“Daaang, that was trippy” were the first words to pop into my mind as I finished the last page of Damewood: Demons of the Past, the debut novel from Erin Durante. The novel is a hybrid of sorts, much like the driving them and some of the characters composing this science fiction tale of the far off future where technology and biotech advancements have gone haywire. I love stories that weave the two together and Damewood: Demons of the Past seamlessly leads the reader from future to a feigned feudal past and right back around to a dark possible future.
The familiar tale of a ragtag group on the quest to bring a magical trinket to a fabled city is turned upside down on its head as it clashes with a too-close-to-home meditation on the abuse of science and technology. I was eager to see how the suspenseful prologue tied in with the rest of the novel and although one of my suspicions were confirmed in connection with one of the characters, I was still left with my jaw dropped and my eyes wide once the true story was revealed. Ms. Durante has a way of writing great action scenes that are matched only by her vivid visual descriptions. It didn't take me long to get swept away by the royal setting which was soon replaced by vicious attacks leaving the viewer wondering what was behind all of it. There were some nice surprises and crazy beasties sprinkled throughout the chapters (the Arachnid chapter was by far one of the most freakiest and memorable to me) and many moments of great suspense that ultimately lead to the jaw dropping revelations in the final chapters.
The inhabitants of the world within and around Damewood each brought something to the story. There are many to name and I don’t want to say too much to give away the true intentions of each character but I have to say I seriously loved the character of Vestro, the shape changing kelpie with ties to the hidden history of the society long ago buried. Major props to Ms. Durante for presenting one of the most realistic shift descriptions I've read. When Vestro shifts back and forth from human to horse, the descriptions are very visceral as you can hear and feel every muscle pop, skin stretch and body changes. I literally cringed at the pain poor Vestro must have felt.
The only character I had a hard time connecting with until the bitter end with was the main character of Nadia, the eldest Princess of Damewood. Although I imagine she was to be written in her mid-twenties, Nadia often acting like a spoiled teenager refusing to stop and think before acting and often squaring off with those who won't listen to her while she screamed and threw tantrums when she didn't get her way. Earilier in the story, I felt there were moments when Nadia came across situations that showed her maturity to help others when her traveling party refused (especially during the harrowing journey toward the end) and it was during these moments where the character shined at her best. But sometimes she see-sawed back into her old childish antics especially toward that of her admirer and childhood friend, the newly inherited King of Pearl Isles, Andrew. In the end, I did end up sympathizing with Nadia especially after she found out her true purpose and background. I was left wondering the fates of the other characters who may or may not still be around during the epilogue as I had gotten quite attached to them.
The sexual tension and closeness between Nadia and Vestro was palpable and I have to admit the scene where they almost give in to each other is very well written and hot. My breath caught a few times and I couldn't blame Nadia for nearly forgetting their surroundings. A slight hint at a love triangle is presented here that is answered by outside forces later on in the story and the romantic in me is still curious over who Nadia would have chosen. Nadia would volley back and forth between the two men from friend to ‘maybe more’ at times and I was curious where it could have gone.
All in all Damewood: Demons of the Past was one heck of a story with a fabulous setting, a fantastic futuristic and dark background and supporting characters that really made me cringe and gasp when one of them was hurt or killed. It's a pretty fast paced story that I often found hard to put down once I started reading a chapter or two. The epilogue was left open for the continuing story in the trilogy and part of me is eager to see where Ms. Durante takes it while the other part is still trying to catch her breath while mourning the (possible) lost characters that I had favored and grown attached to.
If you’re looking for a science fiction tale with a twist, a bit of mystery and great detailed action scenes on the side, check out Damewood: Demons of the Past - Book One of the Damewood trilogy. The artwork surrounding this series is gorgeous and I love the deep, rich colors of the landscapes and people. The characters are awesomely painted and appeared like I had imagined them in my mind’s eye and I love looking at the depictions of the fantasy-like forest settings that make up the world.
The author has a website where you learn more about Damewood on the web at: http://www.enterdamewood.com
I’d probably advise checking out some of the more detailed sections after you’ve read the book so no surprises will spoil you!
More goodies are on the way including some chapter peeks, character profiles and illustrations, and an author bio. Being a special features junkie, I’ll be keeping an eye out on the extras offered in the coming days leading up to the release on December 12, 2008.