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The Second Summoning: The Keeper's Chronicles #2
Tanya Huff
DAW Books, 416 pages

Paul Youll
The Second Summoning
Tanya Huff
Tanya Huff worked at Bakka, Canada's oldest SF and fantasy book store, for many years. Leaving there, she moved further east up the St. Lawrence and found the perfect place. Elsewhere Tanya has said there will be no more Blood Series books but she is planning volume 4 of the Quarters Series to be called The Quartered Sea.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Reading List: Tanya Huff
SF Site Review: Wizard of the Grove
SF Site Review: Summon the Keeper
SF Site Review: Blood Debt
Tanya Huff Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Margo MacDonald

First off, a small warning. The Second Summoning book is a sequel. Truly. The action picks up one week after the ending of the previous book and very little of the background is explained. If you attempt to read this book without having read the first in the series (Summon the Keeper) you will not only be terribly confused by the story but probably will not even care about it -- as you will have no idea who the characters are nor what their relationship is to the past events that are often referred to. Consider yourself warned.

The Second Summoning follows the continuing adventures of the Keeper (one responsible for keeping Hell from manifesting on earth) Claire Hansen, her powerful but irresponsible younger sister Diana, her cleaning-obsessed Newfoundland boyfriend Dean, and her sarcastic talking cat Austin. This time they battle demented, animated statues of storybook characters; a ghost with bleached blonde hair; subway demons; and an actualized angel and his demon opposite -- both fully formed teenagers with all the baggage that goes along with it.

This is a fun world that Huff has created. It is set in modern-day Canadian cities (such as Kingston and Toronto), but in Huff's vision, the minions of Hell are trying to gain a foothold in the world and have a controlling influence on the lives of mortals. Patches of darkness open up here and there where a mortal has committed some stupid or deliberate act of evil, causing various degrees of negativity (from bad moods to outbursts of violence) to seep into passersby until a Keeper can be summoned to seal the hole. Keepers have special helpers called Cousins (who locate the holes for them) and magical powers. There are also side-effects to the use of some of these powers that can be quite amusing.

Now if all of this sounds slightly goofy, it is. It's meant to be. For what we're dealing with here is comic fantasy. (I mean, come on, there's a talking cat!) The comedy works a lot of the time but, unfortunately in this book, Huff seems to be trying too hard. For most of the book she seems to be trying to squeeze all the humour out of every line and you begin to feel a little hit over the head with it.

The characters as set out in the first book are still likeable and fun, but they don't seem to change or grow at all in The Second Summoning in spite of the new experiences they have. And the cat, Austin, talks way too much in this one. Halfway through the book he also starts adding the phrase "I'm old" onto every sentence, becoming redundant after the second time it's said.

Essentially this sequel is lacking the balance and fine-tuning of the original, in which the comedy enriched the story and emotional life of the characters. Here the story seems to be "played for the comedy," to borrow a theatrical term, thereby missing many great opportunities for subtlety. And the writing just isn't clever enough to pull it off.

That being said, The Second Summoning is still a rather enjoyable romp. If you've got a couple of hours on the bus or the beach, this would be a good book to bring along (provided you've already read Book One, and if you haven't, you should -- it is truly wonderful). There are many great ideas and moments that make reading this sequel worthwhile, in spite of it's shortcomings. The pigeons who refuse to leave the angel's side, the loving middle-aged couple whose efforts to treat the demon just like your average teenager that work like a charm, and the fall-out from a magical explosion that takes the form of a picture of the last supper with Tele-Tubbies replacing some of the apostles, are among the more memorable and fun moments in the book. Generally, if you liked the first book, read the sequel. You will enjoy it, but you will also be somewhat disappointed.

Finally, I would just like to add a footnote for the publishers, DAW Books: You should be ashamed of yourselves. The copy-editing in this edition is appalling! It is simply writhing with mistakes. They occur so frequently and were becoming so annoying that I began to count them. I stopped when I reached twenty, not yet halfway through the book. I think you owe an apology to Ms. Huff for releasing the book in this condition -- and for making me grumpy as I was reading the book for review.

Copyright © 2001 Margo MacDonald

Margo has always been drawn toward fantasy and, at the age of 5, decided to fill her life with it by pursuing a career as a professional actress. Aside from theatre (and her husband), Margo's passion has been for books. Her interests are diverse and eclectic, but the bulk fall within the realm of speculative fiction. She tells us that her backlog has reached 200 books and she's ready to win the lottery and retire.

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