The eighth book I am reviewing is Demorn: Blade of Destiny, the first book of the Asanti series by David Finn. This cross-dimensional dark modern fantasy adventure has the distinction of being both ridiculously fun and outrageously confusing. I read it all the way through, and to be perfectly honest I cannot recount the story’s plot trajectory at all. The only other story I’ve read that I can say that about it William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, which is outrageously confusing for other reasons.
Here’s what I can say with certainty about the story. The protagonist is a young woman named Demorn, a master swordfighter endowed with biting wit and a sarcastic fatalism born from the fact that she has traveled through both the past and the future of the universe and has consequently seen how it all ends. She’s also a lesbian, but that’s not so crucial the plot. Although, I would say it served to avoid some of the clichés we’ve too often seen about female protagonists. Throughout the story we see different facets of Demorn’s identity as she appears as a bounty hunter, a devotee to an ancient religious order, an exiled princess, a time traveler, a loyal sister, and a queen. Demorn finds these identities as hard to keep track of as the reader does, because she seems to have some condition along the lines of amnesia. She doesn’t know exactly where and when she’s been (time travel, remember?) or what exactly she’s done in the places and times she’s been. As far as I could understand, this disorientation is never fully resolved.
Demorn’s confusion about herself is conveyed in the storytelling in that the scenes did not seem to be in a specific order. Perhaps if I reread the book I’ll find patterns, but on a first reading the order of the scenes seemed nearly random. Using such confusion to convey disorientation and amnesia is a rare but useful trope I’ve only seen once before, in the Christopher Nolan thriller Memento. If you have the patience to push through a narrative without always understanding what’s going on, the effect is actually quite engaging.
One aspect of the writing that really stood out in this was the texture of the story. That’s the most accurate adjective I can use. Throughout the book are ice and bullets and lasers and electric shocks and soil and water and a thousand other sensations, and the writing is of such a quality that the reader feels every single one of them. More than anything else the texture kept me interested in the story when the plot was too much to handle. This texture, however, is a double-edged sword (or in the case of this book, a two-edged burning-with-purple-flames katana). The level of detail was so engaging, but at the same time the level of worldbuilding was near impossible to keep track of. A glossary to the book would have helped, as Demorn’s path is impacted by a bewildering variety of spells, magical objects, aliens, monsters, historical events, deities, and characters who alternatively serve as either allies or enemies.
To keep this review from running too long, I’m content to stop here with saying that I enjoyed this book quite a lot, but I wish I understood it better. Fans of fantasy, science fiction (soft sci-fi, probably not hard sci-fi), sword-and-sorcery, and fast-paced action stories will take pleasure from this book.
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