I have an interest in reading the work of some of those relatively unknown authors on Amazon kindle - you know, the ones whose books are very cheap or free. I'm interested because I will probably be listed as one of them eventually (when I get around to finishing one of my novels). So, recently I scanned the wide range of such ebooks and I came across Demon Lord by TC Southwell.
Demon Lord is the first book of a fantasy series that follows the quest of son of the underworld Bane to overthrow the overworld; and the healer, Mirra's attempts to do, well, ‘good’.
Essentially, Bane, the human Dark Lord of the evil God Arkonen, embarks on a campaign to destroy the wards that keep the dark god trapped in the underworld. An elder Seeress foresaw the trouble and set in motion a plan to bring into the world a girl with powerful healing and goodness. Bane kidnaps the girl, Mirra, who is then dragged along, often literally, with Bane and his army as they journey through the overworld. Mirra tries to help Bane with his many excruciating headaches – a result of the evil rituals he must perform in order to maintain his magical power. However Bane is cruel and abusive and beats Mirra relentlessly.
As a story it is interesting. It has all the typical elements of the fantasy genre particularly a world that Southwell has clearly put a lot of thought into. There is a dramatic and tense divide between evil and good, and it includes a range of supernatural entities including gods, seers, vampires, demon steeds, grims and weirds. Some of the descriptions and imagery reads very well and puts a clear picture in a reader’s mind.
While the story is a bit of a page-turner, there is much in this book that needs improving. To me it read like more of a draft than a novel ready for publication. On a very basic level there were many spelling errors and typos. But, more importantly the characters needed much reworking. Mirra was most unbelievable as a character. She is the protagonist but she is painted as so innocent and naïve that she seems, quite simply, stupid. Bane is angry, aggressive and hostile, and we are not really convinced as to why he is so consistently in this state and why he needs to incessantly beat and torture Mirra. The whole physical abuse was quite unsettling. Like a victim of domestic violence Mirra suffered great abuse from Bane but kept going back for more – there was something very strange about it. The other aspect that needed more attention, before publication, was the ending, it is one of the most unsatisfying endings I have come across. I read the novel, with all its flaws, looking forward to see what would happen, but was sorely disappointed.
So should you bother? Well one of the things Southwell did quite well was to develop a subtle promise of romance between Bane and Mirra (yup, believe it or not). This was interesting and kept me turning the pages. I haven’t as yet read the other books in this series so maybe it will get better and answer many things that remain unanswered in this first book. I guess if you have nothing better to read, you enjoy fantasy fiction and you don’t want to pay for a book (this one is free) then go ahead and read it. I can guarantee you will enjoy some elements, but you will, most likely, detest others.