This “sequel” of sorts to This Present Darkness is set a while after the first book, in another town where the Strongman has a wide network of evil brewing all around it. Familiar angelic warriors return, like Tal and Guilo (huzzah!), but prayer cover is wearing thin as the demons turn Christians against each other.
The plot was a lot more intense in this book, with several different threads all branching out from the main town, where the conflict originates. With Tom’s struggle against people who would see his Christian school shut down, Sally’s flight from people who want her dead, Tal’s struggle to hold everything together, and Destroyer’s desire to fling everything into the brutal hands of the Strongman, the story webs all over, but everything still connects and makes it complex but intriguing to follow. It made the plot feel bigger, and like there was a lot more at stake.
I liked seeing the courtroom scenes, and how the arguments went. I felt immense satisfaction whenever the heroes seemed to offer up solid arguments, and I got frustrated when the villains would weave convincing lies. It was a tug-of-war, and, like a lot of the storylines weaving through this book, it ups the tension and adds just one more thing that’s on the line.
I do think the writing in book one was better than it is in book two, though. Piercing the Darkness seemed to have a few cheesy narrative moments, but it wasn’t constant or annoying. There were simply occasional times where the narrative felt off-kilter, but didn’t take from my enjoyment of reading.
Sally’s arc was really nice, too. She’s coming out of the beliefs everybody else is essentially fighting, and she slowly clears the fog within herself. I liked seeing her gradual change, and the angels protecting her along the way. The “climax” of her arc was really amazing, too (which is all I will say because I suspect I’m already pushing the limits into spoiler territory ;) ). But I liked how the way she views the world is also how she approaches Christianity as she explores it. She seemed very factual and practical about it, and it was nice to see her use that in most of her arc, instead of surrendering it right away. She’s cautious, but curious.
Speaking of angels: I was really happy to see Tal and Guilo again! They were my favorites in the first book, and it was awesome to read about them in this one. Guilo was probably my most favorite (likely for the same reasons I had for book one XD). I really loved seeing the strategies used on both sides of the spiritual realm. And I liked that Destroyer was strategic and calculating. It made the story’s tension rise when he seemed to know how Tal worked. He was more formidable that way, and made the angels work harder.
Amber. Oh, mercy, that child had a scene that freaked me out. Early on in the book we learn that Amber is “befriended” by some imaginary pony named Amethyst, but we soon see that this “friend” is a lot more twisted. The first time we see it manifest, it’s a little dark and foreboding (it even foreshadows another scene). It shows just how powerful and dangerous the villains are, and ups the tension by, like, a thousand.
Violence/gore: There are several fights that ensue between angels and demons, but there’s not really blood (as they’re spiritual beings). There is a murder, and the villains are hunting down Sally to kill her (occasionally they come pretty close. A group of Satanists threatens the church with crossed goat legs.
Profanity: If there was anything, it’s only referenced.
Sexual content: People accuse Tom of abusing the children in his school. Accusations in general are made against the human heroes in Bacon’s Corner in regards to sexual affairs or abuse.
Other: There is a group of Satanists in this book, and we see one of their rituals. Amber seems to be possessed, and we see a scene or two in which the demon manifests itself, which may be unsettling. Like book one, demon characters are seen wreaking havoc among Christians (whether through gossip, or physical harm).