Hettie and her sister are travelling to Mexico, where the demonic revolver, El Diablo, was first created in the hope they can finally destroy it an Hettie can get her life back
But the journey has complicates - crossing the magical wall into Mexico isn’t easy and despite all their efforts, local politics catches them as a General with a full army behind him is less than happy with the magical independence of Villa Del Punta. And the town itself has divisions inside - not least of which with Walker’s family
And then there’s Abbie; the Indigo child with impossible magical powers growing by the day… and she’s picked up some disturbing habits from her captivity with the Kuklos warlock which is only more worrying...
Hattie is the core of his book and her conflicts and personality are what really gives the whole story so much more depth. We’re reminded that Hattie is very young and utterly out of her depth but equally determined to keep on going for the sake of her sister. She has this really powerful sense of fatalism while still clinging to hope. After her experiences she’s almost given up on her own future. She doesn’t have any long term plans, she doesn’t even seem to consider the future - focusing only on her sister’s survival and ignoring herself almost entirely. Yet at the same time she is clinging so desperately to getting rid of the Diablo and getting her missing years back. And I don’t think it’s worry about aging or dying - but the desperate desire for a do-over, a wish that she could go back to where this story began, before the loss of her family, before the revolver, before she killed people.
On top of that she has her sister Abbie, impossibly, terrifyingly powerful, increasingly out of control with more than a few unsavoury habits and a growing sense of almost desperation.
This is the backbone of the book -and pretty necessary as the pacing has an odd moment in the middle. The journey to Mexico and Villa Del Punto has action, magic and fighting. And the end of the book has some grand reveals and a lot of powerful scenes and epicness. But the middle? It’s kind of flabby and meandering without a lot of forward movement. But it does allow a lot of exploration - especially of Hattie; her trying to fit in with the inhabitants of Villa Del Punta, her dealing with her complicated relationship with Walker, trying to look after Abbie. Facing the fact she doesn’t really trust anyone around her. And even her evolving connection with El Diablo.
It also allows for a lot of world building of magic, the relationship between Mexico and the US as well as the local politics of this world’s Mexico as well: which has some interesting twists including magical areas as a vital resource and how this world with magic has created a much more balanced tension between the US and Mexico. In fact, there’s a wall across the Mexican border built by the Mexicans to keep Americans out. I do like to see how our world would differ if magic is introduced to history; how wars and conflicts would be completely different when the power is so changed.
We also get to explore the magic system some more as well as the nature of both the demonic and the angelic.
It’s still kind of flabby in the middle since it basically involves Hattie and Abbie settling into the village, slowly winning over the people’s trust, learning about magic, learning about Walker’s past, his relationship to the sorcerer who created Diablo and, of course, his step brother who rules the town and there’s some tension there. Not a lot happens but it’s ok; it allows the characters to grow and learn especially after all the action of the last book. And the action beginning and ending the book which is full of war, and fighting and magic and guns to definitely make up for a slow middle
I like that Hettie does meet several women in Villa del Punta and generally respects them… while I’m not thrilled by Julia. A clear love interest of Walker’s we get a definite hint of jealousy from Hettie which she handles really well and we have a great point of it being hettie’s issue and not the objectionable fault of Julia. Still the ending does kind of have a sense of vindication for Hettie and demonisation of her.