PUBLISHED: January 28, 2020 by Tor.com
GENRE: Fantasy, Horror, Novella
In the pitch dark, witty fantasy novella Prosper’s Demon, K. J. Parker deftly creates a world with vivid, unbending rules, seething with demons, broken faith, and worse men.
In a botched demonic extraction, they say the demon feels it ten times worse than the man. But they don’t die, and we do. Equilibrium.
The unnamed and morally questionable narrator is an exorcist with great follow-through and few doubts. His methods aren’t delicate but they’re undeniably effective: he’ll get the demon out—he just doesn’t particularly care what happens to the person.
Prosper of Schanz is a man of science, determined to raise the world’s first philosopher-king, reared according to the purest principles. Too bad he’s demonically possessed.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s more that I hate Them than that I love my fellow humans. But nobody pays me to think that, so I don’t do it often.
Prosper’s Demon was my first descent into the mind of K.J. Parker, and what a curious and entertaining introduction it has been. Upon turning the final page, I immediately questioned why I’ve waited so long to finally dive into the works of such an incredible author, and truly regretted not doing so sooner. This story is told with such beautiful and sophisticated prose just dripping with wit and sarcasm, making this an engaging narrative posing many philosophical questions that continue to linger. It’s a strange one, one that I haven’t read the likes of before, and one that I enjoyed immensely.
We’re delivered to a historical Renaissance-reminiscent setting during an age of enlightenment that feels remarkably realistic and familiar. The most beloved figures are those that contribute to the intellectual and technological advancement of society. Allow me introduce Prosper of Schanz, renowned and highly sought after genius of the arts and sciences. Oh, and he’s possessed by a demon. Yes, this world is populated by a finite number of demons; ones that can hurt, but cannot die. Instead they attach themselves to unfortunate and unsuspecting souls to survive and thrive. The final stand against this scourge is a sanctioned order of demon hunters.
Enter our anonymous and unreliable narrator, who’s determined to consistently break the fourth wall to tell us his tale as a charming rhetorical conversationalist. Let’s rewind – what I meant to say was a callous and sardonic man capable of seeing, interacting with, and exorcising the demons that plague the world. While proficient in his craft, his hatred for Them has caused him to lose touch with his humanity, and his ultimate goal is to win…no matter the cost. I absolutely loved this character, even though he himself told me otherwise. And I suggest you take everything he says with a grain of salt.
As for the story itself, I don’t want to give too much away, as this is a short novella that clocks in at about 100 pages. The narrator injects the main plot with tiny insights into his past that aid in evolving our understanding of not only the world built around us, but his motivations, as well. The depth Parker is able to achieve with such a small amount of real estate is just astonishing. I will, however, tell you that the ending completely blindsided me, and it was just absolute perfection.
There’s really nothing more to say other than you need to read this book. I made my way through this in just a couple hours, and I was left wholly satisfied. If you’re one that enjoys duplicitous tales with characters that fall into that lovely morally gray area, infused with some dark humor and the fantastical, then look no further, Prosper’s Demon is the one for you. I highly recommend.
Note: A huge thank you to the author and Tor.com for providing me with a complementary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
K. J. Parker is a pseudonym for Tom Holt. He was born in London in 1961. At Oxford he studied bar billiards, ancient Greek agriculture and the care and feeding of small, temperamental Japanese motorcycle engines. These interests led him, perhaps inevitably, to qualify as a solicitor and emigrate to Somerset, where he specialised in death and taxes for seven years before going straight in 1995. He lives in Chard, Somerset, with his wife and daughter.