I, Demon by Samuel T. Crown (Historical Fantasy, e-book, 2011)
I, Demon chronicles the life and (rather tumultuous) times of a nameless demon exiled by both heaven and hell It is recounted in the first person by the demon himself after he is summoned (via a computer program) into a 21st century basement by a perky blonde with a mysterious agenda. While the aforementioned mysterious agenda plays a role in the larger plot (no spoilers here), most of this story takes places in the medieval past, revealing how the demon lost his name, was freed from hell, and found himself on a globe-spanning adventure to save the world.
If that sounds like rather a lot for a novel to tackle, it is. But Crown handles the sweeping scope of the story by grounding it in the interactions of witty, likeable characters and in exhaustive research on the Middle Ages. The first of these two components was, for me, the most compelling. Nameless Demon has a narrative voice reminiscent of Harry Dresden – a world-weary, cynical exterior surrounding a heart filled with surprisingly compassionate depths. Taking a demon and making him a likeable character (while not negating his essential demon-ness) is a tricky task, and Crown handles it well. Over the course of his adventures, we see the nameless demon do many things – some of them good, some of them bad, and many of them morally ambiguous. Somehow, nearly all of them work to endear him to us.
As far as the plot goes, there’s plenty of intrigue, sex, swordplay, political maneuvering, betrayal, and grandiose clashes between angels and demons. There are also lovingly detailed accounts of how life really was during medieval times and, briefly, glimpses of a terrifying universe beyond this mortal coil. If I found one thing to complain about, it would be the middle section of the book, which drags a bit as it sets things up for the novel’s climax. However, history buffs will probably find little to lament here, as this portion of the book also contains some of the most well-written and well-researched medieval scenes.
All in all, I, Demon is an entertaining read and a great opportunity to spend time with a character who is many things: cerebral and venal, thoughtful and impulsive, compassionate and wicked. Oh, and also funny as hell.
What more could you ask for?