Tanya Huff,
The Second Summoning
(DAW, 2001)

You'd think that sealing a hole to Hell and preventing a megalomaniac from taking over the universe would be enough for anyone, but not Claire Hansen. Fresh from the events in Summon the Keeper, Claire still has Austin, the talking wiseass and now one-eyed cat, still isn't sure what to do with Dean, the sweet, gorgeous handyman/housekeeper, and still has to deal with younger sister Diana, who is even more of a wiseass than Austin. What's a Keeper to do? Tanya Huff provides the answer in The Second Summoning.

When an angel with a little gender-specific extra appears, the balance of the world is thrown off, allowing a demon to enter the world. In order to maintain the balance and to keep hidden from the Keepers, the demon is required to take on a truly horrifying form -- a teen-aged girl.

She calls herself Byleth, and she is determined to blaze a trail of havoc, but something keeps holding her back. Still, she starts to make her way across Ontario, to Kingston and a certain guest house before Claire finds out who and where she is. What Byleth doesn't count on is Diana, who is not only an even more powerful Keeper than Claire -- she's a teen-aged girl herself.

Huff serves up her fast-paced adventure with a heaping helping of laugh-out-loud humor covering the range from subtle to slapstick. At the same time, she doesn't sacrifice characterization for laughs; she shows the respect for her characters that they deserve and inspire in the reader. (She also divulges important information regarding angels and cats.)

Huff also tells a great story, although I don't understand how one blatant error was missed: the identification of a statue of Sleeping Beauty with those of seven dwarves rather than Snow White in a fairly extended scene. Yes, it's minor, but it's plaguey. Still, it doesn't seriously undermine a terrific scene; perhaps an imp tweaked the press.

The book is a satisfying read on its own, but readers will benefit by reading Summon the Keeper first. For those who fear that Huff might not be able to extend the same level of humor and storytelling, let me assure you that The Second Summoning doesn't disappoint. Answer the call and see for yourself.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.