I'm a big fan of the independent book scene, both for personal as well as professional reasons. I like it when a book series manages to catch on with the public eye despite not being a product of the larger system. This is why I loved Wearing the Cape, Time of Death, the Guardian Interviews, and Confessions of a D-List Supervillain.
I confess to having not explored the indie urban fantasy scene as well as I should have, however. Intrigued by the fact the Demon Squad series has over eight books and is by a fantasy author I've already enjoyed the works of, I decided to give it a try. What do I think? The first book, Armageddon Bound, was Tim Marquitz's first published novel and has a few rough edges. It's also the start of something special.
The premise of the series, as near as I can tell, is a combination of Good Omens and the Dresden Files. God and the Devil have decided their eternal conflict is doing no one any good and decide to leave Creation to its own devices. This action REALLY irritates the angels in Heaven and demons in Hell. Both sides quickly divide into factions related to whether or not they want to carry out with the whole Armageddon thing or not.
Enter Frank "Triggaltheron" Trigg, the Devil's nephew. Like Adam, Daimon Hellstrom, Sam Winchester, Dawn Summers, and a few others, Frank is an Anti-Christ who doesn't want to destroy creation. Frank is still a loyal servant of Hell, or was until recently, but finds Creation just too much fun to eradicate in the fires of the apocalypse. Armed with a set of magic pistols and a healing factor, he joins the pro-human monster hunter group DRAC in trying to keep things from degenerating into pandemonium.
Frank is a likable enough protagonist, similar enough to Harry Dresden in the fact he's a fifteen-year-old trapped in a thirty-year-old man's body who constantly makes perverted comments but usually ends up unable to put any of his ideas into motion. In terms of evil, he's a rude, loud, punkish sort of fellow who is nevertheless on "our" side in the war between Heaven and Hell. Really, if everyone immature was damned to Hell, we should start seriously writing letters.
Watching Frank play off against the various stunningly attractive women who won't give him the time of day and godlike beings who could crush him like an ant makes for fun reading. I'm especially fond of Scarlet, an angel who is oblivious to the fact Frank wants her badly as well as the fact he's not a paragon of justice equal to her. Ditto, Veronica the succubus, who is aware of exactly what sort of person Frank and is able to twirl him around her finger.
The book is a little over-the-top for an opening in the series, starting us off with Armageddon on the brink of occurring, but getting that out of the way might have been the best bet. Certainly, it makes for exciting reason. Frank doesn't have the power to challenge any of the major players but, like John Constantine, he might be able to talk them into doing something stupid.
The fact Frank isn't quite the smooth-talker and con man John is also makes the book more exciting. We don't know that Frank is always going to come out on top in his negotiations and, several times, the Demon Lords of Hell put him in his place. The ending was genuinely surprising and I think those who give the book a try will be pleased at how it all flows naturally from the previous events while blind-siding the reader. I can't say that about many books I read.
A lot of care and attention went into the setting's metaphysics as we get a description of what happens to angels and demons now that Lucifer and God aren't present (they get absorbed into their killer Highlander style). We also get to visit two layers of Hell and meet an Archangel as well as a trio of Archdemons. Religious readers may be put off by the madness of a Biblical angel but, as always, this is a work of fiction. If you could stomach said angel's corruption in The Prophecy and Constantine, you won't have a problem here. I do, however, hope to see the Archangel Michael in the future.
The book isn't without flaws. I don't quite get the feeling Frank lives in the real world as there aren't that many "normal" people in the book with the exception of a single cab driver. It feels almost like it takes place in the Devil May Cry video games where demons, angels, and worse are constantly fighting it out in public. Likewise, being an independently published first book, there's some minor grammatical issues which stood out but nothing which reads poorly. In short, I really liked this book and will be reading more.
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