Nick Gautier is just your average fourteen-year-old boy in New Orleans. And by "average," we mean he has super-secret special powers, and the fate of the world rests on his shoulders.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The prologue alludes to Nick's supreme powers, but in the first chapter we learn he's unpopular, poor, and miserable. It's not a very illustrious start for a potential superhero, but this is an origin story, so you've got to start at the bottom.
Nick's life starts to change for the better when goes out hustling with three of his friends. The friends decide to mug a tourist couple for money. Nick honorably steps in to stop his so-called friends…who turn against him, beating him on the pavement and turning their gun on him.
Nick is rescued by a mysterious man named Kyrian Hunter. He's not just mysterious; he's also loaded. When Nick wakes up in the hospital, Kyrian offers to pay his hospital bills and let him work off what he owes. Almost getting beaten death is an atypical job interview, but hey, whatever works in this economy.
In the hospital, Nick is attended to a by a cute girl from his school, Nekoda. Nick doesn't know it, but Nekoda has been sent to monitor him. If he starts to turn evil, she's supposed to kill him. Does she get college credit for that?
After recovering, Nick tries to return to school, but school is canceled. Why is it canceled? Busted water pipes? Bomb threat? Snow?
None of the above. It's zombies.
Allegedly, one student went crazy and tried to eat another one. With an unexpected free day from school, Nick spends his afternoon with his friend Bubba, who owns an ammo store and conveniently teaches zombie defense courses. That's where you want to be if zombies attack.
Guess we should say when zombies attack.
That afternoon, Nick reports to his first day of work with Kyrian. What's the job? We're not sure. Nick might be running errands? Or making appointments? He's basically a glorified personal assistant. But his orientation is interrupted when more zombie-like possessed students attack. You never find just one zombie.
Nick is defended by a young man with demonic powers named Acheron Parthenopaeus. Oh, did we say young? Yeah, he only looks young. When he drives Nick home, Acheron reveals that he's over 11,000 years old. We're not sure what his secret is, but it probably involves drinking lots of water, staying out of the sun, and maybe devouring the occasional soul or two.
Later that night, Nick visits his mom at the strip club where she works. Did we mention that Nick's mom's a stripper? She's a stripper. On the way home, Nick is attacked by his classmate, Stone Blakemoor, in an alleyway. He doesn't give a reason, but a guy named Stone doesn't need a reason.
Nick is defended by another classmate, Caleb Malphas. Caleb and Nick decide to go to Bubba's shop, where he's teaching a zombie defense course.
At Bubba's, the boys see Nick's lab partner, Madaug St. James. Madaug reveals that he created a computer game that can brainwash people and cause them to exhibit zombie behavior. He did it to stop people from bullying him, but now it's gotten out of control. Oops.
Bubba rounds up his friends, who decide to patrol for zombies. Nick accompanies them for a bit before he decides to split off on his own. If he had ever seen a horror movie, he'd know that this is a bad idea. Unsurprisingly, Nick is attacked by a weird shapeshifter. Who will come to his rescue this time? Batman? Spider-Man? Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law?
Birdman is the closest answer. A mysterious raven swoops down and bestows Nick with magical kung-fu powers. Nick kicks the shapeshifter a few times, and it runs away. The majority of New Orleans's population must live in dark alleyways, because now someone else pops out of a dark alley to introduce himself to Nick. This guy says he's Nick's Uncle Ambrose, the only being Nick can trust.
Then he disappears. Nice to meet you, too.
Overwhelmed with weirdness, Nick passes out. When he wakes up, he is being attended to by Simi, Acheron's demon companion. Zombies approach, and Simi distracts them while Nick and Caleb, who suddenly reappears, run for Bubba's shop.
Nick tells Bubba he can't kill the zombies, because they're not really zombies—they're humans exhibiting zombie-like behaviors. Um. Anyway, Bubba battles the zombies-not-zombies with a cattle prod and learns that electric shocks turn their brains back to normal.
With a small segment of the new zombie population under control, the group is relieved. Nick is still worried for his mother's safety, so Bubba and the gang fetch her from the club to protect her. She doesn't want to go with them, because strip shift isn't over yet, so Bubba naturally shoots her with a tranquilizer dart and drags her to Kyrian's house, where she'll be safe.
Maybe it isn't the zombies she needs to worry about.
Madaug gets a call that his mother and little brother have gone missing. The crew goes to Madaug's house to check out the crime scene. It looks like zombies took the fam. The cute girl from Nick's school, Nekoda, shows up to see what the hubbub is. Nick flirts with her, and she kisses him on the cheek. Caleb warns Nick that Nekoda is dangerous. Is he jealous, or does he know about her promise to kill him if he turns evil?
We don't know, because the gang learns that Madaug has gone off to rescue his family solo. Bad idea. Bubba and his crew get into the car to chase him. In the car, Nick is visited by Ambrose, who is apparently only visible to Nick. Ambrose knows a lot about Nick's future and warns him to never turn evil and always protect the ones he loves.
Easier said than done, maybe?
Ambrose gives Nick a magical sword and a book and disappears. Just in time, too, because Bubba's car is hit with something and flips over. Nick tries to escape the wreckage, but he's carried away by flying monsters and stowed in a cage.
The shapeshifter from the alleyway turns out to be something called a mortent, and she has captured Nick to turn him evil. Her plan is to have Nick play Madaug's game, which will lather him into a murderous rage. She has all his friends in another cage, where they will be easy pickings for rabid Nick.
Nick plays the brainwashing game and almost kills Stone, his bully, but snaps himself out of it by reminding himself to be good.
Well, that was easy.
The mortent leader flees and everyone is safe. Nick asks Nekoda out for a beignet date, and she says yes. Who would say no to beignets?
Bubba drops Nick off at Kyrian's house, where they left his mom. She tells Nick that they're now living with Kyrian. Nick catches a glimpse of Kyrian yawning and realizes that Kyrian has fangs. Mo' money, mo' monster problems.
"Here we go again" (Epilogue.38), thinks Nick.