by Dan Vyleta
Recommended Ages: 14+
In this strange world, two schoolboys - one naturally good, the other naturally naughty, but best friends just the same - and a prim, almost nunnish girl get caught in a deadly swirl of conspiracies. On one side is a plot to blow up the moral high ground, no matter how many people get hurt. On another side is a man whose fanatical commitment to breeding the sin out of mankind makes him capable of torturing children. Circling behind the scenes is a secret police force led by a sometime witchfinder. And stalking right through the middle of it are a coldblooded angel and a demon in human form. All Charlie, Tom and Livia can do is ride out the storm and, if possible, try to save one innocent child.
I enjoyed the interplay between the characters in this book, and I found the conflicts and sympathies that developed among them emotionally compelling and thought-provoking. Though the book seemed to be trying to take some kind of ideological position, it was never quite clear what it was - except perhaps something preposterous like "down with morality." It got close enough to that, at times, to take some of the pleasure out of reading it. Nonetheless, I felt sympathy, disgust, horror, and suspense regarding all the characters and scenes the author intended, so I think on balance it was a successful book. It was also very clearly the work of an original prose stylist and a reasonably capable world-building fantasist. So I was inclined to swallow an objection that occasionally rose in my throat, regarding how easy it is to destroy a straw man when you build him just so.
Vyleta is also the author of Pavel & I, The Quiet Twin and Crooked Maid. It is rumored that he plans to publish a sequel to this book.