CITY OF DEMONS by Kevin Harkness
Tyche Books, 2012, 375 pages, 978-09878248441, E-book, $6.99
Kevin Harkness’ City of Demons was, to say the least, an interesting read. Commonly referred to as a young adult fiction novel, this story is exactly that. Complete with teenage romance, a wizened master, troublemaking companions, and an obscure farm boy who rises to the challenge of saving humanity, this story firmly entrenches itself in the world of coming-of-age fiction.
Harkness’ main character, the youngest son of an abusive father, Garet, tires of his life as a farmhand and sheep herder. When a demon attacks his family, Garet finds he is the only one who isn’t affected by its deadly power: the ability to project paralyzing fear towards its victims. With this discovery comes the realization that he could have a future as a Bane, famed Demon hunters who protect humanity. When a group of Banes visits Garet’s farm, he recognizes his opportunity to leave his old life behind, he and does so.
As Garet travels to the great city of Shirath to further his Bane training, it becomes apparent that something about the demons has changed–they are attacking in areas they that they previously have not, and they appear to be controlled by some sort of intelligent “caller” demon. To further deepen the turmoil, the leadership of Shirath is in the midst of a desperate struggle, as the King finds himself at odds with the leader of the Shirath banehall.
I found City of Demons to be an enjoyable read despite a few downsides. In some areas, the character development was a bit shaky, with characters taking too long to become comfortable with each other, then rapidly jumping into a romantic relationship. Similarly, there were a few sections where characters seemed to pursue subplots that had no larger effect on the story whatsoever, such as when Garet rewrites a Bane training manual over the course of several chapters. Not only do I think it a bit of a stretch that a poorly educated farmhand would be able to write well enough to edit an entire book, but the rewriting of the manual had no application to the rest of the story as a whole. The subplot itself seemed entirely unrelated to the story.
City of Demons also has a somewhat unapparent plotline. At the start of the book, the reader has no idea where the story is leading them. By the middle, the same is still true. Even up to the last hundred pages of the novel, I was unclear as to what, exactly, the final conflict was going to be. Once that conflict did become resolved, I then felt the story did not properly draw to a close, leaving certain elements unaddressed. For example, the question of why there are demons showing up in places outside their traditional range is never answered. It is mentioned but then forgotten around the middle of the novel.
That being said, there were a lot of upsides as well. Harkness does populates his novel with a very interesting cast of characters. From a spiteful, but determined Bane-in-training, to a King who stands against those who have protected his people for centuries, to an injured veteran who, despite crippling wounds, continues to train new Banes–the cast of characters is diverse. I found this to be the most interesting aspect of City of Demons. Harkness proves that he has the ability to write interesting characters that draw the reader further into the story.
Furthermore, City of Demons was a fast-paced adventure in which I commonly found myself wrapped up, unfazed by minor inconsistencies. Harkness proves himself, in this novel, as a great storyteller. The battles with various demons throughout the story were ever-changing and always interesting. Likewise, the vast array of weapons the Banes equip themselves with was both fascinating and brutally efficient. Killing creatures that have armor thicker than the strongest steel forces the Banes to get creative with their weaponry, resulting in an unexpected, yet truly intriguing plot element. Harkness breaks out of the stereotypical swords-and-shields medieval world and into an entirely new realm of weaponry.
All in all, City of Demons was a fast-paced, entertaining young adult novel. Harkness is a talented author, and I look forward to more of his work in the future. Readers interested in young adult novels with heavy fantasy themes, intriguing characters, and an unpredictable plot line, would do well reading Kevin Harkness’ City of Demons.
Thank you to Tyche Books for providing a review copy of this novel.
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