A fascinating read, but a lot of violence and a very physical approach to spiritual warfare.
Backwoods American town Ashton comes alive as spiritual forces, evil and holy, clash amid the human realm. Marshall Hogan, the town's skeptical reporter and Henry Busche, pastor of one of the town's two churches, are both determined to get to the bottom of what is happening, despite their vastly different worldviews.
Pretty good. All characters have their faults, though Busche's are significantly fewer than unbelievers' like Marshall's. For the most part good and evil are kept separate, though some characters, like Marshall's daughter, are undecided as to what they believe.
From page 1 to page 136 this book is doused in spiritual content. Demons and angels are present as they fight for domination of Ashton, and Henry Busche calls several demons out of people by the authority of Christ. God is revered by several characters, though Marshall scoffs at His existence through part of the book, and Lucifer is honored by all the demons (though some may disagree with his methods in seducing Mankind).
There's probably as much violence in this book as there is spiritual content, if not more. The spiritual warfare gets physical here as demons and angels clash claws and swords, but it's not just spiritual beings who get knocked around. Demons also attack and sometimes possess humans; Bernice is assaulted (by humans) and Busche's wife nearly so, before an angel swoops to the latter's rescue. Demons drip blood from their talons and scales (not all of it being their own).
Treachery and deception are powerful undercurrents throughout the narrative and the suspense mounts until it can be positively frightening. One character is deceived by a demon masquerading as an angel and, when the demon reveals itself, is chained and beaten.
(Note: There is more violence than this, but this covers the major points fairly well.)
Drug and Alcohol Content
On the first page, where we glimpse the Ashton Summer Festival going on, Peretti writes that it was a place to get "drunk, pregnant, beat up, ripped off, and sick, all in one night." There are several other references to drunkenness.
A girl accuses her father of raping her when she was little - a blatantly false charge. A young woman attempts to seduce Busche while he is counseling her; Marshall's marriage begins to fall apart because of the time he spends with his comrade, Bernice Kreuger.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
Marshall has a bit of a foul mouth, though not very bad; he says things like "What the h**k," "Nuts," and maybe "D*mn" a couple times. Some of the demons spit curses at each other, but normally they are not actually written down.
This is definitely a fascinating, gripping read. The characters are very interesting, especially ones like the many-faceted Marshall Hogan/ There was some pretty good insight into spiritual warfare. However, people should always take care when writing about spiritual forces, especially about angels, as the Bible reveals little about those holy beings. In C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters he is careful to avoid much talk about the characters and beings of angels, and even Blamire's fantasy trilogy should be read with care (and he exhorts his readers to do so).
Because of Peretti's in depth look at angels and his hands-on approach to spiritual warfare, I would not recommend this book for Christians who are still young in their belief. Because of the intrigue, subtle deception, scary scenes, and violence, I would not recommend it to young readers. Caution should be exercised, especially by parents.