Even though two stars may seem like a bad rating, keep in mind that it technically means “fair.” If stars were a grade in an essay, it would be C+ — a pass, but not a particularly brilliant one. Such is the case of A Knight of the Word, the sequel to Terry Brooks‘s Running with the Demon, a much more rewarding book.
The basic premise is a good against evil plot, embodied in the forces known as the Word and the Void. Both sides have creatures loyal to them, namely demons on behalf of the Void, and Knights for the Word. The present Knight of the Word is a man named John Ross, who lives a lonely existence; wandering an post-apocalyptic future in his dreams in order to find clues and answers to what transpired to prevent it from happening in the present (kinda like “Early Edition” and “Tru Calling” — remember those shows?)
Anyway, after a botched rescue mission that results in the deaths of several children, Ross gives up his calling and settles down to a new life. He has a girlfriend, Stefanie Winslow, and they both work for “the Wizard of Oz”, the nickname given to Simon Lawrence, a charity worker for homeless people. Meanwhile, the magically inclined Nest Freemark (the young girl that Ross saved in Running with the Demon) is now nineteen years old and in a rut in her life.
All seems reasonably well, but the Word’s messenger, a tatterdemalion named Arial, assures Nest that Ross has made himself vulnerable to the Void by ignoring his calling, and only Nest can make him aware of a demon in his presence attempting to corrupt him. Meanwhile, back in Seattle, an investigative reporter named Andrew Wren is uncovering suspicious facts that may prove the downfall of Lawrence’s foundation and Ross’s work.
It is a solid enough sequel, but not up to par with its predecessor. I enjoyed Running with the Demon immensely due to its environment (the far-reaching parklands) and the supporting cast. Here, however, most of the old cast has died or moved on: Cass Minter and Old Bob have died, Brianna and Jared have moved away, and even the cats are gone. Brooks may be attempting to make the situation true to life, but it comes across as rather depressing. Despite the presence of Robert, Nest feels very much alone in this book, with none of the hope and promise that Running with the Demon concluded with.
Likewise, the streets of Seattle just aren’t as interesting a setting as Hopewell and the park, and the change in scenery deprives us of Pick’s presence. Two Bears appears in little more than a cameo, and Wraith has a relatively minor role that doesn’t really have much bearing on the overall story.
I found that Nest was the more interesting character out of the two protagonists, though I can’t exactly pinpoint why, and I liked the way the roles had been reversed from the previous book — now Nest is the rescuer. Likewise, Arial was an interesting idea (a spirit made up of lost children’s memories) and it was fun to see another sylvan — Boot. But I have to admit that unlike other reviewers, the secret identity of the demon did catch me off guard (gimme a break, I was only fourteen when I read it!)
Throughout the story Brooks gives us so many lectures on the plight of homeless people that I seriously hope he takes his own advice and gives generously to the poor. Hey, maybe you should take the money you were going to spend on this book and give it to a homeless fund instead! There’s an idea I’m sure Brooks would approve of!
So my main grievance is that it was too far removed from the direction Running with the Demon seemed to be going in at its end — this installment is too dark and melancholy. Unless you’re desperate for more on Ross and Nest, I would just read Running with the Demon and then go on to bigger and better books.