Hidden beings that help humanity unlock their true potential face a threat from within their ranks.
Walking unnoticed alongside the living are creatures known as testers, beings who push unknowing individuals through, and into, great hardships, so that those people may have the chance to improve themselves. But pure altruism is not what drives these influence peddlers, as their continued existence relies on the energy they take from each push, putting them in a karmic balance with humans in which, without one, the other can never achieve. Newest among them is Matthew Huntington, who joins this complicated world during a time of upheaval. His mentor, the powerful ex-Roman slave Epp, is about to become the center of a war between current and former testers, the latter of which now more closely resemble zombies than angels. A reluctant participant in this fight, Matthew travels from the bars of Manhattan to the summit of Everest, and meets a nun-turned-sexpot and an impoverished samurai, all to discover how much the possibility of greatness is worth. Devon’s (The Letter, 2000, etc.) world-building is exemplary, and he explores every aspect of the testers with unmatched attention to detail, even addressing the manner in which they tangentially interact with the land of the living. Most of this exposition is well-executed, particularly as it concerns the characters and their backstories, feeding seamlessly into the narrative for greater dramatic effect. The novel does have uneven moments, especially when the author explains the abilities of the testers and their zombie counterparts, too often stopping the story completely to introduce a new rule. The book starts slowly, but those able to weather the tedious exposition will be treated to an exciting modern-day fantasy tale.
Overwrought at times, but still an entertaining read.