Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Demon Witch
Geoffrey Huntington
ReganBooks HarperCollins, 276 pages

Demon Witch
Geoffrey Huntington
Geoffrey Huntington lives in a house by the sea not far from where the ghost of a pirate is said to eternally walk the cliffs in search of his lost gold. Under another name, he is the author of several works of fiction and non-fiction.

Ravenscliff Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Sorcerers of the Nightwing
Excerpt: Sorcerers of the Nightwing

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

In the first volume of this continuing series, young Devon March came to live with the Crandall family at Ravenscliff, a brooding mansion on a storm-lashed shore, and discovered his heritage as one of the noble Order of the Nightwing, an ancient line of sorcerers whose duty it is to protect humankind from evil and keep at bay the bloodthirsty demons who would otherwise escape from their hideous Hellholes and overrun the earth. The Crandalls, also Nightwing, renounced their powers long ago. So when the ghost of a renegade Nightwing known as Madman Jackson Muir opened the gigantic Hellhole that Ravenscliff was built to guard, it was up to Devon to banish him and his demons back to the depths.

After that adventure, Devon is longing for some quiet time to find out more about Nightwing traditions (into which he was never initiated as a child, as most Nightwing are) and investigate some of the mysteries at Ravenscliff, such as how he is (or isn't) related to the Crandalls and whether one of the towers is haunted. But life is never quiet for a sorcerer of the Nightwing. A new caretaker has arrived, and there's something very odd about him -- quite apart from the fact that he's a 600-year-old gnome. A long-absent member of the Crandall family unexpectedly returns, with a lovely young fiancée about whom Devon (and all the other males who encounter her) begins having disturbing, sensual dreams. Devon starts to see terrifying visions of Ravenscliff's Hellhole, open by his hand... and of a mysterious, malevolent sorceress called Isobel the Apostate. Isobel was defeated by her fellow Nightwing and burned at the stake in 1522, but there's reason to believe she survived her burning, and has been waiting ever since for the right moment to return and seize back her power. Once again, despite his lack of knowledge and training, Devon must fill a Nightwing's role, at deadly danger to himself and those around him -- and to the world itself, for if Isobel wins, all the demons of Hell will be set free.

Geoffrey Huntington delivers more of the entertaining gothic horror/supernatural action mix that enlivened the first volume of the series, with plenty of kickass demon-battling and another scary foe to test Devon and his emerging powers to the max. Devon must struggle also with a less tangible enemy: his own ambivalence about his Nightwing heritage, a role for which his upbringing hasn't prepared him at all. Poignantly, he longs for a normal life (Huntington does a good job of contrasting the extravagant supernatural goings-on at Ravenscliff with the mundane world of school and friends and ordinary teenage activities), and works to overcome his fear -- fear being the only thing that can weaken a sorcerer of the Nightwing. Once again, in the final confrontation, victory means not just defeating the villain, but conquering his own weakness.

Enjoyable as this is, however, it's a bit too much like what has gone before. One of the things good series for young readers have in common is their authors' ability to balance the comforting familiarity of the series' basic structure with the excitement of brand-new material -- and also, if there's a larger storyline, to produce a sense that it's moving along. But despite a different setup, Demon Witch follows pretty much the same template as Sorcerers of the Nightwing: similar stakes, similar perils, similar action, even a similar plot structure -- the return of a supposedly-dead renegade Nightwing who wants to harness the dark power of Ravenscliff's Hellhole and challenges Devon both directly and through his/her hidden presence in a member of the household (this, actually, is one of the things that's least-effectively handled: the minute Isobel shows up in disguise, you know exactly who she is). And while Devon does learn something important about his background, and a bit more light is shed on the Crandall family, these revelations don't feel all that significant, given that the pressing questions that were raised in Book 1 (mostly, the truth of Devon's parentage and why he was brought up without knowledge of his heritage) remain just as unanswered at the end of Book 2. Nor, despite an awkward time travel sequence that takes Devon to Tudor England, do we get much more insight into the Order of the Nightwing.

On its face, Demon Witch is an entertaining, spooky adventure; as a series installment, it's less satisfactory. Book 3 will need to move forward more vigorously, and give Devon some new directions to follow, if this series is to maintain reader interest.

Copyright © 2003 Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel The Garden of the Stone is currently available from HarperCollins EOS. For details, visit her website.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide