Nicholas Blackwell was only 7 years old when his life was destroyed as he watched his doting parents murdered in front of him on Christmas Eve. Whisked away by the Vatican and deposited in a reclusive boarding school called St. Christopher’s, he’s been a virtual prisoner for the last 9 years because the villains who killed his mother and father are also after him. Lured by a giant serpent into eating a certain forbidden fruit, Nicholas unwittingly unleashes the Seven Guardians of Sin. Aided only by a demon, and Amy, the new girl at school, Nicholas must traverse the treacherous City of Demons and defeat each Guardian. He will also learn of the secret everyone’s been keeping from him and face an enemy more powerful than he could ever imagine.
When I first started reading this book I was a little wary because it was immediately obvious that it had strong religious overtones. My limited past experience has made me feel that some books with religious themes can be a little preachy. In The Blackwell Family Secret however, this was one of the things I liked the most about it. The juxtaposition of traditional Catholic beliefs with the supernatural elements made for a very interesting story. Teenage Nicholas starts out extremely annoying. He’s arrogant and treats girls as playthings. He embraces his reputation of being a love ’em and leave ’em kind of guy. That is until he meets Amy who not only challenges him, but also is hiding a secret of her own. During his journey, Nicholas matures and overcomes his less likeable attributes. The descriptions of Demonia and it’s denizens are absolutely fascinating. It actually reminded me a little of Dante’s Inferno. Unfortunately there were some negatives. First and foremost was the incredible danger Nicholas was placed in by his seemingly loving parents when he was a mere infant. I don’t want to post any spoilers, but this made no sense to me. And since it is the premise for the rest of the story it cast a bit of a pall over the book. I also found the battles between Nicholas and each Guardian unbelievable and anticlimactic. And finally, the way the novel was written, I was left unsure of what audience I would recommend this to. It was written more at a young middle school level, yet because of some of the more mature themes, I’d be hesitant in suggesting this to anyone younger than high school age. Perhaps it would be a good fit for a YA reluctant reader. The Blackwell Family Secret is only the first book in a planned series, and I do think it shows signs of promise. Hopefully the next book will be able to address some of the weaknesses.