Set in a foreign place in an indeterminate time, The Demon Star tells an adventurous tale of an untested queen, a powerful wizard and an ancient evil fighting for control over lands far and wide. Author Paul Batteiger adds elements of high fantasy to what is a Sword and Sorcery world that should appeal to a wide spectrum of fans. Eldritch and arcane spells vie against and fight alongside shining steel, flashing arrows and early powder-driven projectile weapons as kingdoms struggle for supremacy all while a dark force not seen in five millennia manipulates people and forces to undo them all with only one person aware of what’s truly at stake.
The story takes some time to get rolling and the volume of characters, places and historical events at the outset is daunting. I struggled to keep track of many of the ancillary players and despite the map provided, wasn’t truly able to orient myself in this new land. However, the threads soon started to weave a clearer tapestry of events and after only a few chapters the pace of the story started to pick up and soon I was reluctant to put the book down. Batteiger sets the scenes expertly and whether in a king’s receiving chamber, the deck of a storm-lashed ship or the ruins of an ancient city, his descriptions allowed for the formation of clear image of what the characters were seeing. The action is thrilling without sinking into unnecessary graphic details and the pacing crisp, even when battles subside and those left alive discuss their next steps.
There are a few characters truly central to the story, including the queen, Amarantha, the wizard, Israfel, Israfel’s associate, the admittedly less talented Calderon, who provides some welcome comic relief, and Scutari, the former wizard, now general. Israfel and Scutari step into the story close to fully formed, for the most part, and are not as interesting as the Queen and Calderon who grow throughout, making their storylines a little more fun to follow. Regardless, all are quite believable and Batteiger does a good job keeping each true to character throughout the book.
If a combination of high fantasy like The Lord of the Rings and sword and sorcery stories in the style of R.E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith sounds like something you would enjoy, give The Demon Star a few evenings and prepare to lose yourself in a strange, new world.
(reviewed the day of purchase)