About halfway through Kat Beyer’s The Halcyon Bird, it occurred to me that a column about demon hunters might not be the most seasonally appropriate choice. Ah, well.
While The Halcyon Bird suffers from a mild case of Middle Book Syndrome—yes, there are a couple of new storylines, but neither feels quite as important as the overarching plot; the final few paragraphs feel strangely unfinished, not at all like the end of an installment—overall, it shares the same strengths as The Demon Catchers of Milan.
It’s a paranormal that doesn’t rely on the common tropes of the genre (the heroine doesn’t have to keep secrets from her family, the boy she likes is genuinely nice and entirely non-broody, there is no love triangle), and the investigatory process (complete with white gloves and old documents) is just as important as performing the actual exorcism. As in the first book, Mia’s descriptions of Milan are atmospheric, her historical notes are fascinating, and her observations of the culture are thoughtful, fair-minded, and frank; the familial interactions are palpably warm and loving, which makes the demonic possessions all the more horrifying by comparison. The demons themselves, while still scary and somewhat mysterious, are more varied and multifaceted and full of personality than in the first book, and it’s a much quieter and more introspective book than many of the other urban paranormals I’ve read.
And then there’s the food. I don’t know if it’s humanly possible to read this book without getting hungry.
Nutshell: If you like your paranormals to double as travelogues, look no further. It’s not quite as strong as Book One, but it comes pretty close.
Meda, from Cracked and Crushed, by Eliza Crewe
Meda is a soul-eating monster who, unbeknownst to her, is being tracked by demons and demon-killing Crusaders alike…and she’s going to have to pick a side soon. Smart, original, funny, and wonderfully gruesome, Cracked was published by the short-lived and much-missed Strange Chemistry imprint, which folded shortly before the release of Crushed. Happily for us, Crewe regained the rights, and both are now available in e-book and paperback form.
Nick, The Demon’s Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan
Brothers on the run, secrets and lies, action and adventure and betrayal and sacrifice, complex relationships and emotions, snappy dialogue and lots and lots and lots of dark humor. Reading Sarah Rees Brennan is always a joy, full-stop.
Hanna and Wyatt, Bleeding Violet, by Dia Reeves
In this case, the demon-hunting isn’t completely front-and-center, but I’ll take any opportunity to mention Dia Reeves’ Portero books. She hasn’t had anything new out since 2011—though the word on Twitter is that she’s working on something—but judging by Bleeding Violet and Slice of Cherry, my guess is that whatever it is will have been worth the wait. They’re nightmarish and phantasmagoric and unsettling, with multilayered characters and a surprising amount of warmth. Definitely not good picks for readers who prefer anything close to black-and-white morality, but in the right hands, SUCH a treat.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.