Today's post is by Raven, a prolific commenter here at Fantasy Debut. When I read on her blog that she was reading this novel, I asked her to write a review when she finished, and she graciously agreed. Here it is.
I wish I could say I loved the book. It was competently written, although I did come across a few passages I found difficult to visualize (odd considering the writer is a professional illustrator and did his own cover art; check out his websites at www.waynebarlowe.com and www.godsdemon.com for some amazingly dark and haunting illustrations). The book included some memorable images, my favorite being the description of souls being transformed into bricks. Since I've never read Paradise Lost or Dante's Inferno, I have no idea whether Barlowe borrowed this or came up with it on his own, but in either case I really liked it. It gave a sense of the dehumanization the souls had undergone, and it was a concrete symbol of the enmity the souls felt for the demons (and why they felt it).
The characterization was good, although many of the more impressive characters weren't viewpoint characters. Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies, grossed me out completely, and so did the depiction of his throne room ankle-deep in blood and floating meat. Barlowe did a great job with that. I felt Lilith didn't come to life as well as she could have, but I really liked Hani (I won't say the long form of his name because it could be a spoiler), and I liked the fact that in hell he got the chance to confront one of his old "gods" from his human life.
Now we get to the quibbles I had with the book. The biggest was that although it's all about one demon's struggle to go back to heaven, we never get to see the action through his eyes. The point of view hops around among various characters, but the repentant Demon Major, Sargatanas, is never a viewpoint character. I felt this cut down on the book's emotional power. After all, if we're not in his head, we can't feel his struggle as directly. We're always going to be slightly removed, and that's how it feels.
I also would have liked to see Sargatanas be more of an evil character when the book opened. The bigger the redemption, the more powerful it is. I felt he was a fascinating character anyway, but he could have been even more so. Finally, the struggle to return to heaven seemed too external. I had expected more exploration of the internal aspect, the reasons why Sargatanas joined Lucifer's rebellion against God to begin with and why he changed his mind, and I think the book would have been the better for it. Battles are all very well and good, but the real story is the emotional story.
Overall, it's not a bad book, but I felt it missed its chance to be a great book.
Raven has a personal blog at ravesblog.wordpress.com a blog on Korean culture in LA blog at kbloginla.wordpress.com. Look for more of her reviews here at Fantasy Debut in the near future!
For another viewpoint, see Robert's review at Fantasy Book Critic.