Thursday, August 20, 2015

Demon Squad: Collateral Damage review

    Collateral Damage is the eighth novel of the long-running Demon Squad series by Tim Marquitz. The series follows the adventures of Frank Trigg, the Devil's Nephew (later revealed to be his son). It's a series which reads like a combination of the Dresden Files and Hellblazer, two great tastes which go great together. It's also a series which swings dramatically between ultra-serious and zany irreverance, often in the same page. I've enjoyed all of the previous books and come to love the cast: which makes this book all the more of a gut-punch.

    Collateral Damage is where Frank's dream of peaceful domesticity is destroyed forever. Over the past seven books, Frank has managed to rise to rulership of Hell, visited other planets, escaped other dimensions, killed the previous Antichrist, and saved the planet Earth on no less than two occasions. Frank also managed to, finally, reunite with his true love Kara and the two of them have since created a baby girl. It is, perhaps, the first time in Frank's centuries of life that he is truly happy. It's no spoiler to say that Kara is killed during the first chapter by the Trinity, an event which devastates Frank beyond measure.

    The Trinity are a group of demon-hunters empowered by God who are so-powerful and so-zealous that they're able to slay even a being possessing the full power of the Devil. Kara's death is the most grievous loss Frank has ever experienced, especially since he was driven to near-catatonia by the mere fact Kara left him a few books ago. This time, though, Frank has the existence of someone to blame to direct his rage and grief. If only for a brief distraction for it.

    Collateral Damage is a revenge story, following Frank as he attempts to get enough mystical force together to kill the people who slew his lover without losing anyone's else. Frank also hopes to discover a necromancer powerful enough to resurrect Kara but, unfortunately, that may not be an option despite the series' precedent of characters coming back from the dead. If there is one constant in the Demon Squad universe it is things get worse before they don't get better.

    The Trinity are a formidable set of villains and one of the few in the setting who feel like they could really kill Frank as well as his family. They're not terribly in-depth characters, being a set of murderous religious fanatics in a setting where God isn't the kind of guy who deserves to be followed, but they're terrifying and that's enough. The discovery of who was behind their decision to go after Frank and his family was also a pleasant twist even if the ending left me feeling uncomfortable rather than vindicated.

    The novel also has a big role for series regular Veronica, Frank's ex-wife. For years, she's danced between the sides of Frank and his enemies, attempting to do whatever was best for her rather than anyone else. Frank has always been forgiving of her actions, even if they threatened his life, because a part of him still loved her despite all the betrayals. Also, well, he grew up in Hell. It comes with the territory. Here, though, we see just what lengths Veronica is willing to sink to and, finally, forever, what side she's on. It includes a truly powerful moment, one of the best in the series.

    There's a lot of good characterization in this novel, including some unexpected twists. For example, we discover two well-established male characters are in a relationship. We find out the souls of the dead aren't going to either Heaven or Hell anymore. We also find out that Frank's enemies in the government may be much-much more dangerous than they appear.

    In conclusion, this isn't a story I wanted to read. I never wanted to see the death of Kara or the resulting agony inflicted upon our (anti)hero but it's a very well-handled revenge piece. There's great characterization, dramatic moments, and excellent twists in the plot. Time will tell if this the beginning of something great or the final blow which destroys our hero's psyche. Personally, knowing Tim Marquitz, I'm inclined to think it's the former.


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