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Monday, September 24, 2018

Dämoren by Seth Skorkowsky (Reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)



Official Author Website
Order Dämoren over HERE
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. When not writing, Seth enjoys cheesy movies, tabletop role-playing games, and traveling the world with his wife.

FORMAT/INFO: Dämoren is 382 pages long divided over twenty one numbered chapters. The narration is in the third person. This is the first volume of the Valducan series.

The book is available in e-book and paperback formats. It was republished by Crossroad Press in 2017. Cover art and design are by Shawn King.

CLASSIFICATION: Dämoren is a character-driven dark urban- fantasy book with immersive world-building and in-depth study of demons lore.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: While I consider myself a pacifist and have no interest in guns, I wouldn’t mind having Dämoren at hand. Just in case. You know how it is with werewolves, vampires, and daemons – impossible to say when they’ll come to get you. 

Unfortunately, the moment I took the Holy Weapon, it would be my last. Matt would kill me. No one, except him, can touch his beloved one.

Dämoren is an impressive debut. Dark and fast, it’s filled with foreboding and terror but also a healthy dose of wit and hope to balance things a bit. It tells the story of Matt Hollis – the wielder of a holy weapon called Dämoren, and his introduction to Valducan society of demon hunters.

Almost each (except apprentices and those who retired) Valducan member is bonded to a Holy Weapon (swords, maces, a sabre and a gun). They love their weapons more than spouses or children. It’s an absolute love. When the weapon is destroyed there’s nothing left for Valducan to live for. Listen to Matt’s thoughts:

"If Dämoren died, smashed to pieces before him, he wouldn’t want to live. For a Valducan, his weapon is a single most important thing in life. Sure, they’re able to socialise but there’s a driving, all-consuming force in their life. It gives them a goal and a direction."

The novel starts strongly with a wendigo attack on Hollis’ family. A hunter goes after them. He’s faced with a difficult decision to make. But it’s not only his to make - Dämoren will express her opinion as well. 

Soon after the prologue, we meet Matt Hollis who’s hunting daemons with his holy gun. Things don’t go as planned, and he meets Valducan representatives who want to recruit him. It seems the monsters around the world make teams and join their efforts to destroy holy weapons and their human guardians. Because of Matt's past and the fact he may be possessed by a daemon, not all team members welcome him with open arms. As the hunters become the hunted, they must learn to trust one another before a powerful demonic entity thrusts the world into a terrible and ageless darkness.

Matt Hollis is a likable guy. I feel tired of Urban Fantasy heroes/martyrs who try to bear the whole weight of the world on their tired shoulders. Many of them like to despair. I don’t. Matt doesn't either. He is a hunter. He loves his weapon, and he’s bonded with her. He kills demons. He stays out of trouble if it’s possible. Because of his lifestyle, he isn’t in any kind of long-term relationship. These are his choices. He knows who he is, what he does and fully embraces it. While he’s not the funniest guy ever, he has a distance that makes the book pleasant to read. 

Other characters felt nicely drawn and fleshed out. I would love to learn about Max's past (he’s a retired Valducan; a guy who’s spent almost fifty years fighting demons must have some fascinating stories to tell). Because the story is set in the modern world, it’s easy to recognise and imagine places. It’s not a very happy world but good things also happen. Yes, it’s filled with darkness and monsters and it may feel a bit reminiscent of Constantine lore. In the same time, though, there are good people in here who make choices I can identify with.

World-building was introduced skillfully through dialogue and later by notes from Valducan archives. I loved these notes. I could easily spend time scrolling through them. Some theories, for example, why werewolves can be hurt with silver and rakshasas with gold were fascinating and felt fresh. 

Basically, the only gripe I have with the book is the fact it didn’t go deeper into characters. Instead, the pacing became breakneck and bloody fights between monsters and Valducans got all the spotlight. The fights weren’t bad, actually, they were pretty nice. I would like more layers of what was happening though. I love good popcorn reads but this book has a potential to be something more, and it didn’t fully use it.

CONCLUSION: Even though it’s not perfect, I’ve already bought the rest of the books in the series and plan to read them shortly. I hope they're at least as good as Seth Skorkowsky’s debut.

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