Today we have a special guest on the blog! Our friend Michael, fellow fantasy lover and avid reader, is reviewing Seth Skorkowsky’s debut Dämoren.
This is easily a 5 star book. It has cemented itself in the top 3 spot for my favorite debut novels. Right with Malice by John Gwynne and Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. Don’t ask me to rank them, because I’m not sure I could make that choice. Not to mention this spectacular cover!! US covers tend to not be, in my opinion, very aesthetically pleasing. And man, I love this cover!
Damoren is an awesome blend of urban fantasy, horror and paranormal. It is pretty low fantasy. The characters don’t really wield any magic, besides a “gift” Matt was gifted to heal when he touches demon blood and one of the characters has tattoos that can sense demons and do a few other things. We follow Matt Hollis in a first person point of view. He and his family was attacked by a pack of wendigos fourteen years before our story begins. That was the day that changed everything for him. That was the day his family was slaughtered, he became “possessed” by the demon that attacked him, and that was also the day that he met the demon hunter armed with the Holy revolver, Damoren, that he would later become the owner of. Fast forward fourteen years later and Matt has taken up his mentor’s mantel. After a violent series of murders leaves only fifty Holy weapons in the world, Matt is approached by 2 men, from the holy order known as the Valducans, and recruited into their ranks. Due to his possession fourteen years earlier (it’s not the type of possession we’re thinking of, it’s more like a watermark has been left behind) he is widely untrusted by the other members of the Valducan. Once sabotage and assassinations begin, the Valducan know they have a traitor in their midst. All adds up to Matt possibly being the culprit, so he has to prove himself and gain their trust, all while protecting Damoren and trying to uncover the true traitor among their ranks. The plot is full of so many twists and turns that it is truly tough to feel like anyone is ever really safe. Maybe not even our protagonist.
Skorkowsky’s characters are all so unique and feel so real. They each have their strengths and plenty of weaknesses. This helped me really connect with a lot of them. I hated them when I was meant to hate them, and might have even liked a few of those same characters by the ending. There was just enough character development there to make me excited for the future books, since each book is going to feature a different character and weapon. The weapons are actually characters just as much as any of the people. One thing that I thought was really cool was how we got these little snippets in between some of the chapters that kind of gave us some insight into Damoren and her past owners. It really makes you feel a connection with the weapon, which is something truly unique.
Speaking of weapons, they were part of what made me love this book so much! I’m used to fantasy books that only feature a few different types of weapons. Mainly swords. Which is always understandable due to the setting of the book. So here we get a huge variety of (Holy) weapons, since it’s set in present day. We get your run of the mill medieval sword, a revolver, a katana, khopesh, machete, toki poutangata, saber, mace, and so much more that I can’t even recall right now. This made the story feel even more unique.
The demons and mythology in this book was yet another thing that had a lot of variety. I’m a sucker for a book with demons, so this was the selling point for me. I was pleasantly surprised at just how many demons and monsters we got. We had vampires, werewolves, ghouls, wendigos, oni, hellhounds, incubi, ifrit, lamia, rakshasas, crimson strutters, and even a dragon. I was blown away at just how extensive his list of demons and monsters was. He really held nothing back!
The only thing I would say that could make this book better would have been a glossary in the front. Mainly just because of how extensive the cast of demons and monsters is. And it seemed each monster/demon has their own colors of flames when they’re killed, so a glossary explaining what each type of demon/monster looks like, a brief summary of their lore, color of flame when extinguished would’ve been really cool. Some of that is explained throughout the book, but glossaries are always a cool touch! It in no way made me enjoy the book any less, but I thought it worth addressing. Also, kind of a disclaimer, there is quite a lot of gun porn in this book. He gets very detailed at different points and I know that some people aren’t fans of that stuff, so I thought I’d add that here too. There was a bit of a lull once Matt, our protagonist, gets to the Valducan base and the gun stuff gets pretty descriptive. It wasn’t but maybe one chapter, and the only time that I felt the book fell into a lull. Luckily it’s a very short period so it’s really easy to get through.
This is such a strong debut novel in a series that keeps growing and growing. It encompasses so many elements that I think it will really satisfy a wide range of readers. You have demons, monsters, demon hunters, huge variety of weapons, urban fantasy elements, horror, gore, some great action, moments of humor that help to lighten the story a bit, and a spectacular ending that I don’t think anyone will be able to predict. Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys even just a few of these elements. You won’t be disappointed.
Review by Michael.