DAY OF DEMONS: A REVIEW BY T. JAMES
A note on impartiality: wearing my reviewer’s hat, I feel it is only fair to state upfront that the editor of Day Of Demons, Colin F. Barnes, is a friend of mine, as is Krista Walsh, author of Serpent’s Kiss. I will leave you, the reader, to decide whether I am guilty of vapid gooey-eyed adulation or whether I maintain an acceptable level of dispassion and therefore credibility in the review below.
THE BOOK: DAY OF DEMONS
This is a collection of nine short stories by male and female authors. The title may give the impression that the stories are very similar—in common they do have a dark tone and, obviously, demons—but the synopsis is accurate and there is a refreshing range of genre, theme and writing style to be found.
THE SYNOPSIS (taken from the Anachron Press Website*)
“Day of Demons is a collection of powerful stories featuring the conflict of demons and humans over the course of a day.
Read how one woman’s inner-self awakens to unexpected and frightening consequences, or how a charismatic half-breed thief is forced to strike a deal with a pen-stealing imp. Read about a mother as she struggles to cope with a deadly, satanic bargain, and a sword-wielding anti-hero as he returns out of exile to face his demonic fate.
Nine stories, nine demons, nine authors. From fantasy, to horror, to contemporary fiction, this anthology will fright, delight and grip you with tales of daring-do, danger and of course — demons.”
Deal, by Karen Davies
The anthology starts with a light fantasy action / adventure feel. A thief takes refuge from his pursuer in some ancient ruins, but he finds he isn’t the only being inside—he meets an imp who is a tormentor of scribes and a collector of quills. This short has some good characterisation and snappy dialogue that held my interest. The twist at the end is well executed.
Inheritance, by Phil Hickes
Stark and atmospheric; a son returns to his families’ mouldering estate after reading his deceased grandfather’s letter. Posthumously, his grandfather fills him in on the history of the estate and the onerous duty that comes with it. There is an effective dialogue between the dead man, via the letter, and the grandson as he reads it—the clash of mystical olde-worlde values and self-assured new world cynicism works well. There are two likely endings, but the execution of the last scenes keeps the one the author chose feeling fresh.
Serpent’s Kiss, by Krista Walsh
This is the hottest of the demon stories, with a believable chemistry between the two ‘romantic’ protagonists. It is well written with an economic fluid style, and the sexual tension is built with enough skill that the writing doesn’t need to be explicit to hold the reader’s interest—an effective and enjoyable update of the succubus myth.
Sam & The Spear, by Gary Bonn
This one stands out from the others as its style is very different. A boy, into role-playing, finds himself thrown into a situation where he must play the hero for real. A strange mix of dreamscape coupled with an almost YA style of writing—it is imaginative, but for me, not as well executed as some of the other stories. The simplicity of the writing and the ending lends charm—still an enjoyable read.
Numen, by V. Đ. Griesdoorn
Imaginative, but I found the writing style difficult in places—the piece is sprinkled with, what were for me, awkwardly phrased sentences:
“Stacey switched on the overhead kerosene lamp with a switch near the door.”
The story is stronger—a child grown to adulthood returning to discover a parental legacy—her deceased father had a gift for making things. How she pieces together the mystery is quite intriguing, although some of the physics and the ending are a little woolly. The midsection works well though—there is pace there, and engaging ideas throughout.
City of Light and Stone, by Laura Diamond
One of the most involving protagonists of the anthology can be found here. An anti-hero tortured and in thrall to his master, he must murder to escape his damnation. For a story of this length it is very well characterised and well written. The premise is imaginative, although I was left feeling a little unclear as to how the underlying theology works—but that may be due to the twisted perceptions of the main character. The theme, that we have more to do with our own damnation than any entity, is nicely handled—almost an adult Grimm morality tale. A good read.
Cost of Glory, by Edward Drake
A well-written classic fantasy anti-hero returns home story. If you could distil any modern fantasy epic by taking out the travelling and stir in a little Conan, you would end up with something like Cost of Glory. The ending wasn’t especially surprising, but the characters, setting, pace and action are all well handled.
A Mother’s Love, by James M. Mazzaro
One of the strongest stories of the nine, it packs an impressive number of twists into its short length. It is great to read about a female hero who is intelligent and believable. Willing to pay any price for a child, she decides to play a demon at his own game. Convincing and well put together.
The Devil and Mrs Milton, by Sarah Anne Langton
Possibly the most haunting and memorable, and not just because it is the last. Sarah Anne Langton demonstrates real artistry as a writer—she isn’t afraid to go off the beaten track in terms of story or style. We spend most of the time reminiscing with an old woman, but it is written with enough skill and flair the experience is engaging, not boring. As the story closes, with an unavoidable and unwelcome visitor, there is a genuine sense of tension and concern for the fate of the main character.
This is a disparate collection of short stories, but because of the strong central theme they sit comfortably alongside each other. With anything self-published the question of production quality is often raised—generally I found DoD to be on par with some traditionally published books. There are some typos, but not enough to detract from the reading experience. The quality of the stories varies from fair to excellent, but none are a waste of your time or money. If you love the smell of sulphur in the morning and want something brimming with creativity to put a little fire in your belly, this is probably it.
The eBook is currently available on Amazon Kindle.
The print edition is now available from Lulu.
The editor assures me, on pain of his own death, that the epub version should be available for download from mid-end July, 2012. Please see the Anachron Press website for updates.
T. James (I am now referring to myself in the third person which seems incredibly pretentious, but this is apparently how biographical bits are done) is currently a writer of little renown. While he waits on the sidelines hoping the cool kids will invite him to the party, he is currently exploring a range of writing styles and genres. His works in progress are a YA parody and a satirical writer's guide.
His (more serious) published work can be found here: http://writerandauthor.com,
and his other misadventures are blogged here: http://thewordonthe.net.
* All quotes and illustrations are the copyright © of Anachron Press, and are used with permission.