King has written a quality book here, one worthy of any publisher, and it deserves to do well. Those who like urban fantasy will probably enjoy it because it delivers everything one comes to expect from the genre.
Dr. Alastair Stone is an Occult Studies professor and, unknown to the mundane world, also a powerful mage. He’s a little out of practice with combat skills as one rarely needs them in modern times, but when he discovers an unknown demonic force trapped in the basement of an old woman’s mansion, he has to brush up on them quickly. His new teenage apprentice complicates matters when he’s seduced by a selfish dark mage who, with her team of two men, wants the ‘demon’ for their own use. Do these not-classically-trained mages have the power and knowledge to control such a powerful entity, though, or will their overconfidence and inexperience let the beast out and endanger the whole world? And will Stone find out what his apprentice is up too before it’s too late?
The novel is a little different to many in the genre because, though it never drags, it starts fairly slowly in terms of action. However, taking its time allows a greater depth of character development than is usually seen in the genre. By the time things start to hot up, I was fully invested in Dr Stone who I related to as a very real person. I had a good idea of his weaknesses and his strengths, and I liked the guy.
Ethan, the apprentice was also well portrayed. The warring factions of the boy’s desires and conscience made an interesting tension. I found myself saying, ‘No, no, don’t do it.’ But in fiction, the easy way does not make the best story, and this is undoubtably a good story.
Craft wise, the story was well-structured and handled expertly, the character’s vulnerabilities making it always unsure of the outcome, and the relationship between stone and his girlfriend added another layer of interest. The prose flowed well and was generally well constructed, however a few too many very bland sentences spoiled it for me. Most of these began with ‘It was’ or ‘He was’ or something similar. Given the quality of the rest of the prose, these seemed somewhat lazy. Though these things picked up by an editor would not be noticed by most readers, that and the fact that the story didn’t quite make the leap to ‘awesome’ for me, prevented me from giving it 5 stars. This is because, having read a great deal of urban fantasy, I would have liked to have seen it stretch the boundaries of that genre more.
Perhaps the author will be a little more adventurous with the next book. I’d be very interested in reading it, and I have no qualms about recommending this one to fans of the genre or anyone interested in dipping into it. 4 stars.