Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Lucifer’s War, which damned legions of angels to Hell, is an ancient and bitter memory shrouded in the smoke and ash of the Inferno. The Fallen, those banished demons who escaped the full wrath of Heaven, have established a limitless and oppressive kingdom within the fiery confines of Hell. Lucifer has not been seen since the Fall and the mantle of rulership has been passed to the horrific Prince Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies. The Demons Major, Heaven’s former warriors, have become the ruling class. They are the equivalent to landed lords, each owing allegiance to the de facto ruler of Hell. They reign over their fiefdoms, tormenting the damned souls and adding to their wealth.
One Demon Major, however, who has not forgotten his former life in Heaven. The powerful Lord Sargatanas is restless. For millennia Sargatanas has ruled dutifully but unenthusiastically, building his city, Adamantinarx, into the model of an Infernal metropolis. But he has never forgotten what he lost in the Fall–proximity to God. He is sickened by what he has become. Now, with a small event–a confrontation with one of the damned souls–he makes a decision that will reverberate through every being in Hell. Sargatanas decides to attempt the impossible, to rebel, to endeavor to go Home and bring with him anyone who chooses to follow… be they demon or soul. He will stake everything on this chance for redemption.
Thoughts: Are the demons of hell as worthy of a chance at redemption as a human? Are the souls already cast into hell deserving of a second chance to atone for their sins? Is damnation eternal? And what price will you pay, what will you risk, to change your circumstances?
Barlowe deals with all of these issues in a very literal “sympathy for the devil” tale. The demon lord Sargatanas remembers that once, before he Fell, he was an angel and close to God, and struggles with the realization that he will never again know the peace of Heaven. But rather than resign himself to his fate, he eventually takes up arms, intending first to defeat his enemies in Hell and then make his war against Heaven. He wants another chance, an opportunity to show God that even those who mike the biggest of mistakes are not completely beyond hope.
It’s an admirable goal, and not one often done with actual demons. Added to this is the story of Hani, a soul punished in Hell for sins he committed during his Life. Sins, and a Life, which he cannot remember. He, too, wants his chance to show that even damned souls are redeemable.
“For what is the good of the lesson if one cannot apply what one has learned?”
Neither of them have entirely unselfish motivations, which makes the characters very three-dimensional and realistic. After all, nobody is ever really without their layers. Barlowe builds a fascinating cast of characters, pulling them from lesser-known mythologies and giving them the rich detail they deserve. This book holds demons both cruel and hopeful, disgusting and familiar, the best and worst of anything we can imagine the denizens of Hell to be.
For all the richness this book holds, though, it suffers in two areas, and ‘suffers’ is a very hard word to use here, in context. The first is in its pacing, which I thought rather slow. Barlowe takes his time with the story, creating a level of detail that’s hard to surpass, but it does slow the story down a little. I fully expected that a book about demonic wars would move more swiftly. Of course, this could be a benefit, depending on your preferences. I can’t deny that holding back the action a little allowed for the characters to develop more fully, the landscape to shape itself more realistically, and for the reader to truly fall into a sympathetic Hell to be one with the demonic characters and the land they didn’t choose to dwell in.
The second place the book faltered was (and I hate to say this) by the limited imaginations of the readers. Now, I can’t blame the author for the fact that I had a hard time with this, and it did serve to underscore what I’ve always heard about how readers will automatically impose their own ideals upon characters, especially in terms of appearance, but from browsing the associated artwork on Barlowe’s website, it seemed that most of the characters looked very little as I imagined them. There are many reasons for this. First and foremost is because it’s hard to imagine things that look only vaguely humanoid, and are for all intents and purposes something out of a person’s worst nightmares. So while part of the problem may have lain in a few too-vague descriptions of the demons or the Abyssal creatures, I think most of the problem lay in the fact that Barlowe was writing about things that were very hard to picture in general.
Overall, though, this book was wonderful, rich and provocative, and most definitely not the kind of thing to pick up if all you’re looking for is some light reading. It will challenge you, it will make you think, and it will break your expectations. It’s worth reading, mostly definitely, even if the reading can be a little slow. It’s not hard to see why most of the reviews for God’s Demon are positive ones.