I have to say, I’ve never really cared much for demons in fiction (or angels, for that matter, Wings of Desire notwithstanding). It seems like the only trait all demons share is that they’re pure evil and want only to feed on human misery. You could pretty much apply this to Orcs, Klingons, and countless other evil fictional creatures and it’d hold true for all of them. Demons are an easy source of conflict in a story, but who says stories have to be easy?
This brings me to an intriguing story by Sheldon Tichkowsky called Demonic Redemption. It’s the story of a demon who, well, undergoes redemption for all the misery he’s inflicted and the horrors he’d suffered along the way.
On the surface, I have to say that I wasn’t entirely impressed. The dialogue is fairly trite, the setting is your generic medieval fantasy landscape, and the demons all have savage minions called Gormocks who are just Orcs by another name. The plot itself moves pretty fast–handled mostly by expository monologues and the occasional flashback–but it doesn’t give the reader much of a chance to appreciate the setting or some of the other characters. It just goes from Demon Sets Out On Quest to Demon Finds Romance to Demon Learns Backstory to Demon Atones For His Past Sins.
But once I got a little further in, I started to notice a few nuances that the author had woven into the story. While it isn’t hard to guess what a story called Demonic Redemption is about, I was surprised at some of the development that the human characters got. The most surprising example was the lead human, Andahar, often styled as “Andahar the Great.” At first glance, he seems like just another stock heroic character, but as the plot progresses, we discover that his motives aren’t entirely benevolent and he turns out to be more of a monster than the demon protagonist. The final confrontation with Andahar proves to be quite stirring and emotional for everyone involved, making it an enjoyable twist to what seemed like a pretty standard tale.
On the whole, I’d have to rate this story as satisfactory. There’s a spirit of adventure with a little self-awareness thrown in, even though at times the delivery can be a little forced and cliche. But this is still one of the better reads I’ve had from Dorrance Publishing.
Bibliography: Tichkowsky, Sheldon Lewis. Demonic Redemption. Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing, 2011.