Tuesday, January 27, 2009

“The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick” by Bruce Hennigan

Title:The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick”
Author: Bruce Hennigan
Series: Steel Chronicles, Book 2
Pages: 320 pages
Publisher: Synergy Books

After defeating the thirteenth demon, Jonathan Steel and Josh Knight return to Dallas, Texas, to finish up Josh's family affairs. When they arrive, a mysterious assassin named Raven surfaces from Steel's murky, dangerous past. At the same time, Rudolph Wulf, the twelfth demon, has arrived from Romania with plans to fulfill a two-thousand-year-old promise to unleash an army of demonic creatures--creatures that will inhabit the bodies of his "vampyre" army. When Wulf kidnaps Josh, Steel must find them in time to save Josh from a violent death and to prevent Wulf from unleashing "vampyre majick" on the world.

Classification & Literary Class:
“The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick” is actually the second book in the Steel Chronicles with its predecessor being “The 13th Demon” and is labeled as urban fantasy for Christians. Usually I don’t go and review novels that are not the starter for a series, but in this case I was drawn in by the title. It is fair to say that the novel can be read as a standalone, since most of the highlights of the first have been included.

I tried to enjoy the novel. It has a hero with anger issues and amnesia, the group of weird misfits and then we have demons. I got my rocks off, so to say, a couple of times, but overall “The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick” fails to deliver any real thrills. As much as I hate saying it, publishing books to make a living out of it is a business as much as it is an art form to write anything at all, so one must aim to polish his/hers project to perfection. I didn’t find this strive towards perfection, since prose and small details disturbed my focus.

For me there were passages that could have delivered more of an adrenaline rush, if they were to the point as for instance with the initial start. The hook so to say was irrelevant to the story and I could have been satisfied with a scene forward. The writing itself was okay, but dabbled in with some clichés and unnecessary adjectives such as “deadly sharpness” to characterize an assassin’s dagger. Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t like the modernized businessman villain using words such as “infernal” to curse the heroes. And yet last but not least, in the passages that deal with events happening 600 years B.C, I think ought to be authentic and expressions such as “around the clock” or adjectives such as “smug” didn’t exist. I think this is my nit-pickiest review yet, but as insignificant as these elements are, they sucked the joy out of reading it.

Characters & Depth: Character wise I think Hennigan tried a different road for the urban fantasy genre, which is always refreshing. I do like my super powerful babes, but diversity is always welcome in the form of more testosterone induced cast. Jonathan Steel is a rogue demon hunter and a former assassin with amnesia and a loose temper. A great character to explore for a long series and his actions speak are tied to his brash personality and short fuse. So far so good, but I am not exactly satisfied how his temper and amnesia have been handled. For one thing I think anger in that regard has been the most repeated word and does a very vague job, since a person with loose tempers usually have different degrees of anger and that should be shown. Just adding anger everywhere makes it seem that Steel is a Hulk undercover. And well amnesia is a complex illness to begin with and so far in the novel it’s not cleared to what degree the amnesia is to have these vital memories pop up at the most convenient of times. At any rate, the soul searching and interest in one’s own identity are just tapped and unfinished.

I can ramble on and on about every other character too, but as a unified opinion I would have to say that Hennigan has made interesting choices, but hasn’t found the formula for my entertainment to unlock the full potential of his characters. What bothered me most was how easily anyone could switch. You can be corrupted as easily as you can be condemned and all it takes is one act of goodness or a luring lie of evil. A particular example is Nosmo King [No Smoking and I think it’s cool], who from chef to cop to preacher has turned into a drug dealer to supply his wife with crack and after Steel feeds him a meal and shows him the Bible and speaks of goodness, the guy turns into a templar. The real world doesn’t work that way as much as I would like. The evil or the flawed won’t become Samaritans because they had a onetime freebie of kindness and vice versa you can’t corrupt a person with one promise of something alluring and sinful.

Worldbuilding & Believability:
Now this is the part I have to complement Hennigan about. I have a knack for polar opposites and the idea that Lucifer did a demented version of Christ’s twelve Apostles had me bouncing up and down. As the novel states after the epilogue, the guy has done his research on vampire societies in America, something I am not knowledgeable about, and on vampire lore himself, so his vampires might be something entirely different from most urban fantasy titles, but different cultures have different vampires. I respect the new look on the topic. From start to finish the darker part of the cast has been handled near perfection with the massive plan to create a demon army, claim territories and back stab each other. Then again I usually go with the enemies of the heroes, so go villains.

Now believability is another issue sadly and I do mean it overall. Comics, movies, TV series and novels of course have handled the story ‘defender of the law is submerged in paranormal world’ and we all know how cops, judges, detectives and so on react to the heroes explanations right. Here Hennigan just leaves these officials keep their mouth shut for pages as Steel and his crew talk about taking down demons without any sharp reaction apart from the usual comments “You are nuts” or “I don’t want any more of this demon crap”. This is convenient, yes, but not realistic.

The Verdict:
It was a rocky ride with this one. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. What I do believe is that Hennigan has a good basis for a series. It’s slightly more different than what we see on the market and I support diversity. The truth in my case is that the novel should have gone through more revisions, because it wasn’t the story itself that didn’t work for me, but the representation.

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