The Second Summoning - Tanya Huff This is a reread, but after a dozen years, it reads like new. And this is one of the rare cases when I want half a star: 3.5 stars.

As the second novel in a series, this one has to do with several familiar characters from book #1: Claire, the snarky Keeper, her lover Dean, and the cat Austin.
(See my review of book #1 http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/267297985)
The other players in this novel include:
• Claire’s younger sister Diana, a seventeen-year-old budding Keeper with tremendous potential
• Samuel, an angel, looking like a teenage boy
• Byleth, a demon, looking like a teenage girl
The action takes place at Christmas time, all over Ontario, as Claire races from place to place in an attempt to find and banish both the angel and the demon and restore the balance to the universe.

Contrary to Claire’s claims to the protagonist’s role, the real stars of this show are Samuel and Byleth. The embodiments of good and evil respectively, they have been brought into the world as beings of the opposite genders by accident. According to the Keepers’ lore, angels are supposed to be genderless. But as Samuel acquires genitalia during manifestation, thanks to a zealous father of a teenage girl, so Byleth is forced by the metaphysical rules to manifest with the opposite genitalia.
Thrust into the world they don’t know, both teenagers struggle to understand the society and their place in it. On top of that, they must work out their own emotions and physical urges. The perplexing truth is that aside from the occasional angelic or demonic splashes, both act like typical modern teenagers (or as typical as the childless writer could imagine.)
Reflecting her origins as an actual hell-spawn, Byleth comes through surly and spiteful, ready to perform evil deeds, but the kindness of strangers repeatedly thwarts her attempts to infuse hell into Canada. The above-mentioned kindness transforms her as well, erasing her evil matrix and substituting it with the makeup of an abused, rebellious street girl. Unfortunately, not much of a difference is evident on the surface.
Samuel, on the other hand, acts heavenly, which is a euphemism for a busybody. Predictably, by telling people the un-sugared truth, he offends and insults those he tries to help. His angelic bumbling brings forth a realization: our society is not based on truth but rather on politeness and, to a degree, on tolerance or indifference. It takes time for an angel to grasp those concepts and behave accordingly.
The juxtaposition of Samuel’s saintly code and Canadian reality makes for a few good jokes. The readers also laugh, as Samuel comes to terms with his male parts and their often inexplicable, hormone-induced movements. The antics of the young angel lighten the story considerably, remodeling it from a gloomy wannabe apocalypse to a farce.
But I have a bone to pick with Ms. Huff: I think it’s stereotypical of her to cast a girl as a demon and a boy as an angel, which equals the Bible’s position on the sexes. Nothing I’ve read in this novel would make it impossible to switch the genders. It might’ve actually been even more entertaining if the boy were a ‘demon’ and the girl – an ‘angel’. Furthermore, Byleth doesn’t seem to struggle with her femininity as much as Samuel does with his manliness. She seems to know instinctively how to handle her gender. Another bias on the writer’s part?
Despite this one little objection, I enjoyed the novel. Its pace is fast, its dialog hilarious, and its ambience purely Canadian. Recommended.