Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Behind Bars
SERIES: Pandemonium #2
AUTHOR: Meredith Katz
PUBLISHER: Less Than Three Press
LENGTH: 129 pages
RELEASE DATE: February 15, 2017
The city of Dolana has kept itself free from demonic rule the hard way: by interrogating its citizens and sending anyone who could possibly be under demonic influence to the Inquisition. City innkeeper Pelerin is happy to help out however he can—after all, he lost his beloved wife to demons many years earlier, leaving him to raise their son on his own. If anyone deserves to have a grudge against demons, it’s him.
But when his now-adult son disagrees with his actions, he is forced to reexamine the past. Is he doing the right thing, when it could lead—has led—to the deaths of innocents? Why is his son skulking about, and what secrets is he keeping? And while Pel’s hands are full with this, a stranger comes to stay at his inn… a stranger who makes the question more relevant than Pel ever imagined would be possible.
Dolana is a city not very fond of demons, to say the very least. And after having his wife die at the hands of one, Pel is hardly bucking the trend. He in fact goes out of his way to point the city guard in the direction of anyone who even looks suspicious. Not because he has a cruel heart, but because he can’t bear the idea that his son might be the next victim to be claimed by lying demon hands. His convictions though might just cost him his son because while he might have the noblest of intentions, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been innocent people who have died because of Pel’s tip-offs. And when a stranger comes to tavern, acting in ways that cause Pel to worry, everything might just come to a head.
I enjoyed the first book in this series so I was glad to see that there was a sequel coming out. And as far as I can tell this one steps away from the fairy-tale retold aspect of book one, so I was curious to see what happens in this new story. Here we get a different look into this world of demons and humans. Instead of living in a place where the demons are (semi)benevolent overlords, we have a city where being a demon, consorting with demons, or even being a bit off can get you thrown into the hands of the Inquisition. (As you can surely tell, that is never a good thing.)
This story definitely held my attention better than book one. Not knowing where the story was going meant I had to keep reading if I was ever to find out. I love retold fairy-tale stories, but they do have the drawback of having a plot that has been well-hashed-out long before the author was probably even born. Here that problem wasn’t really an issue. We got to have fun wondering what Pel would do when the Big Reveal happened–and to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure myself, so that was great.
Yet despite all that, I had a really hard time liking these characters. Pel…well let’s just say he doesn’t come across all that morally righteous. I totally get why he would act as an informant, it just doesn’t do a lot towards invoking sympathy from a reader. In just about any other story he would be the bad guy. Maybe not the Big Bad, but definitely minion-level. And Pel’s son wasn’t much better. Sure he is right to call his father out on his shitty actions, but the dude was a bit too much everything that is Super Angry Teen Temper Tantrum! Despite agreeing with everything he said, every time he opened his mouth I had the urge to smack him.
The most likable characters in this book were the demons. Which is actually kinda understandable. I did love the gender-fluid aspect of one of them–though I wish we had more time in the story to explore that aspect. It kinda gets thrown out there late in the game and doesn’t come into play a whole lot. Guess that is what happens when you have to run from the local authorities. No time for the fun stuff. 🙁
This book may not score very high in the ratings, but I did actually enjoy it. The demons are great and I totally give props for having such a morally ambiguous main character. If there is a third book I will no doubt be picking it up.