Monday, November 4, 2013

The Iron Bells by Jeanette Battista

The Iron Bells
by Jeanette Battista 
Read: October 13 - 20, 2013
June 2013 by Foreword Literary
Source: NetGalley - THANK YOU!
Category: Urban Fantasy, YA
Series: The Demon's Gate, book 1
Find: Goodreads | Amazon

NOTE: What follows is the book description from Goodreads, which basically outlines the entire plot. Be careful about reading it if you're new to this book! 

The year is 64 A.D. -- though now A.D. stands for Anno Daemonii. Demons have crossed a gate into our world, taking the reins of power from humanity. A new Inquisition has begun, determined to root out any who stand against the new world order. The holy sites on earth have been destroyed -- Jerasulem first, then the Vatican, then Mecca -- and what resistance remains is ruthlessly crushed. Amaranth is a fighter in the resistance cell based in London. Dham is a Ringer, one of the few people left able to ring the remaining sets of blessed hand bells that have power over demons. When Amaranth discovers that her best friend has been possessed by a demon and is going to be used in the Resistance's final, desperate mission, she asks Dham for his help in saving her friend. With the Inquisition closing in and betrayal threatening from inside the Resistance itself, Amaranth, Dham, and the demon -- along with Catriona, a new, highly-skilled, highly-blonde bell-ringer -- decide to head to Rome and the ruins of Vatican City, hoping to find a way to stem the tide of demonic possessions and close the gate.

The Iron Bells is the first in a New Adult trilogy.

Amaranth lives in a modern London that looks very similar to ours, except that all of the beautiful cathedrals have been destroyed and no one takes the tube anymore. Demons have found a gate to cross over into our world, and they're running rampant in the underground. But it's not just below ground that people fear, because demons have used their ability to possess humans in order to creep their way into power. Now the government is filled with the possessed and their sympathizers, and they are determined to take out anyone who opposes them. This is where the destruction of holy sites comes in, as well as curfews and an overwhelming air of suspicion that permeates the city and extends all over the world. Maybe Amaranth's London isn't really like ours at all. 

Amaranth (Ama) is part of a Resistance cell based in London. She spends her time in the demon infested underground, attacking the creatures head on. But things are getting pretty desperate for the Resistance movement. It's not clear how much longer they can hold out against the ever tightening control of the new Inquisition, which has been created to crush anyone who stands in the way of the new system. In an effort to take back control, the Resistance undertakes a dangerous mission to try and stop the demons. Part of the Resistance's plan, involves the arrival of other members from around the globe, including Dham, who is a Ringer. He is one of the few people left able to ring blessed hand bells that have power over demons.  

If this new mission isn't stressful enough, Ama also discovers that her best friend Patrick is missing, and she is desperate to find him and rescue him - from whatever fate has befallen him. 

Ama is already a kickass fighter when The Iron Bells begins. She's extremely determined and great at evading capture and destroying demons in the underground. However, she doesn't trust easily, and is not very good at relationships - with guys or friends. As someone who is extremely confident in one area of her life, it was fun to watch her navigate new people, start to fall for someone, and be completely out of her depth. There is a slowly developing romance in this story, and I like the way it is paced throughout the story. 

In addition to Amaranth, this book is filled with a great cast of characters, especially Dham, Cat and Trick. I love the dynamic between each of these characters and Ama. Ama learns a lot about herself from all of them. Dham is an American bell ringer with some big secrets he's not sharing. I love his musicality and the close relationship he shares with the bells he wields, as well as his developing relationship with Ama. Cat is a Scot, who is small, blonde and an absolute force with her town's sacred bell. She and Ama have an uneasy relationship, which became one of my favorites near the end of the book, when Cat and Ama have a very honest conversation. Trick, well you need to read this book to meet him, but he made me question this world the most. I have a feeling that he has a lot more in store for us. 

Mythology and moral dilemmas 
Demon possession completely freaks me out, and usually I avoid books that feature it. But I really enjoyed the way the The Iron Bells world has been built. While humans were completely oblivious, demons slowly worked their way into society, which is completely frightening because humans didn't know about it until it was too late. I also really enjoyed the idea of bell ringers fighting demons. I didn't know there was any context for this, until I talked to my friend Heather @ The Flyleaf Review, who told me that she'd read about it before. I'm eager for more of this mythology in future books.

Ama is put into a position in this book, where she begins to examine demons from a new angle, especially her long held belief that they are inherently evil. I really like that this wasn't just a black and white, good vs. evil debate, but there is a moral dilemma in this story, which has made the story much more complex. I have a feeling that this will only increase as the series continues. 

As much as I enjoyed reading The Iron Bells, it isn't a perfect book. It was overly obvious who the traitor was, and yet Ama doesn't do anything about it until it's too late. This frustrated me to no end. Especially, because Ama witnessed suspicious behavior from this person all throughout the story. Also, there are a few parts of this book where Ama makes some decisions - to withhold information or follow through with a plan - that didn't make logical sense to me at the time. I know Ama doesn't trust easily, but in those moments I couldn't believe that she could be so selfish and risk sacrificing people with her decisions.  However, In hindsight I saw how those choices progressed the story. To me, it was as if some character truth was sacrificed for the sake of the plot.   

Overall, The Iron Bells is a great start to The Demon's Gate series. The ending is exciting, leaving the characters in a relatively safe (but emotional) place. I have a feeling that a lot more secrets are going to be uncovered and the action will only get more exciting. I'm also hoping that the plot/character dissonance that I felt in this book will be cleared up in the future. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low


  1. You're so right about demon possession. It's so creepy because you just never know who's possessed and who's just a jackass (unless this is Supernatural and their eyes turn black). Not good that the demons are weasling their way into power! Ama definitely needs to be out there, kicking butt and taking names.

  2. I really like the sound of Ama except for the withholding information part. I know that would absolutely drive me crazy Lauren! I basically get an ulcer when I know a character should tell someone what they know and they choose not to for whatever reason and of course it blows up in their face. *takes deep breaths* Aside from that though, this sounds like a really solid start to this series, and you know I'm all in favor of a slow-building romance!

  3. Cathedrals and the tube of all things? How odd! I mean, I understand cathedrals since there are demons involved, but the tube? This I have to figure out.
    The romance is exactly my favorite kind, slowly developed, not overly dramatic, love triangle free. And Ama sounds like a fascinating character. I don't think I've seen this book before, but I'm all for giving it a chance as soon as possible.
    Fabulous review, Lauren.

  4. I'm not one for predictable plot lines - I really disliked Cinder because of that, in fact - so I think I'll wait to see how future installments hold up before picking this up. I love the sound of the mythology, so I'm really hoping this series only gets better. Fantastic review, Lauren!

  5. Thanks for the warning about the plot being outlined in the summary! I hate when pubs do that! I feel like I should want to read this simply because the author and I share the same name, but I'm not sure if that can overcome a predictable plot. :( It's already pretty hard to surprise me in a story, but knowing going in that I'm going to have things figured out is a big strike against the book. Though, you do have me curious about the mythology of the story. I might still have to check this out.


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