“It’s not something you tell people about, obviously. Not your parents, not your friends, not your dear old uncle or your favorite aunt: I can see the devil in people. I can see the devil in you.”
TITLE & AUTHOR: Prosper’s Demon by K.J. Parker
PUBLISHED : January 28th 2020, by Tor.com
MY RATING: 5/5
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.
Hello everyone, meet the book that dragged me out of the Reading Slump of 2020 vol 2! I felt really stuck in the two books I started months ago and didn’t want to dig myself even deeper by starting another book, but then I remembered novellas! They are short and severely underrated and I’ve had my eye on Prosper’s Demon for a while now. I love demons yay!
“How far back can you remember? When you were a toddler? Before you could walk? Before you could speak, just possibly? I can trump that. I can remember before I was born. Being unborn, and not alone.”
Prosper’s Demon isn’t The Exorcist kind of book though, because it’s not primarily horror. I would rather describe it as a witty dark fantasy. It’s not a comical book either, but I had my share of snorts throughout, mainly because of the main protagonist’s burns aimed at other characters. The main protagonist, who remains unnamed, is an exorcist, not so much a trained one, more of a born to do this type of calling. He lives in a world which 70,000 or so demons co-inhabit with people, and these demons are like parasites, they need a host, a human. Once attached to the mind of the bereaved though, they’re not that easy to rid of without harm to the host, but left to their own devices, they drive the host slowly insane.
Our protagonist has expelled many demons in his unholy career, and likewise harmed a certain number of humans, so he’s by no means a positive character. One demon though, took it worse than the others, and he developed a serious grudge towards the exorcist, one that warrants a revenge. The exorcist and the demon pick on one another through the years, if that’s what you’d call forceful and utterly painful removal of the demon by the exorcist, and on the other hand the possession of the exorcist himself, under which he, as a puppet of the demon, does unspeakable things.
“He’s persistent but not imaginative. I’m remorseless and my imagination is prodigious. And so it goes, on and on.”
This continues to happen, growing in severity, until the exorcist feels called to the court where he meets Prosper of Schanz, a brilliant man and a genius, a guide to the newborn prince and heir to the kingdom. Unfortunately, Prosper is possessed. And it’s up to the exorcist to choose his own moral guidance, best suitable to the overall picture, or to his own gain. The exorcist is both a villain and a hero in this story, often acting as a Lord Varys, doing things for the greater good, and for the realm, but what will happen when he puts his own, decades-long grudge, above everything else?
We honestly need more gray characters like the exorcist. They are by far funnier. I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, which is character-driven, which is something else we need more of in horror and dark fantasy. The author didn’t rely on cheap scares and gore to push his point, and that’s what I liked the most. K.J. Parker is actually a pseudonym for Tom Holt, the celebrated British author of comical fantasy. Even though I’ve never read anything by Holt (Which I now really might do), it makes sense this novella was written by someone versed in comedy.
“Partly, he said, he enjoyed my company; it wasn’t often that he had a chance to talk to someone whose mind was so little cluttered with education or accepted opinions— (“You mean I’m stupid.” “Good heavens, no. Just ignorant.”) “
I loved this witty and dark novella, and I’d much rather read something short, with a punch, than something that unnecessarily drags on to fill out the required pages which would make it a technical novel. Some of the best works of literature are in fact, novellas. Go and explore and you might find something interesting. In the meantime, I will review a few more excellent novellas which I’m reading for The Reading Rush readathon, so stay tuned for more reviews and have a great weekend!