Title: Prosper’s Demon
Author: K.J. Parker
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫
Genre/s and tags: Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Gothic, Supernatural
Content warnings: Torture via demonic possession, murder, death
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.
Prosper’s Demon was both a fantastic and surprising read! When I first heard of this book (an exorcist who doesn’t care about the host just as long as he gets the demon out), I was immediately intrigued. A morally grey character in a Gothic/supernatural setting? I had to know more! And after finishing this novella, man, I can say I am really glad I picked up this book.
My thoughts on Prosper’s Demon
The novella follows a young, unnamed narrator who happens to be an exorcist. He’s out for revenge after waking up and realizing he’s been possessed by a demon (a demon who he happened to know ever since he was a child) to kill an innocent. Since our main character has already spent a lot of time extracting this particular demon out of numerous bodies, he knows him already. So he follows the sign and it leads him to the Prosper of Schanz, a genius philosopher, scientist, artist, and more. Though he thinks he has it all figured out, he discovers something else, a plan grander that he would have thought. But the main character doesn’t exactly have a perfect moral compass, and he is good at getting the job done.
“…in a botched extraction, whatever the host feels, the demon feels it ten times as much. Based on my experience, I’d say that’s roughly accurate. But they don’t die, and we do. As I said: equilibrium.”
The writing style of the author is great and though the story was short, it was definitely an enjoyable read. I loved the dark and vivid storytelling. There are several scenes and passages that left a chilling memory in me, and the use of metaphors just strengthened the enigmatic imagery.
The tone of the narration is sharp and witty, but it’s also remorseless yet not unkind or wholly evil and that really translates to the personality of the main character. He is a man who has done morally questionable methods in the past (and still is), but he’s not evil at all. In fact, this particular topic is one of the main themes of the book. The good versus evil debate, moral versus immoral actions, the whole debacle. The main character thinks about this frequently, especially if he’s recounting his past deeds and encounters with demons, and he also talks to the Master Prosper about this. Thing is, the world isn’t just black and white, not just good and evil, and he points it out various times in the story.
“It’s a bizarre but widespread myth that only heroes have good qualities, and the only qualities heroes have are good; villains are, by definition, all bad. Bullshit.”
I didn’t expect this book to be stimulating, but somehow,it is and it’s quite excellent. It’s stimulating not only because of the good versus evil debate, but there are quite a few more thought-provoking topics in the book. There are conversations about philosophy, art, science, and politics—as one would expect when the main character finds himself in the company of someone like Master Prosper. This story makes you think and it makes you wonder, and I love it.
The pacing of the story can be a little dragging. As I read the first few parts, I started to think, “Okay, this is all riveting, but where is this going?” It turns out, the author has a couple of surprises for the readers in terms of the plot. Everything from start to finish leads on to something quite big and significant in the end. And to be honest, it blew my mind that the author was able to catch me off guard like that, and that the main character was able to leave me in awe.
Anyone who loves stories with paranormal/Gothic, this is a perfect read for you!
How about the others, have you read this book? Tell me in the comments!
(This review was first published on The Nerd Daily.)