One spark will rise.
Nina Kane was born to be an exorcist. And since uncovering the horrifying truth—that the war against demons is far from over—seventeen-year-old Nina and her pregnant younger sister, Mellie, have been on the run, incinerating the remains of the demon horde as they go.
In the badlands, Nina, Mellie, and Finn, the fugitive and rogue exorcist who saved her life, find allies in a group of freedom fighters. They also face a new threat: Pandemonia, a city full of demons. But this fresh new hell is the least of Nina’s worries. The well of souls ran dry more than a century ago, drained by the demons secretly living among humans, and without a donor soul, Mellie’s child will die within hours of its birth.
Nina isn’t about to let that happen…even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.
The Anathema crew is back in business in this fun, action-packed sequel to The Stars Never Rise (review here)! Although this sequel didn’t offer the new outlook that the first book held when introducing the dangerous and dark world, we also learn interesting things about the characters we already know about, as well as meet new ones (while saying goodbye to old ones). Vincent is never afraid to drag the story to darker depths, yet still carry the light of hope that the characters must have to survive such a morbid atmosphere. While the first half of the book was a bit mundane for me, I got really into the story by the second half after all the pieces of the plot was laid out. The second half definitely had more action as well, which was a plus.
Basically in this post-apocalyptic world, demons have ravaged the globe and are taking human bodies. The Unified Church is the organization the general population is raised under, and yet they seem to have ulterior motives. We start the book with Anathema, the group that was formed back in book 1, as they set off to their next course after escaping the clutches of the Church. This group is composed of exorcists and their companions, creating a motley crew that look out for one another amidst the chaos inflicted by demons. Our main character Nina takes care of her pregnant younger sister Mellie throughout the book while waiting for the birth of her niece or nephew. Her conflict is that there is a shortened supply of souls in the world since demons have been using them up; thus she is ready to sacrifice her life in order for her newborn relative to live if there is no other option.
“The well of souls was empty. It had been quietly drained over the past millennia by demons secretly living among us. The soaring infant mortality rate at the end of the previous century had finally clued humanity in, leading to the war against the unclean, which had decimated two-thirds of the world’s population.”
Nina is an awesome character to read about: loyal to a fault and full of strengths and cunning plans for the demons. Readers get to discover more about Finn, her mysterious boyfriend who doesn’t have a body himself but can inhabit the body of another person. Unlike a demon, however, he does not kill a person when he does that and can bounce between bodies. Their relationship is put on a back seat in this story in favor of plot progression and action, which I had no problems with. The multiple ships in the book are relatively drama-free and work out quite nicely. Each character balances the other out, while still retaining their own strength and independence. Best of all, it doesn’t take away from the plot at all and only enhances it with the love found between friends and lovers.
“This life comes with no guarantees,’ the nomad said. ‘We fight, we believe, and we hope for an honorable death. I would hate to see you deprived of any of that.’”
Early in the book Anathema stumbles upon a child and heads out West, to the detriment of Maddock and Finn, to bring him back to his home. It turns out that the child was bait and Anathema is headed into the clutches of Pandemonia, an area ruled by demons who are wasteful, lavish, and dramatic. Along the way, they meet a group of nomads and befriend one of them named Eli, who helps uncover the fact that the child they met was Unclean and thus possessed. While Nina has to deal with Mellie’s pregnancy, someone else in the group gets kidnapped by Kastor, the demon who pretty much owns Pandemonia. The group is then split in half, as Nina heads to the demon city to confront Kastor on her own.
What really made this book a bit less enjoyable than the first one (but nonetheless still fun!) was that the first half of it was laying the foundations of the second. So we get to see clues laid here and there about certain things, while the author wrote about this transition period that was a bit cumbersome. Once I got through that, though, I was immediately drawn back into the story! Nina finds out that the Unified Church didn’t just leave them with the knowledge of how demons are slowly controlling the world, but also the power to possibly defeat them. It’s definitely a heady realization. I actually really like the way Vincent incorporated this part of the plot within the story, and it’s a subtle yet powerful discovery that will lay the foundations to the decimation of demons.
“I was far from sure I believed in Eli’s warrior religion, but I did believe in purpose, and the Unified Church had unwittingly given me a hell of a one.”
It’s also a very plausible and realistic way to get rid of the demons, who technically just get sent back to where they came from instead of actually “dying.” All the characters of Anathema were interesting to read about with their diverse personalities and origin. While Maddock, the leader, becomes unsettled by going out to the west (where he grew up in), Devi continues to be snarky and aggressive. Reese is super protective of his girlfriend Grayson, whose exorcist powers have been triggered in this book as she becomes desperate for people to teach her how to use her powers instead of sheltering her from them. Mellie’s character has an intriguing development in this story which will probably shock readers as it did with me. Finally, Finn and Nina remain core members of this crew that are the first to discover how exactly they can get rid of the demons from the world once and for all.
“Evil is a human concept. Demons aren’t evil. We’re simply unburdened by the human conscience and moral codes.’”
The demons are funny creatures, in fact. Like the quote says, they’re not evil. It’s just a state of existence for them, and coming to the human world has unleashed their predatory outlook to savor human emotions and feelings that they could never feel themselves. Much of them remain a mystery, but Vincent writes the world with such simplicity that everything is easily understood, while wrapping complexities around the foundation to add her own twists to the concept of demons. The Unified Church doesn’t make a huge appearance in this book as most of it takes place on the road or in the demon city, but I have a feeling they’ll be back in the third book.
While the beginning of this sequel lacked the adrenaline-inducing scenes of the first book and the latter half of this one, it was also important since it set the foundations of the new discoveries to be made towards the end. I enjoyed going back to Nina and her gang, and reading about their struggles and triumphs against the demons out there who threaten their loved ones (and the world in general). This book definitely felt like a sequel, but comes with enough action and fun scenes to keep a reader entertained while waiting for the grand finale of the next story.