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Closing Down the Demon
After garnering so much success with his recent novelization of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the bestselling Terry Brooks returns with the third novel in his Word vs. the Void trilogy, the enticing Angel Fire East. In this series, Brooks has turned his skills toward a much more horrific kind of work than he's written previously. With two of the most critically acclaimed and impressive novels in his own long and enduring career, Running with the Demon and its sequel, A Knight of the Word, the author proved that he is as comfortable working in dark fantasy as he in the high fantasy genre. For those fans of the Shannara series who are uncertain if they'll enjoy the Word vs. the Void novels, rest assured the author continues to charm and captivate.
Twenty-five years after John Ross became a Knight of the Word, a position of great magical power entrusted to him by the Lady, he continues to have nightmares of a future world that will be created by the Void, an earth full of demons and un-men, unless he prevents certain events from occurring in the present. In his most recent nightmare, John has faced a poisoned, crucified version of himself who cautions John in dealing with a "gypsy morph," a being created by random magical forces that might either dissipate or be used by the powers of good or evil. Though John is a tired and reluctant hero, he embarks on a quest to find, aid, and protect the "birth" of the gypsy morph.
Nest Freemark, an Olympic gold-medal winner and another enforcer of the Word, also returns to face the powerful, ancient demon Findo Gask, who urges her to betray John Ross and keep out of the upcoming battle. Nest must not only contend with these supernatural forces but also with the arrival of her drug-addicted friend, Bennett Scott, whom Gask would corrupt and use against Nest. Soon, the morph is born, and Ross guards it in the form of a four-year-old boy called "Little John." Though the demon Gask cannot detect the gypsy morph unless it changes form, he stakes out Nest Freemark's home and awaits the arrival of John Ross even while all plan for the final showdown destined to take place on Christmas Eve.
In Angel Fire East, Brooks has focused all his high-powered attention on the characterization of the minimal cast. Personalities, fears, and weaknesses play important roles in the development of the story line. The horrific elements are used to their best advantage in creating an unsettling milieu of a hideous future on the verge of occurring if only one character takes a spiritual misstep. The novel effectively captures the difficulties one must deal with when warring with evil from the Void and from within one's own heart.
John and Nest are not omnipotent heroes who easily swat aside all evil; instead their anxieties and temptations are the factors that move the book along. The atmospheric narrative builds quickly with a greater richness of courage and dread, showing all the characters struggling with their own various turmoils and desires. Angel Fire East, like the previous novels in this series, is as much a meditation on responsibilities and consequence as it is a wonderfully crafted, compelling dark fantasy page-turner.