I was thrilled to get back into the strange and dark world of Courtney Crumrin. While there was hesitation with the first volume - uncertainty as to the art and the unknown story - there was definitely no hesitation this time.
Having thoroughly enjoyed my first venture into the world of our sour little protagonist, I held out some pretty high hopes for this second volume, and Ted Naifeh did not let me down. With nearly 130 pages of story and art, including a new introduction and epilogue, there was plenty to love about this book. In The Coven of Mystics, Courtney is introduced to the council, a coven of mystics who have been desperately trying to recruit her uncle into their group for many years. She also discovers that her teacher at school is a mystic, one who is fully aware of Courtney's own dabblings into the arcane world.
Broken into four chapters, in part one, Courtney comes face to face with the darkest of dark demons, Tommy Rawhead, who has been summoned by unknown forces and is killing innocent children in the area. Courtney's uncle is called upon to take out the demon, and he does so - but not before Courtney meets the vile creature. Courtney's uncle warns the council - someone called the demon forth for a purpose, and it would behoove them to find out who and why.
In chapter two, Courtney discovers that her cat is not the only talking cat in the area - and she is fortunate enough to be invited to a meeting of the clan. Unexpectedly taking the form of the cat (since humans are not allowed to see the clan meetings), Courtney is witness to a "hunt," in which a new leader of the clan will emerge. But during the course of the hunt, Courtney bears witness to a very different hunt - a human chasing one of the night creatures. Sensing something is wrong, Courtney stops the human from killing the night thing and saves its life. Which, turns out to be very fortuitous, as when Courtney returns home, she discovers that very creature is now a guest in her uncle's house!
Chapter three finds Courtney looking for a way to help the night thing after discovering the council, along with the whole town, blames the creature for placing a curse of the ever-so-popular Madame Hermia. Courtney, with the help of some newfound friends, breaks into Radley Hall and steels the head of Tommy Rawhead, intent on using it and its knowledge to help the night thing. Unbeknownst to her, her actions did not go unseen...
In the final chapter, the night thing faces his final fate, when the council hears the arguments of all involved and calls upon Uncle Aloysius to turn over the creature to them. Courtney knows the creature is innocent - she knows that one of the council is behind the actions - but no one will believe her. She helps the night thing escape, and just as it is about to return home, to the world down below, it is struck down by one of the council. Courtney, though, gets her final revenge - for she gives Tommy Rawhead back his full form on one condition - he take out the villain who killed the night thing and take him back to the under-realm with him!
The final scenes of this book provide some insight into Courtney's growth as a character. While each chapter is an individual story, there are continuing threads of various plots throughout - one of which is a young classmate of Courtney's who is being bullied by the same kids who previously bullied her. At first, Courtney ignores them, leaving the girl to her fate. In the final pages, Courtney comes across them bullying the girl again - and she warns them, "I don't ever want to hear about you bothering people anymore. If I do ... you'll find out exactly what Courtney Crumrin can do."
Such a perfect way to end the tale. Courtney, through her experiences, is becoming stronger, less likely to take gruff from others, and more determined than ever to take down those she deems to be "villains." She's not a hero by any means, but she's definitely growing into someone who is not afraid to help those in need.
Can't wait to see what's in store for her in volume three!
9 arcane artifacts out of 10 for the reminder that evil does not always reside in dark demons, but can easily be found in human form.