Rating: 4/5 stars
Length: 327 pages
Series: The Great Devil Wars, Book 2
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, European Literature, Danish Literature
His old eyes sparkled. “I’m humanity’s greatest fear because there’s no greater fear than that of death. But that’s not the way it should be! The truth is, people don’t realize just how much they should appreciate me. Death isn’t an unfortunate consequence of life; on the contrary, Death is what makes life worth living. Men and women value only that which they might lose. Don’t you see? Without death, life is uninteresting and utterly meaningless.” (ch. 8).
I have to admit, I went into this book not sure how it would pick up where The Devil’s Apprentice (my review here) left off. After all, Philip was alive again, unable to further meddle in the goings on of the Afterlife. Was this going to be about another youngster who managed to impact the Afterlife? Thankfully, the answer to that question was no. Philip was brought back and the relationships he made during his last visit lead to this visit being even more chock full of adventure. Which really is a good thing, because I can’t imagine that another human would be as effective as Philip at causing trouble in Hell.
We also get to experience more of the Afterlife than we did in the first book. Have you ever wondered where Death lives? Or what exists in the outer reaches of Hell? Have you ever wondered what happens when someone truly repents and no longer deserves to be punished for their sins?
Putting that aside, my favourite part of this read was probably getting an insight into the way different beings view death. As the quote above shows, life isn’t really worth living unless you’re enjoying the ride and in order to enjoy the ride, it needs to come to an end eventually. Mortimer might feel neglected and looked down on as Death, but he really does play the most crucial role of all. Without balance, what do we really have?
If you’re looking for a unique take on the afterlife, with a heavy dose of mayhem thrown in, I’d highly recommend giving this series a try. As the reader, we get to experience everything Philip does – the good and the bad, the beautiful and the monstrously ugly. Just be ready for twists and turns you’re probably not ready for.
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I can’t believe that Aziel killed his mother. Scratch that, I can believe that he’d kill his mother. It shows just how truly twisted and evil he is. I can almost understand some of his twisted logic – after all, I can’t imagine he’d be happy to find out that he’s half human. Now that was a twist that I didn’t see coming. It must have sucked, doing things out of love and having the people you love turn it against you. Aziel’s mother might have been evil herself, but she didn’t deserve to be killed for it. She was banished trying to help her son and he’s the one that killed her for falling in love with the wrong person.
Truth be told, I was expecting Aziel to find his father in the Outer Reach. But I was expecting him to be one of the monsters living there – not the escaped condemned. I wasn’t expecting Aziel’s mother to be the one that set him free, either. I probably should have, since she’s the female devil that’s proven to be the most wicked, but I really didn’t see that coming. Poor Grumblebeard, getting pulled into her schemes and holding onto the guilt of it for so many years.
I can’t wait to see what role Aziel plays in the next book. It’s clear that he’s going to continue to cause problems for everyone as the new Prince of Darkness, I’m just not sure to what extent it’ll be. After all, he’s already done things that are so dark and twisted that I didn’t see them coming.
Moving on to the main plot of the story, I really enjoyed the emphasis that was placed on Death’s role. Like I said earlier, what kind of life are you living if you expect it to go on forever? How will you know to appreciate what’s going on around you if you think it’ll continue forever? This might just be the Philosophy major in me speaking, but it’s like surrounding yourself with nothing but pleasure. If everything you experience is pleasure, never displeasure, how are you going to know that what you’re actually experiencing is pleasure? Without being able to grasp the opposite of something, how is it possible to truly grasp what you have in your hands? Just like Mortimer said, without Death there cannot truly be Life. You need each to balance the other, to create something to look forward to and appreciate.
It makes sense that the elderly devils would wish for death as they waste away in that in between state. I can’t imagine being forced to live through that when you don’t have the vitality to enjoy living. While an equally polarizing topic, this predicament holds heavy parallels to doctor assisted suicide. At what point is it cruel to force a person to continue living just because they’re able to? At what point do you take away a person’s agency, their ability to decide that they’ve had enough, and force them to continue on? Do you really have the right to force someone to continue living when doing so is causing them to live in constant agony?
While Andersen phrases all of these issues in a much nicer way, the sentiment holds true. I applaud Lucifer for making the choice to end the devils’ infinite lifespan, even if it was met with hatred and resistance. Even if he was making the decision because he knew that he wouldn’t meet the same fate. It would be cruel to discover how the elderly were suffering and force them to continue to suffer for all eternity.
On a much brighter note, I really did enjoy how Satina and Philip’s relationship continued to grow and morph into something more. It had to be hard for them, being forced to separate again after being reacquainted to solve yet another issue in the Afterlife. Yet at the same time, they had to know that it wouldn’t be forever. They might have to wait a long time but, as this novel alone as proven, they’re not going to have to wait forever.
Philip getting to spend more time with Satina also allowed me to really see the ways in which Philip changed from the last novel. In it, Philip was unable to keep a secret, bursting to tell Satina about Lucifer’s illness every time he was with her. Here, he was able to keep to himself the bargain he’d made with Mortimer for his mother’s life. On top of that, it quickly became apparent that the reason Philip was able to read the evil deeds in someone’s eyes was because he still retained a little bit of his devil powers. Satina showed proof of her ability with the condemned that was waiting at the Gates of Hell. Aziel forced Philip to use his powers right at the end to witness Aziel’s mother’s death. To experience it as if he was the one doing the deed. Yet even though he experienced it, Philip didn’t find himself scandalized like he once would have. Yes, Philip has certainly changed from before he visited Hell.
I also found it intriguing to learn that Mortimer’s snake is Time. The fact that these concepts – death, life, time – are actual beings in the Afterlife is a fact that I find myself enjoying immensely.
I can’t wait to continue on with this series – to get to experience more of the Afterlife with Philip while knowing that it’s not my time… yet. I hope to experience even more of the Afterlife than we already have – after all, we got to experience where Death lives this time, it’s bound to be somewhere else next time.
Other reviews in this series: