Reviewed in the United States on January 9, 2021
For the most part, I really did enjoy this latest entry into the world of Simon & Monty, but for a story that was built up to be a pivotal moment between our two main characters, it fell a little short when the moment came.
Also, while Monty was "discussed" a lot in this book, we really didn't get to spend much time with him at all. Given his schism state of mind, I once again have to express that a dual point of view would have really been beneficial to this particular story.
In addition to this, there were some things that I liked and some things that I didn't like - MINOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW:
DEX - Dex is hands down the GOAT of this story! This guy is simply next level awesome. He's really put a "dex'" on me! There is a sequence with him and someone else in this story that is one of the author's finest moments. BEST SUPPORTING CHARACTER EVER ... save Peaches, who is the exception to every rule.
SIMON - His growing powers and overall character development were really enjoyable to read. It was also nice to see Simon acknowledge some of the more minor things about his new "supernatural" life that have been generally eluded to throughout the series but never directly addressed by the character, like his admission that Peaches is actually way smarter than him and has been dumbing it down for his sake and not the other way around; then there's a casual reference to Monty's wealth, which I think is relevant given that they haven't had a paying gig in ages; Simon's intense need and appreciation for "family," and Monty's role in his acquiring of that; and his fear and uncertainty over his rapidly growing powers and whatever role he will one day be expected to play in the grand scheme of it all ... these are all small moments more or less, but really build on his character.
TK and LD - Hello you two! Always a pleasure!
EZRA - Another great character. (I'm absolutely convinced that Ezra and Terry Pratchett were really good friends.)
GREY STRYDER - When does his next book come out? If this guy lives long enough, he might one day be able to give Awesome Uncle Dex a run for his money. Love him!
KALI - She shows up in a major way in one of Simon's most desperate moments. I wasn't expecting it, and given the situation, she was the perfect character to have here.
NO MICHIKO ("CHI")!! She is mentioned, but does not appear. That's how I prefer her (no matter how much retconning the author tries to do.)
NOT ENOUGH MONTY!! A big part of the premise for the previous book, DARK GLASS, was the build-up of Monty going "dark." So the natural progression of that thread would be to actually depict what a "dark" Monty would be like. Nope! Not here. Since he has no point of view, all we get is a lot of exposition from people who claim to know what is going on in his head. Really? Instead, the author chooses to waste precious keystrokes on an annoying, clueless and utterly useless character who serves no purpose whatsoever in the "dark Monty" storyline other than to serve the author's blatantly obvious desire to introduce a new character for a spinoff series. Normally, I wouldn't mind this tactic, but this was NOT the book to do it in.
JESSIKAH - See paragraph above.
KALI - I know I listed her in "the good" section above, but she does something here that puzzles me. While I won't state specifically what that is, it does leave me with a couple of questions: (1) Are we really expected to believe that a jealous and possessive god like Kali would be more bothered by Simon being Monty's shieldbearer than she would be by that ridiculous "Til Death Do Us Part" nonsense going on between Simon and his vampire overlord, Michiko, regarding the sword, Ebonsoul, that she gave him? And (2) does this now mean that Simon is no longer Monty's shieldbearer? Given everything that Monty has done for Simon throughout their friendship, I really didn't appreciate the way this sequence was handled. We were never really told how Simon himself felt about it, all things considered, but what Kali does still feels like a symbolic loss to Simon and Monty's friendship that I hope the author will elaborate on in the future. Also, I seriously doubt that Nana will be thrilled by this either. That was one plot thread that seems to have gone nowhere fast.
SIMON & MONTY'S CONFRONTATION - With all of the buildup, this could have and should have been done better. It just fell really short for me. Both their lives and their friendship were on the line here, yet, as I read it I felt ... well ... nothing! No dread, no excitement, none of the things I should have felt during this moment. Again, I blame this on Monty not being a point of view character. Having the entire confrontation be depicted from Simon's side of things just didn't work very well for me here. Combine this with Dex's awesomeness in an earlier chapter - which utterly dwarfs any action sequences that come afterward - and you'll be able to better understand my point on this.
They say you don't criticize things you don't care about, so I hope you kept that in mind while reading this review. I really do love these M&S stories, but it doesn't mean they are perfect. Still, I will happily continue to recommend these books to any and all fans of Urban Fantasy who are looking for a fun and entertaining read.