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Much the Best I've Seen from the Author

Running With the Demon
Terry Brooks
Brooks has improved since The Sword of Shanana.

((Everybody in chorus, now: "It would be hard for him to not have, wouldn't it?"))

It's not fair to hold a book written by someone not yet in his twenties in imitation of a Great Work against him all his life, but we don't let that stop the fun in most cases, do we?

Having not touched any of the "Sword" sequels that del Rey has belched forth onto the stands with some regularity, and having not managed to finish the first "Magic Kingdom" book ((Nothing really wrong with it, but i had to put it down and did not feel in the slightest impelled to pick it back up...)), i noted the appearance on the shelves of Running with the Demon with, shall we say, less than ecstasy?

However, i picked it up, read the blurb... And put it back down.

Some months later, nothing else on the stands looking any better and much of it actively worse, i picked it up.

A decent read -- moving into Steven King country -- unseen nasties in squeeky-clean Middle American village, gifted child who doesn't really know What Her Gift Is For, strange doings and nasty critters in the local park, family secrets that are alluded to but never told to the girl, the mystery of her own parentage and, last but far from least, the advent of a stranger, a tall somewhat grim man who supports his bad leg with a black staff carved with Strange Symbols.

Fourteen old Nest Freemark knows that she has magic like many of the Freemark Women have, and thet her magic is tied up with the nastiness that lurks in the local park, which is watched over by a sylvan named Pick. "Feeders", nasty ectoplasmic creatures that feed off human pain and despair live in the park... and Something Even Nastier is imprisoned in a great oak near the park's center. Nest is herself guarded by a huge spectral wolf/hound she calls Wraith -- but has no idea where he came from. Nest's grandmother Obviously Knows Something Important That She Will Not Tell.

Into town wanders John Ross, a "Knight of the Word". ((The Word is the constructive and preserving principle; the Void the destructive, entropic one)) Ross has had a prophetic dream -- he knows that Something that is going to happen in this town is crucial in the struggle between Word and Void -- and that Nest is involved. That, somehow, the Void has a scheme to turn Nest for its own. He is here to aid in her struggle against the Void, to prevent what he has foreseen could happen ... and to make absolutely sure that she doesn't live to serve the Void if he cannot prevent her turning.

And the demon -- did i mention the demon? -- the demon is in town to make sure it does happen and that Nest is turned to the Void.

Add in small town politics, labor/management unrest in a long-term strike/lockout, ordinary kid-gang dynamics and a whole lot of Foreboding spooky music on the unheard soundtrack (Some books have soundtracks when i read them. This is one; i'd hardly read the first page when i began hearing the "Tocatta and Fugue".) and it's a Pretty Decent Read.