Damoren, by Seth Skorkowsky

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Publication date – April 12, 2014

Summary: (Taken from GoodReadsA secret society of monster hunters.
A holy revolver forged to eradicate demons.
A possessed man with a tragic past.
A rising evil bent on destroying them all.

MATT HOLLIS is the current wielder of the holy weapon, Dämoren. With it, he stalks and destroys demons.

A secret society called the VALDUCANS has taken an interest in Matt’s activities. They see him as a reckless rogue—little more than a ‘cowboy’ corrupted by a monster—and a potential threat to their ancient order.

As knights and their sentient weapons begin dying, Matt teams up with other hunters of his kind such as LUIZA, a woman with a conquistador blade; ALLAN, an Englishman with an Egyptian khopesh; MALCOLM, a voodoo priest with a sanctified machete; and TAKAIRA, a naginata-swinging Samurai.

As the hunters become the hunted, they must learn to trust one another before a powerful demonic entity thrusts the world into a terrible and ageless darkness.

Thoughts: Seth Skorkowsky’s Damoren is what happens when you take elements from Supernatural, twist the mythology a little, and then add more guns and history. From the get-go I could see the similarities, and I can say with pretty good certainty that if you’re a fan of the show then you’re probably going to enjoy Damoren a fair bit.

The book follows Matt, owner and caretaker of Damoren, which was once a holy sword that was broken and remade in the form of a gun. He lost his family to demons when he was a child, and was subsequently raised by Clay, whose voice in my head sounded so much like Bobby Singer that the only thing missing was the occasional “idjit” comment. After Clay’s unfortunate death, Matt finds himself wrapped up with the Valducan Knights, protectors of ancient holy weapons, sworn to battle and eliminate demons wherever they may be found. Interspersed with the main plot are little interludes, reports of historical demon attacks, theories on demonic possession or nature, excerpts from journals of past Valducan knights, adding depth and backstory to the novel without the awkward experience of having characters sit down and play Mr. Exposition with the newbie.

While the concept behind the Valducan Knights is an interesting one, I found that scenes within the organization suffered for the large cast of characters. Less than half of them got any real development; most were names on a page, sometimes with a few lines, and thus were largely unmemorable. Matt, of course, stood out above the others due to being the main character. Luiza as the love interest, and Anya for her later exploits as the plot advanced. Malcolm, Allen, Susumu, and Kazuo got enough development for me to be able to tell you a couple of things about them. Others, though, showed up and did things but felt like they were placeholders, some random person filling in a spot because a spot needed to be filled. People died, and I don’t actually remember who at times. Forget getting connected enough to feel anything about their deaths.

Honestly, I think that was really the biggest thing that negatively impacted the writing, though. Many of the scenes which featured only a few characters, or Matt by himself, were very smoothly written. The interludes were also full of interesting theories with some nice detail put into them when they were looking at how demons work. Skorkowsky is no lightweight when it comes to attention to detail, and when such detail was lacking in the narration itself, it was more due to the fact that Matt himself wasn’t prone to noticing things. Admittedly, though, that did lead to some uneven reading, rich detail in some areas and then skimming over things in others. It made it realistic from a third-person-limited perspective, but also frustrating when it felt like a scene was begging for something else to make it come alive but that detail and description just wasn’t forthcoming.

There was a lot of promise to this series, and it’s getting good reviews all over the place, but I’m afraid to say that it’s a series I probably won’t continue with. I want to stress that it’s not a reflection of the quality, or the demonstrated creativity of the author. It’s more because the novel just wasn’t to my taste. There are plenty of people I can guarantee that this book would appeal to, and there’s a reason that many have expressed their liking of Damoren since its release. But between my own personal taste and the way I couldn’t really connect with any of the characters, I just don’t think the series is for me. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess. Still, even if your tastes match mine impeccably, I would still say that Damoren itself is worth reading once, to see Skorkowsky’s creative mind at work and to see an interesting twist on the underlying concepts of holy and evil, modernity and tradition, where lines get blurred all over the place and you never know quite what’s going on.

(Received for review from the publisher.)

Guest post by Seth Skorkowsky

Seth Skorkowsky, author of the new book Dämoren (which is very high on my To Read list, I might add), has kindly agreed to drop by and do a guest post regarding said novel, and the origins of the idea.


Dämoren: It Started With a Gun and an Idea

damorenMy novel Dämoren didn’t originate from a story concept or even a brilliant “Ah-hah!” moment. The book was born with the merging of two separate ideas.

The first half of Dämoren came about when I was imagining a new twist to classic folklore monsters. Every culture has their own beasties, and two of the most popular in the Western World are, of course, vampires and werewolves. Modern Folklore (primarily TV and movies) has redefined these creatures as disease carriers. If a werewolf bites you, it infects you with a werewolf germ and now you’re a monster. Killing a werewolf is simply loading your trusty gun with a silver bullet and taking it down (usually after delivering a clever pun).

The idea that I had was, “What if the monster wasn’t a virus, but a demon?” People that become vampires or wendigos aren’t “infected,” they’re “possessed”. Demons, of course, are immune to mortal weapons, so shooting a werewolf with a silver bullet or staking a vampire wouldn’t kill it. It would only kill the host body. The demonic spirit could then hop over to the next victim it had marked through a bite, and go about causing havoc. The only way to kill the demonic spirit would be with a holy weapon.

The second concept that I had was the idea of a magical revolver. This might come as a huge surprise to some, but I play a lot of Roleplaying Games. Magic swords and axes are common in RPGs, and using them against creatures that require a magical weapon to damage them is easy to understand. You physically hit the monster with the magic blade (usually after delivering a clever pun). Ranged weapons are a different matter. The magical weapon never touches the target, but its projectile (arrow, bullet, tomahawk missile, etc.) does. How would firing a normal bullet with a magical gun work? Obviously the gun would need to somehow imbue its enchantment into the bullet.

I decided that a holy pistol would have a blessing inscribed along the inside of barrel. As the bullet flies down the barrel, it gains this blessing. The word “Amen,” is inscribed onto the bullet, and seals the blessing into the slug. I wanted the gun to be old, and made back when most firearms were still hand-crafted by gunsmiths. Since the bullets needed to have a word written on it, I decided that the entire loading process should be ceremonial. Silver bullets cast from a special mold, and set into blessed, graven shells.

A friend of mine suggested the idea that Dämoren should be single-action, where the shooter has to cock the hammer before each shot, and that the shells should be loaded one at a time through a little slot called a Loading Gate. This would make loading and shooting much slower when compared to other firearms.

Finally, I came up with the idea that Dämoren was once a holy sword that was broken in battle. The owner took the shattered pieces to a master gunsmith and had them turned into a revolver (which at the time was cutting-edge technology). Surprisingly, Dämoren’s easily recognizable under-barrel blade wasn’t part of this. The gun received her sinister blade several years after I had come up with all this, just a week or so before I began writing the novel.

The two ideas of “Monsters Are Demons”, and “Super- Sweet Holy Revolver” came about around the same time, but one was a story idea and the other a gaming idea. Eventually, some part of my brain said, “Hey, check it out. Those totally work together.” And that was the beginning. I had a rough concept of a modern world where demons can mark victims’ souls and possess them at will, transforming them into old-world monsters, and an archaic holy revolver that could kill them.

-Seth

sethskorkowskyWhen not writing, Seth loves going on walks to clear his head and daydream. He enjoys traveling. His favorite city is Florence. Table-top role-playing is still an enormous part of his life. He love shooting, going to Renaissance faires, and watching movies with friends. Damoren can be purchased from Amazon.com or Ragnarok Publications. He can also be found on Twitter.