Review: Demon Dance by Brian Freyermuth

The first thing you notice about this novel is the narrator’s voice. There is a specific attitude for this sub-genre of novel: insouciant, irreverent, sarcastic in a self-deprecating way, like a rebellious teenager just beginning to realize how he sounds to everyone else. Freyermuth has it nailed, and it makes the hero, Nicolas, approachable and human. Add to this a deft turn of phrase and a constant barrage of zany imagery and the writing keeps you entertained all on its own. The setting descriptions are likewise quirky and detailed: just look up Seattle’s Freemont Troll. (Or is he a character?) Of course, denizens of the Pacific Northwest might complain about the constant darkness and rain, but they do that anyway through force of habit. And it is a dark tale, a human struggle set against the battles of the angels, fallen and otherwise.

Another asset is the emotion: strong and believable. The trick with paranormal fantasy is to balance the metaphysical battle with the human, emotional conflict. What many writers don’t get is the fact that the human part has to dominate. We may find the antics of Baal, Azazel, and the Archangel Michael fascinating, but we don’t really care what happens to them. What we care about is whether Nicholas St. James, former private eye-turned-author, manages to return to the world of humanity after his life-shattering bereavement.

If I had anything to complain about in this story, it’s the level of pain we have to endure. St. James exits Chapter 4 suffering the debilitating results of a battle with a demon. He pretty well stays on that theme, with a few variations, until the very end. I will not use the word “boring” in reference to this book, but I will allow that the continuous pain becomes rather predictable after a while. I mean, debilitating pain is supposed to…well…debilitate you, isn’t it?

A well-written story with empathetic characters (even one of the bad guys) and great action sequences. As happy an ending as could be managed in the circumstances. Highly recommended for paranormal fans, and everyone else as well. Five stars out of five.

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