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Nick has a lot in common with Luke Skywalker. Both of them have evil fathers. Both of them have weird supernatural powers. And both are in danger of falling to the dark side. In non-Star Wars talk, that means becoming a Malachai. Nick better keep close guard on his right hand.
Whatever a Malachai is—it isn't explicitly defined in this book—it isn't a good thing. Nick's father, Adarian, is the elder Malachai. He's also an evil jerk. Nick doesn't want to be like his father—even without knowing about all the supernatural stuff. Nick simply doesn't want to be an angry, abusive murderer. Smart decision.
What Nick doesn't know is that the dark powers want him to become the Malachai. He is very powerful, even if he doesn't know it, and he could lead dark forces to victory—if they can find a way to control him. We're not sure what Nick's powers are yet, of course—we're just told, "he wasn't quite human" (11.46).
In order to change, Nick has to perform an evil act. And we don't mean cheating on a test or erasing someone's DVR before that person's had a shot to catch up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It seems that if Nick specifically kills someone in anger, he could begin his descent toward the dark side.
But turning Nick over to the dark side is going to be a complicated undertaking. Why? Because he's actually a pretty good guy.
As our mama always told us, "Farts are the ghosts of things we ate." She was a little weird. She also told us, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." So we'll refer to Nick's friend Acheron to describe Nick with four words: "Hard-headed. Stubborn. Irritating and smart-mouthed." (8.18) Using hyphenated words is cheating, but we'll let that slide.
Nick is street smart. We see his smarts in action when, for example, he refuses to get into a car with a man who says he's Kyrian's assistant. Nick tells him, "I don't trust nobody. My mama ain't raised no fools" (6.31). It seems his mama did raise someone who starts talking like Mr. T at random intervals, though. Nick's penchant for double negatives is inconsistent, and can feel like a front to make him seem tougher than he is.
Nick is only fourteen, though. His good qualities are hidden underneath a load of sarcastic machismo as thick as Axe body spray. Nick is unpopular, insecure, and he lives way below the poverty line. To most of the world, he might as well not exist, so he has to act cocky to convince himself that he matters.
It might be easy to dismiss Nick, especially when he is being smart-mouthed and irritating. And that's what Nick actually wants. "It kept people from getting too close. Nick did it so that others wouldn't mock him or so that when they did, it didn't hurt as much" (8.87). But he can't keep up the act 24/7, and as we get to see a more sensitive side of him, we start to understand that many of the things he does are done out of desperation.
For example, for someone who can't make ends meet, desperate times call for desperate measures. That's why Nick agrees to participate in the hustling job with some of his buddies at the beginning of the book. And it's then that we see the good in him: he doesn't want innocent people to get hurt just so that he can make money, no matter how desperate he is. He risks his own life to save theirs, and the karma comes back for him tenfold.
Kyrian gives Nick a job as a high-paid errand boy because he sees how noble Nick is. This solves most of Nick's problems: basically, he gets almost as much money as he'd get if he won the lottery. On the other hand, Kyrian tells Nick he'll be working for it, so that Nick won't consider it charity. That's another term Acheron should have used to describe Nick: proud.
So, despite his flaws, Nick seems like a pretty decent dude. He doesn't just protect innocent tourists, for example; he also wants to protect the safety of his innocent classmates, even though they're total jerks. His attitude is bluntly summed up with the line, "They're living, breathing morons and we have to save them" (9.200).
In fact, Nick's biggest conflict is with himself. He has to try really hard to not let his wrath get the better of him. He triumphs over it at the end, nobly refusing to kill one of his biggest bullies. That may be just the beginning—there are more books in this series, after all—but for now, it seems like the battle between good and evil going on within Nick himself is going toward the good side.
But while we cheer for Nick's victory, we're left wondering why he's so angry. Is it because he's a supernatural being descended from some sort of demon? Is it because he's fourteen? We mean, hey, who didn't want to throw a video game controller or punch a wall at that age? Or is it that he is poor and disenfranchised—and frustrated about it?
Nick tries to seem like a simple Southern boy, but he's a lot more complicated than his act would lead you to believe.