Reading fantasy novels is usually problematic for me.  I have the same comprehension problems with fantasy as I do with science fiction; there are too many unpronounceable names, too many unpronounceable otherworlds, and too many unpronounceable type of species for me to keep track of.  Taking notes on a novel to remember who’s who and what’s what is way too distracting for me, so I just trudge along and hope for the best.  When The Janus Demon came in for review I was a little leery, but I’ve enjoyed the authors shorter work so I wanted to give this one a go.

The demon of the title is a two headed creature that is looking for a woman named, Jasmine who does not realize she is storing a mathematical equation in her mind that opens up our planet up to an otherworldly demon invasion.   Jasmine only knows that one of the demon’s heads was her benefactor before she left him,  and that it will stop at nothing to get her back.  With the demon hot on her trail, Jasmine seeks refuge in the arms of an old love, Mick Grimaldi.

Grimaldi is a detective specializing in cases that deal with the occult.  Grimaldi is your stereotypical noir-like detective but there one big difference between Grimaldi and the Sam Spade’s of the world, Grimaldi is a shape shifter.  The man can turn into any animal on our planet, or any other planet for that matter.  He possesses all the characteristics of that animal except that Grimaldi can still think like a human.  Well, mostly. It seems that Grimaldi can get into character a bit too much when he’s under stress, and then he needs some coaxing to turn back to a human.

Grimaldi falls back in love with Jasmine and he, his best friend Zack, who’s a werewolf, and Grimaldi’s mentor Master Zhong, all attempt to protect her from the Janus Demon but fail miserably.  The three of them find themselves hopping dimensions, time traveling, and battling vampires and other assorted creatures when she goes missing.  And, no matter where their travels take them, death and blood are part of the welcoming committee.

The Janus Demon is one of the more enjoyable fantasy/horror hybrids that I’ve read this year.  The author keeps her otherworlds simple and easy to picture, enough so that readers can grasp them without flow charts or needing a glossary.

Dent’s characters are unique and interesting enough to capture our imagination without straining it.  Take Grimaldi, for instance.  Despite his flaws, he is as likeable a detective as you can get, and you can’t help but cheer on the love-struck shape shifter as he pursues Jasmine through pictures, mirrors, and holes in the wall.  In addition, the supporting characters in The Janus Demon are as interesting as Grimaldi, and in Master Zhong’s case, maybe more so.

The plotting in The Janus Demon is as wild as you might expect from a fantasy/horror hybrid and it is handled very well.  That’s to say that there are plenty of effective thrills and scares in the pages of this book.  One element of the novel that I was very pleased with was how well the horror plotting was executed.  While The Janus Demon is not a gore-fest there is blood to be found, and some of the torture and attack scenes rival those in many modern horror tomes.  And, aside from the visceral aspects of the horror, the psychological terror of losing the one you love most comes across quite strongly and is especially vivid in The Janus Demon.

If you enjoy fantasy novels with a hard edge, you’re going to love, The Janus Demon.




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