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Lord Demon by Roger Zelazny and Jane Lindskold
Review by JarihnPoor Roger Zelazny... his novels seem to be doomed to stall on the final stretch, and it's not his fault at all. Yet, though Amber, Dilvish the Damned (which I now think my copy of is merely incomplete), and now Lord Demon are weakest at the end, don't let that fool you - they're still brilliant works of modern fantasy.
In the case of Lord Demon, the book was actually completed after his death by Jane Lindskold, and while her work has been meshed adequately with his and is obviously at least decent (and no, I don't know for certain how much of the book to attribute to each of them) Zelazny's descriptive style is just impossible to duplicate. The result is that the book loses some sense of cohesiveness in the final third. The story takes some odd and unexpected turns that don't really seem to fit and can be quite distracting, and the characters, particularly Kai Wren himself, are stlightly altered in their portrayal. Though the story provides a very sufficient explanation for the change that occurs in Kai Wren, it seems that what should have been growing in him over the course of the book is suddenly activated in full, and it's somewhat jarring.
The story itself is well developed - complete, convincing, and very solid. I found no holes at all, in fact, there wasn't a single moment where I felt like something was missing in the way things were progressing, and (with the exception of the aforementioned distracting, silly, and small section) the pace of the story is utterly smooth. Without giving anything away, there are some very satisfying surprises in store, and the continuity of the entire thing is never disturbed. Everything fits, and almost everything is important.
The narrative is in first person, the perspective of Kai Wren who is a demon who lives in a bottle of his own creation along with many servants and creations. The gods and demons of the book are technically merely extradimensional beings of great power... not unlike Amberites, except in every other way possible. Their presence, however, was known to the people of ancient China, whose myths they inspired (which is where they got their labels) and whose culture they both helped develop and mostly adopted. For thousands of years the gods have held both races' home plane, "Origin", while the demons have remade the empty realm they were exiled to a decent enough place to live thanks to several gateways that lead to Earth. The Chinese imprint on the entire book is a little unusual, but thoroughly explained by the setup and overall nicely done. It makes for a much different flavor to the storytelling than "normal" Zelazny.
There are several brilliant moments, and some honest laughs hidden in the serious events of the story. The whole is well scripted, and while I think Zelazny has done significantly better by way of the First Chronicles of Amber, Lord Demon should not be passed up. If you've never read anything by Zelazny you'll probably find it thoroughly entertaining and well written. If you have, the slight drop in overall artistry will be made up for in a particular instant *eg*.
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