The Hidden and the Maiden
by Eben Mishkin

"It was her. His heart thudded against his rib cage as he stared at her beauty. He drank in the flawless porcelain skin of her face. He had found her, found her at last."

Power over the living is limited, but power over the dead is boundless. When control over a god of death falls into the wrong hands, it's up to an unlikely trio of heroes to stop the impending destruction. James Rathbone is a failed wizard's apprentice who jumps at shadows. Zephyr Wayne is a man who believes himself to be insane because of his unusual talent of seeing ghosts. JJ is the tag-along ghost of Zephyr's mother, possessive of him to the point of obsession. This rag-tag team must work together to send demonic forces back to the darkness from whence they came. They're not exactly knights in shining armor, but they're all the world has.

From the moment they meet, it's clear that there are some odd relationship dynamics in the group. Sparks of every conceivable kind fly at the trio's first meeting, and this friction is maintained through their adventure. Mishkin doesn't skirt around loaded topics like belonging, family, and sex, and how the three fit together. This result in some high-tension moments, often to the point of being uncomfortable to read. This is not a flaw. Mishkin manages to forge likeable characters out of three extremely flawed misfits. James, Zephyr, and JJ grow as individuals over the course of their quest, and this growth can be clearly seen in their interactions with one another. You can't help but feel for these flawed characters, whose sometimes loathsome, often pathetic nature makes them feel human and real.

The book's antagonist, cop-turned-psychic Kenton Dean, appears confident and powerful. Thanks to a surprise discovery, he gains access to an entire army of the dead. By enslaving the ghosts of the dead who follow visitors into his psychic shows, Kenton can make them do as he wills. His intentions are not made very clear, but his original reasons are human and stem from insecurity. Every character in the book, side or main, is haunted, one way or another. They are brought to life on the pages, but even more attention is spent fleshing out the world they live in. Although it is set in modern times, the book creates a living urban landscape of magic and fantasy. The realms of life and death, and everything in between are explored and interwoven into the surroundings. Readers are given a glimpse into the world of ghosts and demons that walk among us, unseen and bound by their own laws and governing forces. A rich and detailed lore is revealed, drawing on various real-world mythological sources and creating an engrossing narrative.

James may fail at magic, but his library on magic and mythology is vast. Through James, we discover that myths and legends have some grains of truth to them, waiting to be dug out. Mishkin mixes mythologies from a number of cultures, from the Egyptian to the Greek. The various mythologies combine into a single unified lore that forms the backbone of a fantastic yet somehow believable modern magical adventure.

Mishkin weaves his narrative effortlessly. Dialogue is usually believable and the environment is nearly tangible. In the author's hands, ephemeral ghosts, the question of Heaven and Hell, and the ties that bind us become as real as our own life and blood. A few questions are posed that never receive a satisfactory answer, but most can be put together by the reader through hints planted throughout the book. The Hidden and the Maiden may leave some questions unanswered, but it answers the important ones: What happens when you die? And can this dysfunctional trio really save the living—and the dead?

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