Simon Dark and Virgil Matter have been best friends since they were children. They are in their mid-twenties, but everything about their demeanor and personality screams teenage boys. They live in the town of Templar at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. Templar is a typical town except for the occasional supernatural event or incident. Their favorite hangout spot is the Squeezy Cheez, a throwback pizza arcade from the eighties. Virgil has the great idea that he and Simon should become town heroes who investigate the weird occurrences and fight evil. Simon, who is more levelheaded, ignores Virgil’s foolishness until he is forced into action while visiting his sister’s grave. A zombie, fresh from crawling out of a grave, attacks the young men. Despite a stumbling success fending off the zombie, they decide they’re ready rid the town of the demon in Mrs. Grunberg’s basement.
Simon and Virgil’s relationship is the main focus in this silly, slightly scary, PG-13 buddy comedy. The banter between Simon and Virgil is never-ending. At times, the voices of the characters merge, twist, and reassemble themselves as the story moves forward. Virgil should be the comedic relief, while Simon should be the more serious character, since he has a more depressing backstory, but having been friends for so long, they can often understand each other with just a look, and even say in unison, “Templar needs heroes!” It is easy to lose track of who is saying what. This is a useful plot device that may validate the characters, confirming the solidity of their long friendship, or cover up poor character dialogue development.
The two other main characters are Abby, an empath, and Llewyn, a wizard. Abby is witty and acts as a springboard for sarcasm. On the road to vanquishing the demon in the basement and learning about how magic works in their world, they provide continuous silly moments, awkwardness, and doubt.
In Demon Zero, the characters recognize that their world is different but are pushed further into the supernatural aspect with the realization they are amongst the few people who carry magic. This means the plot follows the progress of the young men as they learn about new powers, other dimensions, and creatures. Therefore, the reader is learning along with the characters. The main drawback of this approach is that when a character doubts how the world is built, the reader does too. Once again, the author employs a device that either makes the characters seem more real or attempts to cover up any questions about the world building and potential plot holes.
The author writes description that is so very carefully laid out, especially when it comes to the demon in Mrs. Grunberg’s basement, and creates vivid imagery that helps establish scenes, which works in contrast to the witty banter that continues even when the young men are fighting for their lives. It will be interesting to see how the characters develop throughout the series and whether they will become iconic characters or just annoying.
Randall Pine has created a fun, quick read that begins a new series that will delight fans of The Iron Trial (Magisterium) by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan, and Magyk by Angie Sage.