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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ibenus by Seth Skorkowsky (reviewed by C.T. Phipps)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Dämoren
Read The Bookie Monster review of Hounacier
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Seth Skorkowsky
Read Building The Perfect Revolver by Seth Skorkowsky (guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Raised in the swamps and pine forests of East Texas, Seth Skorkowsky gravitated to the darker sides of fantasy, preferring horror and pulp heroes over knights in shining armor. His debut novel, Dämoren , was published in 2014 as book #1 in the Valducan series; it was followed by Hounacier in 2015. Seth has also released two sword-and-sorcery rogue collections with his Tales of the Black Raven series. When not writing, Seth enjoys cheesy movies, tabletop role-playing games, and traveling the world with his wife.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: After surviving a demon attack, disgraced police detective Victoria Martin tracks down the Valducans in search for answers. Recognizing her potential, and despite the warnings of the other knights, Allan Havlock, protector of Ibenus, takes her in as his apprentice. As the Valducans travel to Paris to destroy a demon nest infesting the catacombs, the knights find themselves hunted by an internet group intent on exposing them.

Victoria, who belongs to this group, must desperately play both sides to not only protect herself, but Allan, whom she has begun to love. Ibenus, however, has other plans. Ibenus is the third book in the Valducan series, for which Skorkowsky was shortlisted as "Best Debut Author" in the 2014 Reddit Stabby Awards.

FORMAT/INFO: Ibenus is an alternating persona novel with 410 pages. It is the third volume in the Valducan series but capable of being read on its own. It was released on September 13th 2016 in paperback and e-book format by Ragnarok Publications.

ANALYSIS: I'm a self-admitted fan of the Valducan series so I pre-ordered my copy and devoured it within the first day. The series is about a world full of monsters, demons, and other horrors which cannot be killed unless by a series of sentient holy weapons. Each book chronicles a different weapon and wielder's adventures.

This time around, we have the titular khopesh, a wielder, and his student. There's Allan Havlock, a seasoned demon hunter, and disgraced police officer Victoria Martin who have a relationship disrupted by the fact Allan is training her. Victoria dislikes the hold Ibenus has on her mentor while also disliking the secrecy of the Valducan organization.

Ibenus benefits from a more morally ambiguous conflict than the typical humans versus demons. A hacktivist named Tommy D has devoted himself to exposing the existence of monsters to the world with Victoria initially on his side. Actually, despite the author giving an argument against it, I'm 100% on Tommy D's side. Unfortunately, the novel takes for granted the audience will on the Valducan's side and portrays Tommy D in a much harsher light than I think the narrative really deserves.

Despite this, I very much enjoyed this novel as the questioning of the lead's practices is a ballsy move for an author. I also enjoyed the insight into how the Valducan organization recruits and trains their operative. I also liked the depiction of one of the trainees getting in over his head and meeting a fate which reminds us how dangerous their cause is. As the narrative lampshades, the Valducan group sounds very much like a cult when you describe a bunch of secretive demon-hunters working behind the scenes to save the world.

There's a few flaws in the narrative like fact Allan and Victoria's relationship seems ridiculously fast. It’s even commented on as such in the text. This is due to the supernatural effect of the holy weapons having an effect on their mind but, justified in text or not, seems like a narrative cheat. Likewise, I felt the ending was a bit darker than the author intended with the heroine's triumph feeling more like her corruption.

Allan and Victoria are both likable characters with decent chemistry. So, while their relationship progressed too quickly, I actually wanted to see them together. I also liked the guest appearance of Matt Hollis from the original Dämoren novel. I hope he'll get a second novel showcasing him and his magical gun but his bit here was quite entertaining. I really enjoyed Tommy D as well. While dangerous in his actions, he also felt like a man trying desperately to do the right thing and I tend to side with his reasoning over the heroes' own.

CONCLUSION: Like all previous Valducan novels, the action is great and the world-building is excellent. This is a series for those who enjoy. There's excellent character-buildng as well with a really intriguing moral conflict at the base. It may be a messy moral conflict I don't feel is properly resolved but it's one that has me chomping to buy the next book.


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