Tanya Huff’s The Second Summoning

Tanya Huff’s The Second Summoning is, as might be expected, a sequel to Summon the Keeper. It is just as wryly funny, with the attitude we’ve come to expect from Huff, and is sometimes surprisingly insightful about the trials and tribulations of growing up.

Diana Hansen, the world’s most powerful Keeper, is assigned to the Chistmas dance decorations committee in lieu of detention (a not unusual occurrence for Diana); she comes up with a suspended crepe paper snowflake that not only hides the gym ceiling (this is, remember, a high-school dance), but will filter out the teenage angst while subtly reinforcing the good vibes. All goes well — apparently. That night, however, Lena Giorno, who had campaigned for angels as the theme for the dance, summons one, at almost exactly the same time that Claire, Diana’s sister, and Dean McIssac, the solidly grounded and terminally gorgeous young man with whom Claire has been traveling, consummate their heretofore platonic relationship. It doesn’t help matters that Lena’s father bursts into her room just as the angel is manifesting. Since it appears that anyone present at this type of manifestation sees what they expect to see; the angel winds up with some extra parts — extra for angels, at least. There is, of course, one more wrinkle: in keeping with an important law of Newtonian physics, namely that every action creates an equal and opposite reaction, when the angel, Samuel, has manifested, it’s only a matter of time until a demon also manifests — just to keep things in balance, you understand.

It’s very interesting to think a little about what Huff has done in this novel in terms of teenagers and growing up. It becomes, in a way, a coming-of-age story as both Samuel and Byleth, the demon, find their ways from the wild extremes of adolescence to at least the beginnings of maturity. It’s something that also holds true for Diana and Claire, as well. Diana begins to translate youthful idealism into a real capacity for understanding the needs of others, and channels her rebelliousness into more adult qualities of independence and determination, while Claire moves a few steps farther away from the stubborn arrogance that is her reaction to the responsibility of being a Keeper.

However, I don’t want to go overboard in reading deep meanings into this book. It is, like the others in the series, funny, often pungent, light-heartedly satirical, and a thoroughly enjoyable evening (although the genitalia jokes veer sometimes into the puerile). Samuel is a delight, an angel whose “higher knowledge” seems to be strongly oriented toward cars and building projects, and who retains through it all a great amount of the innocence of childhood, with sometimes fairly graphic references to the confusion of puberty. Byleth, on the other hand, never seems quite able to be as evil as she wants to be or is trying to convince others that she is. We get a charming portrait of the Hansen family, particularly Diana and Claire’s parents, who have the world-weary air of parents everywhere.

I have to confess that this one started out as my least favorite of the three books in the series thus far, but on rereading, I’ve changed my evaluation. There are some subtleties here, and some truly funny passages, and the characters, particularly Samuel, have a lot of charm. As is usually the case with Huff, the story is inventive, the universe consistent and detailed, and the narrative flows smoothly from one plot twist to the next.

And the series continues with a grand finale in Long Hot Summoning.

(DAW Books, 2001)

About Robert Tilendis

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there.

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