In an impeccably paced and unusually profound urban-fantasy novel, 16-year-old half-demon Catholic-school student Jael Thompson comes into her powers, explores her heritage and battles a tyrannical Hell beast.
Jael, who grew up on the run with her strict, tight-lipped father, knows little of her history until her 16th birthday. Then, fulfilling a promise to his late wife, Jael's father gives her a gem that allows her access to her demon half. Through flashbacks and visions, Jael finally encounters traces of her mother, once the Phoenician goddess Astarte. She also meets her uncle, a kindly but grotesque (by the mortal realm's standards) fish demon, who helps her harness her newfound ability to influence the elements. Much tension comes from Jael's rebellious and sometimes reckless choices: She experiments with her powers and confides in a classmate despite her father's insistence that the pair stay completely hidden. Refreshingly, Jael is largely proven right: Her actions bring her the intimacies, romantic and familial, that her human half craves, even while attracting the family's sinister and powerful enemy, the demon Belial. Alongside joyous exploration, heart-pounding action and inventively horrifying imagery is a complex set of metaphysical questions: Does reality define belief or belief define reality? What is the nature of Hell? What makes a family?
Thoughtful, scary and captivating. (Urban fantasy. 14 & up)