The Iron Bells by Jeanette Battista

gothic girl with a sword(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

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.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I’m not sure what I expected from The Iron Bells.  Certainly not a well thought out world where demons rule and the main character knows her mind.  Amaranth is pretty confident in who she is but isn’t perfect and that’s such a breath of fresh air after the terrible slew of YA books I’ve read recently.

First off, the characters are fantastic.  I like how even though she lives with a death sentence over her head for being part of the Resistance against demons, Amaranth is a pretty calm, cool and collected individual.  She’s capable of thinking logically in difficult situations, but at the same time she’s also perfectly capable of screwing up.  Although she tries to be above it all, she does get jealous of Cat and Dham and sometimes her anger clouds her judgment.  In all honesty, that’s why I like her: she’s human.  Dham wasn’t the greatest love interest I’ve ever encountered, but he certainly wasn’t the worst.  Personally I liked Trick, who I can’t describe without giving away too much of the plot.  You just can’t help but like Trick, believe me.

The plot was fast-paced and there were a few plot twists that I didn’t see coming.  I liked how in some places Jeanette Battista slowed down a bit to let the reader catch their breath and to let the characters develop.  Overall, it was well-paced and well-plotted and I didn’t want to put it down.  The thing about The Iron Bells is that we also get little glimpses of this horrifying new world at a more natural pace.  There aren’t any huge backstory dumps that slow down the plot and I’m grateful for that.

What impressed me the most was the world-building.  An errant magic-user accidentally bringing demons into the world.  How cool is that?  And the fact that demons take over the world in a slow, subtle fashion and use our natural paranoia against us is just brilliant.  The mythology Jeanette Battista presents us with is fascinating, as is the explanation for what demons may actually be.  I didn’t see that particular twist coming, believe me.

Really, if you want to pick up something different in the YA/NA genre I’d definitely recommend The Iron Bells.  It’s a breath of fresh air.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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