Nat does not have a normal life. He's an orphan. It's been years since he stepped inside a school. And he's a young teenager living alone in a creepy house in Seattle. But if those were the only oddities in Nat's life, he'd be thankful. Because his house isn't just creepy it's alive. African masks insult each other across the hallways. Chairs scamper around the rooms. The clawed feet of the table actually have claws and everywhere you look, if you can see them (as Nat can), there are demons. Big demons, little demons, prankster demons and helpful demons. But the worst demon is the Beast, a big, nasty, people-eating demon locked in the basement that can never, ever, ever be allowed to escape.

Nat is their keeper, charged with preventing these creatures of chaos from wreaking havoc on the normal world. It's a thankless job and a lonely one, and the one day Nat decides to take a break from the loneliness with Sandy, an equally lonely teenage library volunteer, all chaos breaks loose in particular, the Beast.

Soon Nat and Sandy are racing through the streets of Seattle, trying to catch the Beast, while street children disappear, demons run amok and an eerie, evil stranger pursues them all.

Demonkeeper is a page turner, deftly combining humor and suspense with just a taste of horror. The final solution is a surprising twist, a delightfully clever bit of logic that readers won't see coming but won't feel cheated by either.

Don't be put off by the title of this book; Nat's creatures are simply embodiments of entropy accidents, pranks and randomness personified as little monsters more like PokŽmon with a mischievous streak. Attorney-turned-author Royce Buckingham makes a conscious effort to state this distinction, and Nat is not an occultist muttering spells, he's just a zookeeper in over his head.

Demonkeeper is a rollicking good tale with fun, appealing characters, a pleasant dash of innocent young romance and a solid heart and the message that sometimes what a child needs more than anything is a place to call home.

Howard Shirley is a writer in Franklin, Tennessee.

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