Review: Prosper’s Demon by K.J. Parker

Rating: 8.5/10

Synopsis

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.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of Prosper’s Demon in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this eARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novella.

Prosper’s Demon is a darkly humorous take on demonic extractions, written with exquisite prose and featuring a protagonist that I absolutely loved and loathed. Only Parker (aka Tom Holt) has the chops to write something so profound and complete in such a short work.

I have an idea you aren’t going to like me very much.
That may prove to be the only thing we’ll have in common, so let’s make the most of it.
I do terrible things.

When you have a morally ambiguous narrator, one who remains nameless throughout the story, that is an expert in their craft but could give less of a rip about his clientele, you are sort of left wondering by the end of the tale whether or not they were good to begin with. Sure, they do good work, what with exorcising demons and whatnot, but when it potentially costs the life of the client, aren’t they really just a murderer with a knack?

I actually fell in love with the narrator. So much so that I want more in this world from Parker. There is something about a protagonist that you love to hate, like Jorg in Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy. I also felt that the setting was just so perfect for this story. We’ve seen modern-day possession stories in urban settings, and I for one am good with taking a pass on another for the time being. Lastly, the narrator’s dialogue with the demons themselves is something to behold. They are spoken to more like nuisances than the horrifying spirits we take them for, and the narrator tends to toy with and threaten them more than anything.

It is sort of difficult to talk about this novella without revealing spoilers. With it being so short, even the slightest hint can lead you down a path that I’d rather you find for yourself.

This wasn’t my first shot at Parker’s works, considering I read An Orc on the Wild Side in 2019, but it gives me even more incentive to tear into his backlog as I have heard so many great things about his fantasy worlds. I highly recommend this novella as it is one of my favorites to come out of Tor.com publishing.

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