By K.J. Parker



112pp/$11.99/January 2020

Prosper's Demon
Cover by Sam Weber

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

K.J. Parker offer up the exploits of an amoral exorcist in Prosper's Demon, a darkly comic fantasy. Parker's narrator, the unnamed exorcist, acknowledges early in the book that he is not particularly admirable or likeable and continues to demonstrate that quality throughout the novel, which also provides the reader with an indication that the demons he is exorcising may not actually be what he makes them out to be.

The rules of exorcism are defined early in the novel. The exorcist can remove any demon from any victim, although such removal may cause damage to the victim, depending on how entrenched the demon is. The demons can't actually be destroyed and are immortal, so the exorcist, whose domain is defined, has come to know the demons he encounters and vice versa. As may be expected the exorcist and the demons have an adversarial relationship and some of the demons have taken to possessing him briefly and, during periods of blackouts, murder local women after the exorcist has seduced them. The exorcist, in turn, views anything he does while under their control as the demons' fault and certainly not his own, although he admits that it has harmed his reputation.

While the exorcist deals with numerous demons, he notes that there is one, who he thinks of as masculine, with whom his relationship is particularly full of animosity. When casting this demon out of people, the exorcist has a tendency to be harsher than usual, viewing things on a more personal level. In response to what the demon perceives as a vendetta against it, the demon seems to go out of its way to antagonize the exorcist, who reveals that the demon once possessed his niece and removing demons from children is particularly dangerous for both the demon and the host. Of course, since Parker's exorcist is not the most reliable of narrators, it isn't clear how much of this vendetta is real and how much of it is imagined or used as an excuse by the exorcist.

One of the countries in the exorcist's domain is Essen, the home of Grand Duke Sigiswald and his new wife, Duchess Hildigunn. When the exorcist determines that their unborn child has been possessed in utero, the exorcist travels to Essen to see what can be done. He discovers that not only is his old nemesis the possessing demon, but that Prosper of Schanz, a genius polymath who intends to ensure the child is raised to be the world's first philosopher-king, is also possessed. The exorcist must work with Prosper, who doesn't believe in demons, as well as both Prosper's demon (who the exorcist thinks of as feminine) and his old nemesis to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

Although Parker allows his sense of humor to show through in Prosper's Demon, he also uses the book as an opportunity to explore the concepts of genius, art, and the nature of good and evil. The fact that the exorcist very much believes that the ends justify the means, puts his claims to represent good into question. At the same time, the demons are merely doing what their nature forces them to do, however it does cause pain and suffering, perhaps unintentionally to their victims.

For all that Prosper's Demon is a thin book written in a light-hearted manner, Parker brings up several issues about morality an dintent which the reader will continue to think about long after the book is finished. The world he creates in the book is complex, even if Parker only shows small portions of it to the reader. The fact that Parker is able to work so much into such a slender volume behind an enjoyable story, just goes to demonstrate hsi skill as an author.

Purchase this book

Amazon BooksOrder from Amazon UK




Return to