Just a heads up – this might be a very religious-sounding review – mainly because this is a very Christian book. So, if that would cause annoyance, well… you’ve been warned 😉

I first read Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness when I was ten or twelve. It’s a story of angels and demons and their battle for the small town of Ashton. The cast includes a devout pastor, a tough newspaper man, various businessmen, teachers, and town leaders, and, of course, the Host of Heaven and a plethora of sulfur-belching demons. We also have secret societies, the casting out of demons, and a whole web of schemes and plots for power.

The supernatural element of the book is what sucked me in. The demons are wonderfully grotesque and horrifying – all black and leathery with bulging eyes, dripping fangs, and distorted features. The smaller ones grovel before the strong ones who jostle for power amongst themselves. All are sufficiently arrogant, cruel, and devious enough that readers are in no doubt that these are not the creatures that you want to win.

The angels, by contrast, are instantly recognizable as the good guys. Powerful and calm, they protect the Christians in the town from spiritual attack. For much of the book, they are there as damage control – never challenging  the opposition, but quietly preventing them from gaining too much ground. As they play out their roles, they await orders from Heaven and draw power from the growing amount of praying Christians that come to Ashton.

The main characters are the humans though. Hank Busche, the pastor, is a likable guy. Some readers might find him too nice and a little “preachy”, but he’s supposed to represent the Christian who loves God with all his heart and lives his life by Scripture.  His journey through the novel is probably the rockiest as he has the most direct confrontations with the supernatural elements.

The newspaperman, Marshall Hogan, is perhaps a bit more relatable. He’s a nice guy, but he messes up. He’s always striving to do the right thing though, even if he occasionally goes about it the wrong way. He’s got the action-packed segments as he goes up against the human opponents in the story. His journey is no less hard than Hank’s, but it stays mostly in the physical world.

Overall, I found this book to be a really good read, but not for everyone. Some of the dialogue is a little corny, and you definitely have to have some sort of Christian background to enjoy it fully. The message of Christ’s power and redemption is prevalent throughout the whole thing, so anyone not really wanting that kind of story will feel preached at, I think. I, however, found it all very uplifting.

By the way, I should mention that I look at this entire story as fiction. While I, as a Christian, believe in the power of God, the love of Christ, and the importance of prayer, I don’t hold Peretti’s portrayal of spiritual warfare to be, in any way, factual. The book did inspire me to be more diligent in my prayer life though.

So, the bottom line is, I really like this book, but I know that it’s for a very specific audience. That being said, if it sounds like your cup of tea, I highly recommend it.

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