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Second Coming, The (2010)
Fiction Review by La Belle Morte

Second Coming, The (2010) The first novel in the Words of the Prophecy series. Five hundred years have passed since the Earth shifted on its axis - a catastrophic event that wiped out civilization and released the powers of the dead back to Earth. With technology long abandoned, a dark age has shrouded our world once more. Travel to a future of blood sacrifice, demons, witchcraft, and an immoral God that has returned to reclaim his former dominion.

Most adopted children want to meet their real parents. Paine Robertson? Not so much. And when you find out who his real dad is, you can't blame the poor guy. The prologue mentions an event called the Shift, which begat Hell on Earth with a twist of the Day of the Dead.

We meet Paine in the first chapter: "...Paine Robertson slipped out of the [church] door like the serpent out of Eden." Quite a memorable introduction. He has a bad reputation, we learn, because the zealous Christian small towners think he's incestuous with his twin sister, Lya, who is a morbid witch with strong beliefs that often clash with Paine's.

Although Paine's mentions of visions and voices in his head, following instructions, etc, have been done, he grew on me, and I think readers will like him.

Paine and Lya are equal parts cryptic and creepy, especially as they traverse a graveyard and see a strange man staring at them. Paine comes off as more disturbed, which pushes him beyond the usual "I'm just a small town boy who people hate for no reason" nauseatingly emo staple of the genre. He has a twisted mind, and the things he speaks of having done are morose. He feels almost otherworldly, especially in his dialogue, as if sometimes he isn't himself, which also adds dimension to his character.

The fateful twins, as it turns out, are adopted, and Paine has practiced blood magic, or bloodcraft, for a long time. This helps him in the fight against the crusading Witch Hunters who are searching the land for magic users to kill.

The first of the Witch Hunters to arrive surprised me -- his dialogue was a bit clichéd and stilted, especially with "I am protected by the Almighty." For a Witch Hunter who's supposed to be a badass, he goes down quickly -- but to be fair, Paine unleashes souls that devour him. After him, the other Witch Hunters are more believable than their somewhat wimpy chum.

Other things I wished for more of were description and a deeper connection with Paine when the souls collect their price from him by inflicting wounds.

While they're escaping, the twins meet a seemingly benevolent man, Diarmud, and he wants to take them to Haven (witch sanctuary), but Paine thinks it's for deranged people. But they go, hoping to gain power.

The relationship between Diarmud and the twins becomes more important as the novel progresses, giving us a real sense that these are people to care about. And even though Paine is sometimes distant, like Sam in this season of Supernatural, he lets his actions speak louder than his words, as when, despite their differences, he protects his sister in battle.

The one thing that I wish could be clearer is timeline; I'm thinking we're in the 1800s, but the speech and Lya's modern register, suggest the 2000s.

The description style is decent, and the narrative well-written. As well, the action scenes are realistic and exciting, especially when the twins rescue an accused witch, Puck (not this guy). Pacing is also a strong point, because the book isn't plodding, nor is it stuck on warp speed. There's time to absorb what has happened.

Another good point is the solid world building and the integration of the races, including demons, Sidhe, and Native Americans. One of the other concepts I'm enjoying is a woman Pope, Sephirah. It's nice to see some variation in the traditional religious bad guys, which are usually men.

There's excellent tension throughout, because we get a clear sense of what's at stake, why the plot problems matter to Paine, and more importantly, why we should care.

Going to the "villain" side, Liesel (despite her unfortunate Sound of Music name) is interesting, and her dialogue is poignant, although she does have a tendency, along with the other bad guys, to repeat "Fool!" too much, which suggests a Skeletor vibe. But the best bits of her dialogue are fascinating discussions about biblical lore and how she questions theology. Meega, a lastborn, performs well in the "creepy kid with superpowers" role, and adds something interesting to the usual variety.

Then there's also mention of Lilith (yes, this one), and her cameo, though brief, is memorable.

You will have to wait until the end to see a demon, though. And we get a huge cliff hanger that I won't spoil, but I'll say that angels crash the party, and they're not very benevolent, either.

Fans of films like The Prophecy and Legion will eat this up like pudding on Christmas day. Also, it doesn't hurt that the guy on the cover kind of has a "Jonathan Rhys Meyers as creepy priest" vibe going on ;-) If you like a story that has Fallen Angels, demonic plots, the Spear of Destiny, summoning demons, witches, and more, you'll enjoy this book very much. The book has shades of Buffy and Supernatural and Burton's writing has echoes of Douglas Clegg but in terms of plot, it's most comparable to Sara Douglass' Crucible series.

Title: The Second Coming

Author: David H. Burton

Release Date: Feb. 24, 2010

Publisher: David H. Burton

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Pages: 191

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