing lightning down on the heads of the Demons. Gabriel and De Mona escape, and go to Gabriel's Grandfather. He, in turn, is upset at the sight of the Nimrod. Because it could mean renewed conflict with the Demons, or worse, the return of the Dark Storm that opened the rift to the demon world in the first place.

Gabriel learns that he is the successor to one of the twelve weapons, a bone-hafted knife borne by the first Redfeather. But the Nimrod and Bishop have a hold on his soul, one that will become stronger the more that Gabriel uses the Nimrod. When Bishop's soul rises up once more, his grandfather and Gabriel working together placate it, although it exhausts Gabriel. He falls into sleep, and his grandfather and De Mona travel to Sanctuary, a special church where they can possibly get help for him. But that's going to be hard, because De Mona is half demon, and while she doesn't know anything about the demons, many of them want to recruit her to fight on the demon side.

For his own part, Gabriel awakens in his home being looked after by a friend of his father's, a woman who is also a Pagan witch. But Bishop, who hasn't gotten over his hatred of anything non-Christian, kills her using the Nimrod and Gabriel's power to call the storm. Gabriel is sickened and saddened by her death, and leaves to find his grandfather. Along the way, he hooks up with his human friends at a bar, and encounters a mage who sold his eyes to a demon in return for demon sight, and a group of people who hunt vampires and lesser demons. The Nimrod is so close to him now that it has grafted itself to his body in the form of a tattoo, making him unable to be rid of it.

So when more demons turn up and kill not only his friends, but demand the Nimrod, Gabriel has to rely on their help to save him. But the demons and the witches are being stirred up by the reappearance of the Nimrod. As Gabriel tries to stay alive, more and more conflicts are generated by the ancient power he wields, and the spirit that appears to be living both inside the Nimrod and inside his own body. Can he survive the night, and retrieve his Grandfather when the demons take him to Hell?

Okay, this book was very confusing for me. So many characters and plot threads were introduced that it was hard to keep them all separate in my head. Gabriel and De Mona are supposedly the main characters of the book, but the book seems to devote a lot of time to other characters, and it's hard to tell if they are peripheral to the story or might end up sharing the spotlight when so much time is given to them.

So many characters show up that it's easy to get them confused or not remember what group they are a part of. Just off the top of my head there are: witches, mages, demons, vampires, hunters, members of the brotherhood, the Queen of the Witches and the descendants of the twelve, each with their own motivations and reasons for working with or against the others, and many are multiple characters. So many characters with so many different motivations are shoved together into this one very small volume it gets hard to remember who is what and what they want. This book needed to be either longer or better edited, because sometimes the story degenerates into a mess.

Some of the other things kind of smacked you in the face. It didn't take me long to figure out what De Mona was- the answer is right there in her name. (Actually, she's a half-demon, but the point stands.) It was interesting right after I figured it out, but after that it got less so. It's like her parents decided to point a giant flaming arrow at their daughter telling everyone what she is. Does that make sense, when Demons are so hated by so many groups? It kind of made me go "Huh?"

I had a very mixed reaction to the book. On the one hand, I liked the ideas behind the story, and the fact that Gabriel is out of his element being asked to fight demons- he's a scholar, not a fighter. On the other hand, the story degenerates into a big mess very quickly. Too many characters are introduced too quickly, only to die or get shoved aside for new characters being introduced. It wounds as if Kris Greene has a long story to tell, but is forced to shove it into a mere three books to tell it, when it really deserves five. It needs better pacing and better editing to work well. I can't really recommend it, but it does hold together enough to tell an intriguing story. I just wish the execution was better.

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