Sunday, January 13, 2008

GOD'S DEMON by Wayne Barlowe

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.

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I love the premise of God's Demon, by Wayne Barlowe. I'm not someone who usually cares for books about angels and demons and wars in heaven and hell, but give me an intriguing premise and I'm yours. The premise is that a demon decides to repent and try to go back to heaven. I heard it and was hooked.

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.

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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.

9 comments:

Aaron M. Wilson said...

That was really well done. And if I don't have enough to read already, I'm going to have to add this one to my list.

Raven said...

I've been adding books to my list right and left ever since I found Fantasy Debut. :)

Tia Nevitt said...

Glad to be of service!!

Robert said...

Great job Raven! You brought up some interesting points about how the narrative was never from Sargatanas' viewpoint. Still, I thought it was a pretty emotionally moving story. I'll have to check out your blog and look forward to more of your reviews :)

Lawrence said...

God's Demon has also been reviewed by MattD over at FantasyBookSpot, here. He also concluded that the novel ultimately disappoints.. Guess I steer clear of this one.

Raven said...

Thanks, Robert! Hope you like my blog(s), and I'm looking forward to doing more reviews for Fantasy Debut.

Lawrence, I'm having fun reading the other reviews now, although I avoided them before I wrote mine. It's interesting to hear other people's thoughts.

Tia Nevitt said...

I have two other books lined up for Raven to review!!

หมอนพพร said...

I love the premise of God's Demon.
it fun and exciting.

Robert said...

Lawrence: well, "God's Demon" may have its issues, but it's hardly a disappointment. You'd being missing out one heck of a reading experience if you don't at least give it a try ;)