Life in a demon-besieged fort is far from easy for Bec; a young priestess-in-training. Her mentor and mother have long since died, and her magic is weak and raw from lack of instruction. She sees nothing in her own future but a hopeless struggle against the hordes of demons that have already destroyed many neighbouring forts. Fate, however, has other plans for her. When Bec accompanies a small party of warriors to investigate a message from a western crannog, she and her companions become part of a quest to foil the Demonata's invasion of earth. The leader of the mission seems noble enough - but has he been entirely honest about Bec's exact role in the proceedings? If Bec isn't careful, her first adventure could well be her last.
Darren Shan, the self-styled 'Number One Master of Horror', serves up another helping of blood-fuelled mayhem in Bec, the fourth instalment in his children's horror series The Demonata. While his first three novels have been set within thirty years or so of the present day, Bec takes readers back to fifth century Ireland, when the dreaded Saint Patrick and his Christian followers were converting everyone they came across, and when, Shan insists, early settlements were under constant threat from otherworldly demons. This bygone era creates a medieval, Lord of the Rings-ish fantasy feel; mixed in, of course, with Shan's usual horrific atmosphere. The monsters in Bec only come out at night, so most of the terror is fuelled by good old fear of the dark - not a new tactic, but still a scary one.
Scattered throughout the story are clever little links to the other novels and the overall plot of the series. Fans of previous books will recognise recurring themes, such as chess, lycanthropy and magic, as well as the familiar faces of Lord Loss and his minions. On the other hand, they will also notice that while Bec has its shining moments, it unfortunately does not quite manage to outstrip its prequels. At the moment, the four Demonata books are all just as much gruesome fun as each other - which, considering the exceptional standard of Shan's writing, is more of an advantage than a drawback.
Without a doubt, the most outstanding part of Bec is the ending. In the final few chapters, Shan delivers the best (and longest) action scene in the entire series so far - a fast, bloody, full-on climax that will grip and shock readers right to the very last page. Once again, he demonstrates his prowess at perfectly balancing vivid description with relentless pace. Expect the unexpected - the inside of a demon tunnel is unlike anything you have ever imagined.
It goes without saying that Bec is a must read for Demonata devotees - a fresh new instalment that promises not to disappoint! Highly recommended for brave fantasy fans aged thirteen years and older.