Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Review: Demon Squad - At The Gates

How good are Tim Marquitz' Demon Squad novels?  They're good. Good to the point that I was excited enough when At the Gates arrived here at Battle Hymns HQ to give it the rarely seen "double bump".  What the fuck is a "double bump" you might ask?  Well, a double bump is when I get a book, bump it to the top of my to-read pile, then when I'm done reading it, bump it to the top of my review queue.  See? Pretty special.

Things pick up in At the Gates more or less mere moments after things left off in Resurrection. Frank Trigg's angelic cousin showed up at his front door, beaten to within an inch of her life and bearing the news that Heaven has fallen.  That's a lot to take in all at once and before he can wrap his brain around all that, Frank is forced into action as he must deal with a trio of thugs sent to put an end to his cousin, Scarlett.

Once the dust clears and Frank has a chance to catch his breath, he learns that there's a brutal war going down in heaven with the gates of Eden and a few stalwart defenders the only things that can hold back an army bent on the destruction of not only Earth, but the destruction of Heaven and Hell too.  As per usual, our old pal Frank Trigg finds himself right smack dab in the middle of things, out manned, out gunned, and playing catch up on just exactly what the hell is going on.  The stakes, and the action have never been more epic in a Demon Squad novel as Frank and his friends from DRAC must face down half breed angels, lycanthropes, vampires, and epic death storms that are wreaking havoc all across Earth.

Once again, with another Demon Squad book comes noticeable improvements in every aspect of the book. The plotting is tighter, the dialog sharper, the characters continue to develop, and the world building is greatly improved.  Marquitz is a writer that is improving in leaps and bounds with each novel he turns out, and it is nice to see such developments play out on the page, to the benefit of both the novel itself and the reader's enjoyment.

The most marked improvement comes in terms of the world building.  After reading Armageddon Bound I mentioned that the events that take place in the real world, didn't seem to have too much effect on the regular non-demonic/non-angelic folk who populate the world.  That problem was addressed and remedied to an extent in Resurrection, but Marquitz pretty much put that gripe to rest and buried it six feet deep with the events that take place here.  This improvement is due in large part to the death storms that rock the world.  What I liked best about this element is that it showed just how high the stakes are for Frank and his friends.  The demons and angels are no longer just meddlesome pests that make Frank's life miserable, they are some extremely powerful beings that have the ability to wreak a whole shit-ton of havoc should they choose to and it's the lives of innocents that are affected most.

Craft improvements aside for the moment, I gotta say, it was nice to be back inside the mind of Frank Trigg.  At times Frank's mind can be a pretty strange, horny and awkward place, but most times it isn't that different than being inside my own.  Sure, he'll make you cringe with some of his naughty thoughts, the worst of which pop up at the most inopportune times, but Frank is a pretty lovable guy, with a big heart, and after some of the events that unfold in At the Gates I'm very interested to see where his character arc goes from here on out.

There are times when I've worried that this series might get a bit formulaic: world ending threat, Frank and to some extent, his pals deal with threat, mix in some great dialog, funny jokes, some metal references and Frank trying and failing to get laid and boom, you've got yourself a Demon Squad book.

Sure, there is a familiar feel to At the Gates and all those elements, (which for me have become hallmarks of the series), make an appearance here as well, this is the first time that I've felt the series was moving towards something bigger.  Marquitz doesn't go as far as the big reveal, but he does craftily deliver some tasty morsels that seem to hint at a much grander scheme than I anticipated for this series. Marquitz added a nice layer of history and put in the foundations for greater depth to the story that hint at playing out as the story and series progress.  Let me just say that I am very pleased with these developments.  The layers that  Marquitz added to his characters and to his world all point towards even more greatness for the series.

If you haven't had the pleasure of reading either of the two previous Demon Squad novels, Armageddon Bound and Resurrection, do so because these be some good readin'. At the Gates is easily the best of the Demon Squad books thus far.  Every aspect of the previous book is improved upon and Marquitz delivers yet another tantalizing cliff-hanger ending that has me yearning for the next installment.

Grade: A-


Bryce L. said...

Also my favorite in the series. Great review, this series needs to be read by way more people. I really hope after a couple more installments that Tim gets a deal with some big name publisher and possibly does the omnibus thing like Sullivan did.

Ryan said...


Yeah, it seems criminal that this series isn't published by a larger publishing house. I really don't understand the publishing industry.

Either way, a good book is a good book, and these are quite good, (I know cuz my taste is impeccable) so hopefully more folks will read 'em.

Mihir said...

Hey Ryan

Gotta admit you have good taste ;) and with DS4 being such a different but good book, its great to read stellar reviews for it all around(including yours).


PS: Seak, c'mon dude stop slacking and finish reviewing it ;)

Ryan said...

Mihir- Thanks! I'm really looking forward to DS4, especially after reading your review.

Bryce L. said...

@Mihir - Haha, I know. I only have to study for the bar, care for a wife on bed rest, and prepare for twins. Plenty of reading time. :D

Ryan said...

Pfft...sounds like excuses Bryce! Just Kidding! You got your hands full there dude. Good luck with all that!