It's been long enough since I read this that if the "To read" mountain at home allows I think I might have another look, because it was well worth the effort.
The blurb sums the story up nicely: Isiah is the souped-up protagonist and earthly agent for The Balance, a mysterious universal force not concerned with good or evil but in keeping the world in some sort of order.
On The Balance's say-so, Isiah must perform some occasionally random-seeming actions - sometimes good, sometimes horrible and sometimes very minor - to prevent the butterfly effect spinning out of control and causing much greater consequences down the track. On this basis he is charged with protecting Samuel Harrigan - a man for whom the phrase "stain on the undies of humanity" was quite possibly coined - from the devil for long enough for Samuel to be able to inadvertently stop another series of events.
With this sort of basis as you can well imagine the plot is fast-paced and creepy as Isiah fights his way (quite literally) to Hell and back to complete his mission.
I really liked the idea of The Balance and the religious theories in general. Since gods and spirits exist through the strength of belief they garner, a great variety of deities and pagan spirits litter the pages. I had a good bit of fun looking up some on Wikipedia and learning new things.
For those delicate readers out there this book is a bit heavy on the swears and violence and will probably disjoint the nose of anyone with a particularly strong religious view, but for anyone with a thing for dark fantasy or horror this is a great combination.
It didn't take me long to hunt out the sequel Magesign once I'd finished.
MageSign is the sequel to RealmShift and while it could be read stand alone for the enjoyment factor, you will miss a whole mess of back story and the surprises and resolutions of parts of the first novel will be lost on you, so trot on over and read it first.
Done? Good. This book picks up a few years after the conclusion of RealmShift when walking tank Isiah finally finds some time to check out the mysterious sorcerer mentioned in the first book. What follows is another dark action-packed divine-plagued battle of order vs chaos.
Magic is expanded upon, as is the cast of divine characters as Isiah attempts to track down both the sorcerer and disturbing signs of a rapidly rising evil god. Allies and enemies are souped-up as you would expect in a sequel and there is one dirty great link to the first book that I am still annoyed I didn't pick earlier. This book felt quite separate to the first before that bombshell was dropped.
There seemed to be a bit of an inconsistency in the continuity of Samuel Harrigan's association with the sorcerer from the first book, but perhaps he was just lying and playing it down for Isiah's benefit (if you'd read the first book untruths probably aren't a great stretch for him). I was also a little disappointed when the baddies got the better of Isiah (which had to happen at some point, so that's no spoiler) because it seemed like too ordinary a way to accomplish this, however they do say that surprise is the greatest weapon in any battle, and Isiah's first conversation when he wakes up is a classic.
Out of the two books, I think I most enjoyed the explanations of the whole belief system and the nature of gods (really just another niche feeder), as well as the underlying theme of maintaining Balance (rather than just doing good) meant that ANY character was potentially in the firing line.
Bottom line: if you liked the first one and the violence and general nastiness didn't faze you, check this one out as well. I'd love to see some more sequels starring Isiah kicking the innards out of some more stuff (There is a short story at http://www.infinitas.com.au/Stories/StandOff.php but that's all I know of) although I can't see the baddies and crises escalating much more. It'd just be nice to see him again in his element.