HowlSage — "Sage of Darkness" Series
HowlSage by Brock D. Eastman has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the "Sages of Darkness" trilogy.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Fourteen-year-old Taylor lives in an old inn called The Pink Hippo outside the small town of Ashley Meadows. His mother is dead, and his dad is missing, presumed dead, so he stays with his trainer, McGarrett, his friend Ike and other members of a secret society called the Legion der Dämonjäger. As the battle between good and evil intensifies on earth, Taylor is called to follow in his father's footsteps and become a demon hunter.
Taylor's mission: Destroy a werewolf-like demon called the HowlSage by Oct. 31. Failure to do so will allow more demons to enter the world through underground portals called Etherpits. Taylor hunts at night under McGarrett's direction, though never on Sunday, the day of rest. Eleven-year-old Ike attempts, often unsuccessfully, to create technology that will aid Taylor's hunting. Using an invention called a J-Pak, Taylor can fly over Ashley Meadows to track the enemy.
Taylor's uncle, a top archaeologist for the Legion der Dämonjäger, arrives at The Pink Hippo with Taylor's aunt and cousin, Jesse. While Jesse's parents go on a mission of their own, Jesse stays with Taylor and helps him hunt the HowlSage. The HowlSage appears to Taylor and suggests they work together. He indicates Taylor's father is still alive and says Taylor can have his dad back if he submits. Afterward, Taylor wonders if the encounter was real or a dream. Taylor and Jesse follow and battle the HowlSage night after night, sometimes suffering injuries. The HowlSage continues to escape. They learn more about it and other demons in an old book called The HowlSage Haunting. They also fight off creatures such as the flying Raptoryx and follow cloaked figures who seem to be working with the HowlSage. McGarrett asks Taylor if he's walking with God in the midst of this battle. Taylor lies and indicates his relationship with God is fine. The truth is that he finds church boring and doesn't see much consistency in the lives of the Christian kids he knows. He's also angry with God for taking his parents while expecting him to fight His battles.
Taylor starts to fall for a girl at school named Melanie. She shows a romantic interest in him, despite the fact that she's always with a protective boy named Albert. She tells him her parents were former missionaries, but her behavior seems erratic and inconsistent. Meanwhile, Ike's parents become trapped in a collapsed tunnel on their way back from their Legion der Dämonjäger mission. They're uninjured and have food, but the process of digging them out is lengthy. Then part of a tunnel collapses, injuring McGarrett and Jesse. Though they are alive, hooked up to sophisticated medical equipment at The Pink Hippo, they are unresponsive. Ike thinks they've been put into the Dark Night, a curse of nightmares that can only be broken by killing the demon who cursed them. The police chief, also a believer, tells Ike and Taylor about the place where he found McGarrett and Jesse. A circle of stones, bowls of liquid and various amulets indicate that a ritual of some sort was being performed. Ike researches these talismans in The HowlSage Haunting. He determines the HowlSage is attempting to help summon a more powerful demon than himself, a vampire-like BloodSage.
Melanie betrays Taylor, allowing Albert to capture him. She admits she has been summoning and controlling demons with Albert. Taylor realizes he can only escape with God's help, and he prays for forgiveness for pushing Him away. Ike kills a demon that Melanie has summoned and frees Taylor. Later, while he's hunting, Taylor sees Jesse and learns his cousin has betrayed the Legion der Dämonjäger. Both Jesse and Melanie are under the control of demonic forces. Jesse's parents arrive, and Ike's parents are freed from the collapsed tunnel. They say Melanie's friend Albert is not a boy at all, but an evil spirit called a jinn. Albert plans to raise the BloodSage from a stolen Egyptian sarcophagus. As Taylor confronts Albert, the jinn tempts him with promises of seeing his father if he submits. With the help of two men, possibly angels, Taylor battles SwampSages as Albert escapes.
Oct. 31 draws near. Back at The Pink Hippo, the monk who initially gave Taylor his mission returns. He makes Taylor row a small boat in an underground cavern through the night as a faith-building exercise. Taylor learns to cry out in prayer when he feels weak, and this prepares him for the battle of the upcoming day. As the jinn and HowlSage prepare to raise the BloodSage, Taylor manages to trap Albert in the sarcophagus and kill the HowlSage. Before he can destroy Albert, the coffin is sucked back into a nearby Etherpit. Even though Taylor fails to vanquish the jinn, the curses on Jesse, McGarrett and Melanie are lifted. Taylor and Ike prepare for their next mission, to find and rescue Taylor's dad.
Taylor says small town life has its advantages, such as being able to pray at lunch and getting to say "The Pledge of Allegiance," God's name included in it. Residents congregate at the park after church on Sunday. Although Taylor has been a Christian for quite a while, he finds it takes on a different meaning when he's fighting demons, not just sitting in Sunday school. Sunday is the day of rest for Taylor's clan. He talks about the predictable service at the church where they attend. He notes that the other kids his age don't exhibit particularly Christian behavior, at church or at school. He questions the depth of their faith and of his own. Another time, he says the church seems dead. He admits he's angry at God for taking his parents. He says that loss makes it hard for him to want to fight for God. Taylor's friends, such as Ike and McGarrett, often pray for their loved ones and for protection. McGarrett asks Taylor how he's doing in his walk with the Lord, and Taylor lies, saying he's doing fine.
McGarrett marvels at how his prayers for protection have been answered when Ike's parents are trapped in a tunnel with a vending machine supplier truck. A group of local believers known as The Gathering comes to The Pink Hippo. They pray fervently for McGarrett and Jesse and against all of the surrounding spiritual warfare. When Taylor realizes he's been trying to fight the HowlSage without God's help, he surrenders and asks forgiveness. He says he'd gotten to a place where he'd let the Truth be hidden from him. He begins to fast and pray, and calls on the name of Jesus to vanquish demons. While he's rowing with the monk, the monk sings hymns and shares passages of Scripture, along with Bible stories. The monk mentions Bible characters such as David and Samson. He quotes verses about bearing up under temptation. He talks about the importance of listening and trusting, and he says God gives second chances.
Other Belief Systems
The author lays out a fictional underworld of demonic forces. Bonus material at the end of the book includes sketches and additional information about the demons and how to kill them. Some of the types of demons include the jinn, HowlSages, BloodSages, SwampSages, BlizzardSages and SandSages. Some demons are more powerful than others. BloodSages (or vampires), for example, are the most powerful demons a hunter is likely to fight on earth. They create armies and siphon their strength from human sin. HowlSages are lesser demons that do the bidding of greater ones or humans. Ike says a HowlSage is less dangerous than the man who controls him because man has free will. Jinns are evil spirits who can take human form. Demons use amulets, stone circles and incantations to call up other demons. They have played roles in many of the wars in the world's history, particularly serving in Hitler's regime.
Demons enter the world through Etherpits that appear deep in the caverns of the earth. Angelic forces can also enter the world through various portals, including a door in The Pink Hippo. Melanie says she and Albert controlled demons using a Ouija board and incantations. While under a demonic influence, she tells Taylor its fun to control demons and that some of them are actually cute. After rowing in the boat with the monk, Taylor wakes up sore. The monk provides some sort of strong drink that instantly gives Taylor clarity and takes away the aches in his body.
Heck appears a time or two. Taylor and his crew often battle demonic forces, but the violence isn't bloody or graphic. Ike makes blood bombs out of latex balloons and chicken blood. (The chicken blood is drained from the fowl that they are having for dinner.) He says Taylor can throw them to distract the bloodthirsty HowlSage if necessary.
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