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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dämoren by Seth Skorkowsky (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Building The Perfect Revolver by Seth Skorkowsky (Guest Post) 

was born in east Texas in 1978 and always dreamed of being a writer. His short story "The Mist of Lichthafen" was nominated for a British Fantasy Award (long list) in 2009. Dämoren is Seth's debut novel. He recently signed a two-book deal with Rogue Blades Entertainment for his "Black Raven" sword-and-sorcery collection. When not writing, Seth enjoys travel, shooting, and tabletop gaming. He currently lives in Denton, Texas, with his wife.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A secret society of monster hunters. A holy revolver forged to eradicate demons. A possessed man with a tragic past. A rising evil bent on destroying them all.

Matt Hollis is the current wielder of the holy weapon, Dämoren. With it, he stalks and destroys demons. A secret society called the VALDUCANS has taken an interest in Matt’s activities. They see him as a reckless rogue—little more than a ‘cowboy’ corrupted by a monster—and a potential threat to their ancient order.

As knights and their sentient weapons begin dying, Matt teams up with other hunters of his kind such as Luiza, a woman with a conquistador blade; Allan, an Englishman with an Egyptian khopesh; Malcolm, a voodoo priest with a sanctified machete; and Takaira, a naginata-swinging Samurai.

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.

CLASSIFICATION: The Valducan series is an action-packed urban fantasy series with a rather strong streak of horror running through it. Think Jim Butcher meets James Rollins with a dash of Lovecraft

FORMAT/INFO: Dämoren is 320 pages long divided over twenty-one numbered chapters. Narration is in the third person solely via Matt Hollis. This is book one of the Valducan series.

April 14th, 2014 marked the e-book publication of Dämoren via Ragnarok Publications. Cover design is by J.M. Martin.

ANALYSIS: With urban fantasies nowadays, there’s only so much being done. Faced with the usual bandwagon of vampires, werewolves, faeries, elves and other tropes, it can get a tad disappointing for an urban fantasy fan like me. Of course we have authors like Ilona Andrews, Liz Williams, Myke Cole, Tim Marquitz, and Rachel Aaron who dare to stretch the limits and pave new ground.

Seth Skorkowsky’s Dämoren was a book, which after reading the blurb, I was hoping that would also be different. The blurb details a world wherein there’s a series of holy weapons that have been wielded by men and women to defeat all sorts of unnatural and nasty creatures. Matt Hollis is our protagonist who is also the current wielder of Dämoren and he’s been doing his job (of sorts) since he learnt what the world truly is. In his teenage years when he went by Spencer Mallory, he came to know what a wendigo is and what savagery a group of them can inflict. Saved by a stranger who wielded Dämoren, Matt/Spencer is drawn to the gun with a mind of its own. Fastforward fourteen years to the attack, we encounter Matt investigating a strange phenomenon in Canada.

That’s where he meets the Valducans, a strange group of people who wield similar weapons and who request him for his help. There’s much more to the weapons than Matt knows but the only way he can get information is if he decides to join this motley bunch. The spanner in the works is that Matt has a secret of his own and it might endanger everyone.

You have to admit Seth Skorkowsky has gotten a nice hook with this story. There’s a magical weapon, a freaking revolver with a blade. It’s sentient as are other weapons and a mystery organization is holding them to battle with all sorts of nasty creatures. The author does really go out of his way to make this tale an international one by having the story move around from locale to locale and doesn’t conform to any one specific mythology either. Utilizing a whole gamut of creatures from European, Native American and Hindu mythos, he keeps the story and the readers on an even keel. There’s also a strong undercurrent of horror that the author utilizes effectively within the action sequences and with certain plot points.

The story also moves at a very fast pace and has some terrific action sequences interspersed. Additionally the author also has some neat twists reserved for the end, which go on to explain some exciting hints about the mythology of the holy weapons. The author also gives some important information about the world between chapters as book excerpts and other such, which really helps the reader without going into unnecessary exposition. The story is nicely streamlined as the Valducans are constantly hammered on all fronts and Matt has to figure it out before the suspicions against him turn violent. The story also ends on a big climax that should satisfy most of the readers and points excitingly towards a sequel.

Now to the points that didn’t make this it a five star read, in regards to the characterization of the protagonist. We are given enough of a clue about him and his past however the circumstances with which he grew up would have been exciting to explore. A boy who has been savaged by wendigos is saved by something beyond his control and yet looked on with hostility by his savior. That’s a terrific origin story right there! Of course with regards to the story he wanted to tell, I can imagine why the author directly jumped to the present. Also in regards to the other characters, we don’t get much background on them but they aren’t cardboard cutouts either.

Another thing I would have enjoyed is that if the author had explored as to how all the world religions and mythologies tie in together, there are a few things mentioned here and there. But nothing concrete is offered, this is what usually ruffles the read for me. I would have liked to see how the world religions have been affected or atleast some hypothesis in regards to it. But with this being book one in a series, it can be understood if the author didn't want to reveal all his cards. Lastly one more interesting thing the author manages is that he very effectively sidesteps the question of which brand of belief is the correct one. I thought that was a very smooth move.

CONCLUSION: Dämoren is an exciting debut, as it offers the best of both urban fantasy and thrillers have to offer. Seth Skorkowsky writes a story that is an excellent combination of horror, action and mythology, furthermore his writing flows smoothly and makes for a damned good read as well. Check out Dämoren if you like Jim Butcher's works mixed in with a strong dash of James Rollins' thrillers.


Unknown said...

This sounds like an exciting book. I'm not much for urban fantasy myself, too much 'real world' for my taste, but I may have to give this book a try.

Simon said...

I just read this book. I think you are understating just how good the writing is in it. Interestingly, the story reminds me a lot of the excellent "Pax Arcana" urban fantasy series authored by Elliott James, except this book is much more grimdark, which I like. His gun-blade weapon also coincidentally reminds me of a similarly constructed weapon in Brent Weeks' "Lightbringer" series. Anyway, I really liked this book and look forward to more of the series.


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