Next up on the hit parade is Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth. After the events of Paths Not Taken, the Nightside is at war with Lilith. John just knows that he has to be the one to defeat his mother. No one else really stands a chance but first, he has to rescue his secretary Cathy from the tender clutches of Walker. Its here that we find out, to no one’s surprise, that he thinks of Cathy as a daughter more than a secretary.
John discovers that Walker is keeping her in the Necropolis with protections that means he can’t see what sort of trap he (and Suzie) will be walking into. Still, he goes anyway. He can’t not. Alex helps him leave Strangefellows without being seen, an old family secret for a rainy night. From there, John goes to the Doormouse, a life-size bipedal mouse that deals in transportational doors. After some haggling and a bit of growling by Suzie, the Doormouse transports them right to the outside of the Necropolis (never inside any establishment, its too dangerous), where they run into Razor Eddie.
Razor Eddie had heard of Cathy’s plight and came to help, if only to stick it to Walker. Eddie uses his newly enhanced pearl handled straight razor and opens up the dimensional wall between the Nightside and the Necropolis’ graveyard. There they find necromancer Sandra Chance (formerly involved with the Lamentation) and Tommy Oblivion. Tommy thinks he’s doing the right thing. Sandra just wants revenge. With nothing for it, Tommy wakes up the sleeping Cathy, who promptly kicks him in the balls because he doesn’t want to kill John, just keep him busy.
And Sandra does a stupid. She tries to take her revenge by raising the dead but they are seriously protected. Which is of course just when Walker double crosses them all and locks them in the Necropolis. The group fights together to keep the guardian of the dead from killing them all until John points out to Eddie right where his previous opening had been. That area is weak and Walker didn’t know Eddie would be there. Luckily, they escape but the hardship isn’t over yet.
John sends Tommy to escort Cathy to Strangefellows while the rest of them go to the Street of the Gods. When they get there, they find it utterly destroyed. Lilith had already been there, making a grand entrance and killing quite a lot of things, almost including Walker himself. Walker survives and he and John finally get on the same side. John sends them off to Strangefellows to heal Walker while he goes to find Dead Boy and Julian Advent.
He finds Dead Boy working as a bouncer and cajoles/threatens him to joining John. They find Julian Advent being Julian Advent and help him rescue a bunch of fairies in a sweat shop for magic items. After that’s finished, John tells Julian and Dead Boy that he needs to be sent into the future to talk to his Enemies, the ones who had haunted him throughout his life with the Harrowing. And to do that, he needs to summon an angel. There is a lot of argument about how this is very stupid but John is insistent, besides he knows this angel-the former succubus Pretty Poison.
She is more than a little mad at his presumption but she helps him anyway. She sends him into the future. He has to dodge monstrous, hate-filled creatures to get to his enemies but he does it. And he talks his way out of immediate death, so there’s that. He gets information from them and promises to change this future because he really doesn’t want it either. In the end, they agree to send him back but they’re a little off with their timing. They send him back a week after he left and a lot of people think he’s done a runner. Idiots. When has John ever done a runner?
John goes to a magic crystal type shop and uses up pretty much every crystal ball and scrying pool to catch up on what he’s missed. And it isn’t pretty, not at all. Luckily though, most of the people he considers friends are still alive. Lilith has done some awful things including destroying the Time Tower and raising all the dead of the Necropolis to us as an army. Once he’s done catching up, John uses one last pool to contact Walker. They need to get in touch with the Authorities now.
The twosome meet up at the Londinium Club, naturally. Unfortunately, the Authorities turn out to be the cowardly, nasty jerks we all took them for. So its kinda nice that Lilith kills them all, even if it does shock the hell out of Walker. Now they’re really on their own. John pulls Tommy Oblivion out of Strangefellows via his membership card and forces Tommy to existential them to St Jude’s to find the Lord of Thorns, who unfortunately turns out to be no help at all.
Before John could come up with his next move, he’s ambushed by Sandra Chance and a bunch of fellow ruthless bounty hunters (and no Suzie is not among them). It seems the Reasonable Men, whom he killed two books ago, have parents who put out a major bounty on his head. Stupid people. John and Suzie kill them (Tommy was severely injured) and the three of them hobble back to Strangefellows.
John’s next idea: Retrieve the Speaking Gun from Old Father Time. Unfortunately with the Time Tower destroyed, John has to get to Shadows Fall the hard way, through the Tube. John leads Suzie, Dead Boy and Tommy Oblivion (newly healed and a bit of an idiot) out to the night once more. One by one, they all fall behind but John makes the train, gets to Old Father Time and retrieves the Speaking Gun. Time immediately sends him catapulting back to the Nightside…and right to Lilith.
No, Time is not conspiring with Lilith, she’s just that good. And it turns out that the Speaking Gun was a bad idea. If you recall, it was made of a person, all meat and gristle and bits of skin. Well, that person? You guessed it, Lilith. The gun gets incorporated back into her and she’s just about to get a hold of John and start her Master Plan when in swings the Collector with a weird ass timey-wimey device. He blinks in, grabs John and blinks out before Lilith can move. She is not a happy kitty.
Back in Strangefellows, all seems lost until Walker says something that give John the ultimate idea. You see, Lilith had been banished to Limbo a very long time ago. Only Walker, the Collector and John’s father Charles opening the Babalon Working back in the sixties let her back into the world. Only they were so shaken by it not working out correctly, they didn’t bother closing the working.
John realizes the way to fix this is to shove Lilith back through that propped open door to Limbo. And that the three people who are needed to do it are actually available, thanks to Lilith. John’s father drank himself to death when he was a kid and all dead people in the Nightside get buried in the Necropolis. The Necropolis that Lilith emptied by bringing the dead back to (some semblance) of life. John finds his father holed up in the Library (his sanctuary when he was alive) and Merlin (newly arisen without Alex’s help for once), retrieves him.
John has just moments to explain his plan and the threesome (reluctantly I must say) agree to close the Babalon Working. Of course, while they’re doing this, Lilith finally breaks down Strangefellows defenses and kills Merlin. John distracts her by demanding she explain her master plans (which she does in Bondian fashion). The door to Limbo springs back open and sucks her right to the edge but someone has to close the door from inside Limbo. John gets ready to do it but his father tackles Lilith, gives him the I’m-proud-of-you-son and the working shuts down. Crisis averted.
This book has its moments. Dead Boy, John and Julian Advent tearing apart a sweat shop was great…but kind of out of place in the grand scheme of this book. The Doormouse is lovely and introduces a character that comes back a couple times. Still, I think that perhaps he could have gone with a slightly longer book, just to drag things out a bit. This is supposed to be the dramatic bit. Still, very good book. Rating: B+.