A secret demon-slaying Order fights to stay underground. An internet group threatens to shatter their anonymity. A holy blade disrupts both of their agendas.
Detective Victoria Martin barely survives an encounter with demon spawn, but her career—and her partner—aren’t so lucky. Applying her detective skills to a new mystery, she obsesses over the creatures she saw…and the men who saved her from them. Her saviors belong to the Order of Valducan, which fights demons like the ones who attacked her. Allan, a leader in the Order, knows that experiences like Martin’s are all too common.
But he doesn’t bet on the detective using her technological ninja skills to seek him out and demand the truth. Adult Urban Fantasy/Horror published September 13th, 2016 by Ragnarok Publications. Authored by Seth Skorkowsky.
Ibenus takes a basic premise similar to Cassandra Clare’s wildly popular Mortal Instruments series—demon slayers slaying demons, sometimes involving angels or angel-blessed swords—and distills it to pure awesome.
Ibenus revolves around its namesake, the holy blade called Ibenus and the angel that inhabits it. Which means there’s plenty of action. You can’t name a book after a holy blade without lots of demon-blasting. But without sacrificing the action, Ibenus also develops the mythology and the machinations of the Order, and it stays in close touch with the desires of each character. All of which makes me really want to go pick up Damoren right now!
This is book III in the Valducan series, so I was a little worried I’d be lost, despite assurances that this is a fine place to start. (Apparently the earlier two books focus more on individual demon-hunters and less on the Order.) But while the book starts off with a bang—very little exposition, almost all action—which could have easily made Ibenus a bewildering introduction for a straight newcomer, Victoria’s perspective actually provides an excellent vicarious recruit for readers to learn the drive-through version of the “rules.” I was able to pick up the basics of characters, background and conflict without undue difficulty.
Plus, Victoria is just pretty cool. Confident and proficient, the detective never lets disgrace stand in the way of her own personal redemption. She really fights for what she wants, which keeps things interesting, as her desires and loyalties change and she must unravel the mess she’s made of them. Her gritty arc could have become really angsty, but Skorkowsky doesn’t let the story languish in the murky depths of dethpair. Like I said…Victoria keeps things interesting.
Skorkowsky really goes there, with the character and professional conflicts, which makes for much higher stakes than a softer storyline might have produced. The conflicts involve questions of secrecy. Should the public know about the demons? Or should they be kept blissfully unaware—until they have an experience like Victoria’s, that is? The Order and Victoria’s internet group can’t seem to find any common ground on this issue, and they both make great points in favor of their arguments. The antagonist is no plot puppet; Skorkowsky develops his positions with care.
I love the atmospheric setting of the second half of the book: the Catacombs beneath the city of Paris. Just the idea of climbing down for a rave or a swim and getting swarmed by baby-faced demon spawn…yeah. Although we only really get to know one kind of demon in this book, it’s plenty creepy.
A baby’s coo came from the corner.
Something shuffled across the trash-strewn floor. Victoria’s light went to the movement, finding a pale, waxy shape the size of a bread loaf. James’s brilliant light fell upon it, revealing a chitinous insect. The creature’s face resembled a porcelain china doll, its oily black eyes completely filling the sockets. A pair of segmented pincers twitched outward from its bristle-lined hole of a mouth.
It looked up at them and a shrill infant’s sob issued from that hideous maw.”
Chitin-covered “Mantismere” demons sport pincers, saber appendages and mandibles big enough to chew your brain out through your eye. They usually don’t travel alone, either, unfortunately for the Valducan crew. They breed creepy bug drones known as “screamers” for the infant-like wails that can draw in their victims.
Ibenus—and, I’m supposing, the whole Valducan series—develops the mythology with faultless precision, covering both centuries-old historical conflicts with the church and modern conflicts such as with technological nuts who would exploit it to uncover Valducan simply for self-validation. You’ll find some great worldbuilding, here.
A few little things confused me, likely because I haven’t read books I & II, but the story stands well on its own. You could easily jump into the series, starting with Ibenus (like I did), and in fact, I strongly encourage you to do so if you’re looking for a terrific new urban fantasy series.
I have just a few small issues with the book, one being Victoria’s unfamiliarity with guns. I understand that the British CID staffs some plainclothes detectives, but that position is also supposed to require two years’ experience as a uniformed officer. It just seems crazy to me that Victoria has only shot a gun once in her life. The only other real issue I have is with the editing, which is sometimes unclear and confusing in my finished copy of the book.
But both these issues are very minor in comparison to the great fun I had reading Ibenus.
Terrific urban fantasy. Dark and creepy, but by no means hopeless. Fine place to start in the series, with the perfect balance of action and exposition.
Recommended To :
Readers looking for creepy urban fantasy with faultless worldbuilding, constant action and well-developed characters.