Review: Prospers Demon by K.J Parker

‘They have them, for sure. It’s a bizarre but widespread myth that only heroes have good qualities, and the only qualities heroes have are good; villains are, by definition, all bad. Bullshit.’

I usually try to keep novellas and shorter works I read to my Sunday Shorts posts that I post as often as I can. Especially since I only started that section of my blog before Christmas. However, sometimes a book needs a review all on its own. This is one of those books.

An unnamed narrator greets us with this one warning, we probably won’t like him very much. A darkly witty voice of an exorcist who has been marked by demons or Them since a child, walks the reader through his methods and how he works with questionable methods. Then he meets Prosper Schanz, a true renaissance man who is determined to lead the newly born prince into the new world of science of sense. Prosper is possessed by a demon. Then he meets the narrator.

This was way too short, I had to take a star from the book for it. It was such a good read and I wanted more of this world. There is no distinct world building here, only that there are clerics, royal families and children left to raise themselves on the lawless streets. The narrator provides us with choice flashbacks to describe his experience with demons, or Them as they are known here, and how this led him to where he is.

Something I thought was great was what we get to learn about Them. Is anyone else slightly frustrated with demonic possession stories and the lack of research in the stories about the demons in that world? Not only do we get to know how many of Them are (narrator is unsure how that was counted) but how they are hurt, how they can possess people and its just handled so well. I think if K.J Parker ever wanted to expand on this world, there is limitless opportunity to do it with what he has built here.

Unnamed and questionable narrators are always tricky too since the writer can easily fall into some very cliche territory. Thrillers in recent years have especially exploited it but Parker handles it very well. We don’t need to know this narrators name, we aren’t supposed to like them. He is willing to do whatever he needs to get rid of Them, but most importantly Him. There is a cat and mouse game stretching across the years between the protagonist and Him. Both of these characters met when when the narrator was VERY young and have been trying to catch and outwit each other ever since.

The way that this is all woven in with the main story of Prosper Schanz and his encounter with the protagonist makes for a creepy, dark tale with a fantastic payoff. I just wish this could have been longer since there was such good tension within the story. This is still a great read, very quick with a great take on the demonic possession tale.

Have you read this? Do you intend to? Please tell me in the comments. Happy reading folks!

★★★★/5

Blog Tour: Hearthstone Cottage by Frazer Lee

Good evening all and welcome to my stop on the fabulous Random Things Tours blog tour for Hearthstone Cottage by Frazer Lee.

‘Mike wanted to talk about the waking nightmare at the loch, of the child’s laughter had heard at night and the stag he felt in the room with him when they’d all gone to bed.’

Mike Carter and his girlfriend Helen,along with their friends Alex and Kay,
travel to a remote loch side cottage for a post-graduation holiday. . But their celebrations are short-lived when they hit and kill a stag on the road. Alex s sister Meggie awaits them in the cottage, adding to the tension when her dog, Oscar, goes missing. Mike becomes haunted by a disturbing presence in the cottage, and is hunted by threatening figures in the highland fog. Reeling from a shock revelation, Mike begins to lose his grip on his sanity. When
Mike becomes haunted by a disturbing presence in the cottage, the bonds
of friendship are tested as he must uncover the terrifying truth dwelling
within the walls of Hearthstone Cottage.

I have such a strange feeling after finishing this book. What I thought I was getting in to was nothing like what I actually read and that is something I don’t get to experience much in modern horror writing. Frazer Lee has written a trippy tale of isolation set in the Scottish countryside that really takes the reader off guard.

The setting is a refreshing change to ‘cabin in the woods’. Something I especially liked was how Lee took what is supposed to be the cozy safety of a cottage and turned it on its head. What we see instead is a nightmarish landscape we see through the eyes of Mike as he loses his grip on reality. Something that did impress me was the discussion of rural flight and how it affects smaller areas of Scotland.

We have a limited cast of characters that I do wish I could have gotten to know a bit better in places. Helen and Kay especially were 2 that I wish we had either a perspective or more time with them on the page interacting with Mike. Mike as a main character can be equally frustrating and refreshing in equal measure. I found him to be irritating at times but the ending of the story completes his arc quite well.

Mike also has a sense of realism to him in that I was as unsure of my future after college as he is. There are moments throughout the story where I was ready to shout at the page and tell Mike to basically cop himself on a bit. Then I thought back to how I acted in college and I’m reminded of some of the stupid things I said and did and suddenly, Mike is not as bad as I thought.

Storywise I got a perfect mix of Evil Dead, The Ritual and general Samhain feels from this book. There are some genuinely unsettling moments that do catch you off guard. Some of my favourite moments were when Mike was truly starting to lose his grip and there are things happening that are very hard to figure out and understand as he begins to disassociate from reality and his friends.

Hearthstone Cottage is a book I enjoyed for its discussion of post college life and the isolation that can come from graduating. Mike struggles with his possession of what is happening around him as the haunting grows gradually worse and maintaining the carefree world of his undergrad. A must read for fans of the Evil Dead and The Ritual.

★★★★/5

About the author:

Frazer Lee is a novelist, screen writer and filmmaker. His screenplay credits include the acclaimed horror/thriller feature Panic Button,and multi-award winning short films On
Edge, Red Lines, Simone and The Stay. Frazer’s screenwriting and story consultant engagements have included commissions for Movie Mogul, The Asylum, Mediente, eMotion,and Vanquish Alliance Entertainment.
His film and television directing credits include the multi award-winning shorts On Edge and Red Lines,and the promo campaign for the Discovery Channel series True Horror With Anthony Head. His new short film The Stay had its World Premiere at World Horror Con Atlanta USA 2015. Frazer was named one of the Top 12 UK directors in MySpace.com’s Movie Mash-up contest by a panel including representatives from 20th Century Fox, Vertigo Films and Film Four.
Frazer’s novel The Lamplighters was a Bram Stoker Award® Finalist for ‘Superior Achievement in a First Novel’. Frazer is Head of Creative Writing at Brunel University London and is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. His guest speaking engagements have included The London Screenwriters Festival and The Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass. Frazer Lee lives with his family in Buckinghamshire, England just across the cemetery from the actual Hammer House of Horror.

Thank you once again to Anne and Flame Tree Press for this fantastic opportunity and for sending me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!