The third book in the fantasy series about demon hunter Maxine Kiss.

Publication year: 2010
Page count: 308
The publisher: ACE

The third book is as intense as the previous ones and has a larger cast.

Maxine Kiss is the last in a long line of women who have protected humans against demons for thousands of years. Her mother, Jean, and Maxine never settled down but instead moved from city to city and from one country to another. Jean taught Maxine that she should never rely on other people because that would put the other people in danger. Maxine doesn’t even know who her father is. However, a few years ago, she fell in love with Grant Cooperson who is a former priest and currently runs a homeless shelter. She stayed with him and has slowly gathered around her a small group who feels like family to her. She even has a grandfather who is a mysterious, immortal figure. Oh, and Maxine’s invincible as long as the five demons that are bound to her stay as tattoos on her skin. After sundown, the demons detach from Maxine but protect her as well as they can.

Now, she’s celebrating her birthday, which is also the anniversary of her mother’s murder, by exorcizing and killing a zombie. In this world, zombies are the least powerful demons. They can take over a human and make the human do things they wouldn’t do otherwise. Lately, Maxine has started to think that some demons might be saved. However, today she has no mercy. Later, she and her chosen family celebrate with pie her grandfather made.

Later, she wakes up covered in blood next to her grandfather’s body and no memory about what happened. Even her demons don’t remember which should be impossible. Then a man with a limp walks in. She doesn’t know who he is. He claims to be her lover, Grant.

Something weird has happened to Maxine’s, and the demons’, memory. They can remember their lives otherwise, but not Grant and not what happened when Maxine’s grandfather died. However, they don’t have much time to solve the puzzle because powerful people are plotting to bring down the veil which will release the demons back into the world. There’s also a growing darkness inside Maxine who has to wonder just who are the bigger monsters: the demons or herself.

This time we finally get most of the story behind Maxine’s bloodline. We’re also told more about Grant’s people, the Lightbringers, and what happened to them. Earth is just one world in the mystical pattern that in the universe, also known as the Labyrinth, and we get to know more about what lurks in the Labyrinth. This is another urban fantasy story where the scope is epic.

The plot is again very fast-paced. Maxine has a magical item which allows her to move instantly in time and place making the traveling very quick indeed. Sometimes the item takes her to another time, too, and she has no control over that, so there a few dream-like sequences as well. The item in question was a ring originally but grows over Maxine’s hand every time she uses it. It seems that finally it will cover her completely and she doesn’t know what will happen then.

The cast is as enjoyable as before. Maxine is a tough but she’s also scared for others around her and scared of the darkness inside her. Grant is the loving and loyal man who has a lot of power. Maxine’s grandfather, Jack Meddle, is an immortal who has lived thousands of years with his secrets and it’s very hard for him to tell them, even when he has to. That sort of justifies that fact that he doesn’t tell much until it’s almost too late. On the other hand, it’s incredibly frustrating, to me at least.

Familiar minor characters show up, too. The Catholic priest who was turned into a werewolf is a fascinating concept and I hope that Liu will do a book or a short story about him. The psychic woman treats Maxine with almost contempt and laments her bad fortune of being around the main characters. Bryon and the old mad woman Mary return from the previous books.

Maxine’s demons have an interesting relationship with her. Clearly, they all love her and want to protect her. Yet, she and they know that at some point, she’s going to have a child and the demons will switch protecting her, and Maxine will be vulnerable. Also, the demons are a close-mouthed with their secrets as Jack Meddle. They simply don’t talk about anything they don’t want to. Only one of them can actually talk, though, the rest communicate by humming appropriate tunes.

This book can be read as a stand-alone since the plot is self-contained, but you get a lot more out of it by reading the previous two books.

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