Nick Gautier is a Cajun guttersnipe living in New Orleans. He and his mom live alone, uncared for by any of their kin, because his mother gave birth to him out of wedlock. So they cast her out when she wouldn't agree to give up her baby, and now she works to support Nick by being an exotic dancer in a small club.
Nick's father is in jail, which Nick more than thinks he deserves, as his dad is one very scary dude. Nick, by contrast, is a good kid, and very smart. So smart, he's on a scholarship to St. Richard's Academy, a prestigious school. But the kids there treat him like dirt and pick on him, and the headmaster thinks Nick is trash who doesn't deserve to be there. Nick tries to be good, but when the other kids diss his mother, he gets angry and charges the guy who insulted her, which gets him suspended for the rest of the day.
Needless to say, this makes his mother very angry. She can't understand why Nick can't just get along with the other kids. Nick tries to make her understand, but she just doesn't believe him when he tries to tell her what is going on, which just makes Nick frustrated and angry.
Then, one night, a friend of his asks him to be a lookout while he takes care of some business, for $100. Nick, who knows his mother is perpetually short of money, agrees almost without thinking about it, but when he realizes that his friend's "business" is mugging tourists, along with his crew, Nick is shocked and outraged, and won't let his friend do it, which gets him beaten up and shot for his trouble.
But Nick is saved by an awesome warrior named Kyrian, who kicks the butts of his former "friends" and then takes Nick to the hospital, where his mother is called. Because of his actions in defending the tourists, Nick is a hero, and nobody seems to know that he started as the lookout- except for Kyrian.
Nick's mother is devastated. They can't afford for Nick to be sick, let alone in the hospital. Kyrian offers to pay, but his mom also is chary of taking anyone's charity, and is suspicious of Kyrian for offering it. Finally, he agrees to let Nick work at his mansion to work off the debt, which she, very reluctantly, accepts.
While Nick is in the hospital, he meets a girl named Nekoda. This isn't the first time they met- they met at school while he was waiting to be disciplined, but Nick was attracted to her then, and he's still attracted. Nekoda pays him attention, but in a good way, and Nick finds himself tongue-tied around her. Nekoda is working as a nurse's aide, and she helps Nick get over the pain he is feeling by bringing him books and later, a portable game console- her own, which makes him very happy.
After he gets out, his arm is still in a sling, and he gets a party. The next day, when he goes to school, something strange is happening- and not just because he's treated in a friendly fashion by the kids who pick him up in a car. One of the kids at school tried to eat one of the other kids. And a very short time later, the coach attempts to eat another kid. School is closed for the day, and Nick decides to hang out with the local Zombie and other pest hunter, Bubba, and his "apprentice", Mike.
Bubba isn't exactly sane, but Nick doesn't want to piss off anyone with that many guns. Later, he goes to meet his new employer, whose housekeeper feeds him and lets him get a handle on where everything is in the house. But when a group of zombies show up and try to kill him, Nick is saved by a tremendously tall man that appears to him, for a moment, to have blue skin and horns. He introduces himself as Acheron Parthenopaus, and to Ash's amazement, he isn't able to wipe the zombie incident from Nick's mind.
But things are going to get a lot stranger for Nick. In addition to hordes of crazed zombies running the streets, he finds out that the football team of his high school just happen to be werewolves- the good sort, of course. And his friend Alex is a werebear, and the other humans at school are all squires, working for Daimon Slayers known as Dark-Hunters.
But little does Nick suspect that he, himself, is part-demon, and of a kind fated to destroy the world. Or he could be its savior, *if* he follows the straight and narrow path. But Nick is just as easily seduced into using his powers for evil as any human could be, and little does he know that the girl he likes is supposed to destroy him if he turns to evil... But can Nick keep his mom safe, and stay alive in a New Orleans that suddenly seems to be spinning wildly out of control?
I've read and loved lots of Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter books, and this YA series focuses on Nick Gautier, the smart-alecky, back-talking Squire of Kyrian of Thrace, back before he actually became a squire. The opening line of the book made me laugh, and once it started there, it drew me in and I never looked back.
Nick's past as an impoverished but intelligent kid is laid out before us without any punches pulled. He's despised by most of the kids at his school, and we find out during the course of the story that those who are being nice to him have ulterior motives for the way they treat him, which, you have to admit, sucks pretty hard.
The story is told in partial flashback. Teens who have read the Dark-Hunter books will recognize Nick as he is now- Demon, lover of the Goddess Artemis, and just generally P.o.'ed at the entire world, including his former friend, Acheron. But I didn't see why the story needed to be told that way. Nick seemed to be wanting something out of the retelling in hid current life- perhaps he's trying to change the future, or remember Nekoda for some reason. But why? It's not yet clear.
I found the book enjoyable to read, and like most of Sherrilyn Kenyon's books about normal humans reacting to extraordinary events, this one more than kept my attention. I'm not a fan of the newer, nasty Nick, but reading about him when he was just an entirely puny and defenseless kid was fun and interesting. I also want to know why Nick is remembering these things. Is it to change himself or to change the past? I'd love to find out. Highly recommended, especially if you love the Dark-Hunter series.