Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I started this series years ago, and I was impressed that this is genuinely scary horror fiction for younger readers. Finally, I was able to pick this series up with the second book. I actually own this in Kindle and Paperback, but I wanted a scary book to listen to on audio for Halloween. Needless to say, I didn't finish it until November.
So I guess I should talk about my thoughts on the book. Frankly, I didn't like this as much as Book One. I guess I liked the evil witch villain more than I liked the Bane (and the weak humans he manipulated and used to do his evil).
The storyline touches in uncomfortable ways how the church may have done more harm than good in the fight against evil. Witches are being persecuted and burned (and many aren't even witches) in the name of God. Yeah, that can definitely lead to trouble when you use God as an excuse to hurt others or to manipulate things to your advantage over others. That doesn't speak to God's character at all, but many who don't know God can sometimes believe in the evil acts of people more than they believe in who God really is. The truth is that God is represented through a believer's actions than anything else.
The book shows that sometimes the worse evil is human evil. That's not to say that there is not an obvious supernatural component to this book. But frankly, if the Bane was not able to find humans to use and manipulate, he probably wouldn't have done as much harm in this book as he did.
One thing I can say about Delaney is that he taps into the complexity of human nature. Alice is a young woman who is on the edge. She tiptoes into the dark in the name of doing what is right, and young Thomas feels sympathy and loyalty for her that conflicts with his loyalty to his master, the Spook, John Gregory. Even though he knows and fears the worst about Alice, he can't abandon her without trying to help her. Ultimately, it turns out that his instincts are right in many ways, and he has to stand by them even when things look most dire.
I really liked the backstory on Thomas' parents. That was very, very cool. Another look at the complexity of good and evil in this context of this story. But Delaney also stresses that it involves the choices that we make. If you're going to be a good person, you have to choose to do what is right, and if you take the step in the other direction, it's because of choices you make. Even in the contest of Christian belief, while we believe in salvation through faith, a person still has to choose to believe and to live a life that reflects that belief with the help of God's spirit living in them.
The Bane was a scary bad guy, and the story has some genuine chills and thrills. However, I didn't find it as magnetic as the first book. I think the Bane was too one-dimensional as a villain. Having said that, I still enjoy this series and I'm eager to see what the next book has to offer this reader.
I definitely wouldn't recommend this to any readers younger than a mature twelve. It's scary and it shows some really dark aspects of human nature. As far as parental oversight, reading this book would have some very important discussion points about what faith really represents and how the church has a responsibility to the community and others. This book does not show the church in a positive light at all.
Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.
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