THE MEPHISTO COVENANT
(Mephisto Covenant #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
Available September 27th
Received via NetGalley for review
Sasha is determined to know who killed her father, and when an acquaintance from school tells her to come to a meeting of a cult-like group known as the Ravens because the leader can help her figure out what she most wants to know, she decides it's worth a try. What she finds however, is a group of her peers who have no interest in helping her, only in causing her pain.
Saved by a young man about her age dressed all in black, she's quickly informed that she is Anabo, a descendant of the daughter of Eve with the ability to redeem the seven sons of hell, known as Mephisto, with the purity of their love. Jax and his Mephisto brothers have been told all their long lives that their only chance at heaven lies in an Anabo, and in thousands of years of life they've only found one other than Sasha.
Jax knows Sasha is in danger should Eryx, the evil behind the Ravens bent on stealing the souls of easily tempted humans in order to build an army with whom he hopes to overthrow Lucifer and gain control of hell itself, find out about her. Despite knowing he needs to approach her slowly, allowing her to choose to be with him or not, he finds it difficult to leave her be. As the followers of Eryx grow in numbers greater than the Mephisto can keep track of, Sasha realizes she has to make a decision to either be a part of the world for which she was intended or to return to the life of normalcy she wants so badly.
A story of damnation and redemption, The Mephisto Covenant illustrates the susceptibility of humanity as a whole to temptation, and explores the murky depths of free will in terms of how it affects the soul when it allows for some to secure their place in heaven while other use that same freedom to fall prey to darkness. The world Ms. Faegen creates is inherently fascinating, the line her characters walk not so clearly delineated as paths of righteousness or sin, but rather one where there are degrees to the labels "good" and "evil" and we can decide for ourselves whether certain individuals are deserving of our understanding or our condemnation. There is a bit of complexity to the different groupings in this tale though, causing some confusion here and there as to what the purpose of each group is and how their choices relate to God, Lucifer, Eryx or the Mephisto. Eventually, the defining characteristics of each faction become a little clearer and the battle to prevent the coup on Lucifer captures our attention.
Though the plot is enjoyable and raises some questions that would make for an interesting debate, the characterization makes fully connecting to this story a bit difficult at times. We find ourselves trying to get involved–fully seeing, hearing, and experiencing this tale until we run into a solid set of bars in the form of Sasha and Jax. We are given enough details about them to grant us the ability to reach through the openings between steel rods and brush our fingers against the connection we long to grab a sure hold of, but we soon find we can extend no further than arms length, our bodies and hearts remaining firmly on the wrong side of the barrier. Sasha is a supposed paragon of virtue, light, and purity of soul, and while she accepts the changes in her life as real–not boring us with her denial–her continual rejection of Jax becomes a tad bothersome. She spurns him, swearing to herself that she'll stay detached only to wind up in his arms a few pages later, giving Jax a sense of hope for his redemption before she again snatches it away. She is also bluntly honest with Jax's brother Phoenix, calling his martyr-like behavior and brooding as she sees it, yet she refuses to turn that critical eye inward and evaluate her own actions.
Jax has the potential to be a strong leading hero, a desirable combination of both light and dark making him dangerously appealing, however we have to question the sincerity of his affection for Sasha. Given that she and she alone is the key to his chance at heaven after centuries of hopelessness, his desire to have her causes us to wonder, as Sasha herself does, if she's simply a means to an end. Her attitude toward him also makes it challenging to comprehend his interest in her outside of his spiritual need for what she represents, and he tolerates more from her than we wish him to as he endures her struggle between what her body and heart want and what her mind is trying to convince her is best.
Overall, The Mephisto Covenant is a grittier young adult story, some more detailed descriptions of both violence and sex making this one much more suited to older readers, but through it all is the promise of hope and true happiness. More plot-driven than character-driven due to the need on our part to gloss over some of their individual actions in order to try and wiggle our way beneath the surface of this tale, The Mephisto Covenant will work for those who can be more forgiving of character flaws and read simply to be entertained. A critical reader will most likely have trouble navigating this story, but those who seek a more superficial but interesting reading experience will probably find themselves intrigued.