I met M. Todd Gallowglas at a local convention, and after talking a bit about books and my tastes in them, he suggested I would like Halloween Jack and the Devil’s Gate. I had previously seen him perform some of his live storytelling, and I enjoyed it. He really is quite good! And he was correct: I did like the book.
After Jack o’ the Lantern is tricked and captured, demons and other denizens of Hell begin flooding the Earth. The last three of Jack’s descendants are the only ones who can set things right, so Moira, Jack, and Daniel set out to do just that. The setup is quick and gets the reader right into the story.
Gallowglas has a strong command of words because of his oral storytelling background, and that really showed in Halloween Jack and the Devil’s Gate. The excellent descriptions gave just enough information to set each scene without leaving out anything important or waxing too verbose. He showed a great command of pacing and giving out new information in unexpected ways. When the story finally started unfolding toward the resolution, he delivered each reveal very effectively.
Each of the three main characters was developed well for a story this short (about 100 pages). Each had a different voice, different skills and strengths, and fit well into the story. There were no extraneous characters. Even tertiary characters played small but important roles, and none felt shoehorned in for no purpose.
For anyone familiar with Irish fairy tales and legends (I have read a few, though not this one), Halloween Jack and the Devil’s Gate will be fun. Gallowglas does a great job taking old tales and giving them a more modern twist (though the story is set around the time of the American Civil War).
The only thing that might confuse some readers is the reliance on Catholic perceptions of demons, angels, saints, and such. However, most of what is used in the story should be familiar to anyone who has read or seen other fantasy works with strong Catholic influences (such as the Deryni books by Katherine Kurtz). These influences never confused me or brought down my enjoyment of the story.
Halloween Jack and the Devil’s Gate has the feel of a story being told live, which only makes sense due to what Galloglas does for the other part of his living. Let’s just say he has a way with words. For a fun, quick story that everyone in the family can enjoy, I strongly recommend this book. I look forward to reading the second book in the series.
Release Date: March 12, 2012 (USA)
ISBNs: 0615616429 (9780615616421)
Publisher: Bard’s Cloak of Tales
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief mention)
Language: 1 (sparse, mild)
Sexuality: 0 (though there is a succubus, nothing graphic)
Violence: 1 (some violence, nothing graphic, death mentioned in passing)