Demon King by Erik Henry Vick should be a favorite for readers in the horror and fantasy genres. Vick created so many demons they would not fit into one category. There were traditional demons, “biblical, with leathery wings, horns, fangs, and whatever” (p.63). “Others had black, rotting skin that hung from them like clothing three sizes too big. Those he called “undead” demons.” (p. 63). And then there were the demons that didn’t fit into the two categories. They were just weird. Teleports don’t count as demons. All the above information is in Chapter Two which takes place in 2007. Books don’t generally start with Chapter Two. Chapter One takes place in 1979 when several children had near experiences with demons. It was a time when Toby disappeared. Close friend Benny went to find him at an abandoned, some considered haunted house. Adults became involved when Benny told his dad, the town manager, where he had been. Then police became involved in a search for Bobby, a super psycho (later to be known as O. G.) was discovered and the journey began.
This is a page-turner, a very fast-paced action novel of horror. I took two days to read the 652-page novel because I found it too intense to read in one day. Chapters alternate between 1979 and 2007 and readers can have fun seeing how the children develop, travel, grow, leave from and return to Oneka Falls. The first few chapter shifts between 1979 and 2007 can be a bit confusing for readers because of character relationships but after the first two temporal shifts, readers will have a handle on what is going on. At a later point, perhaps 70% into the novel there are familiar characters that do tricky name changes, but I felt the challenge appealing and the pages turned faster.
One weird thing about demons is that they change shape and appearance to conform to human expectations. They can do this at the drop of a skin and take delight into suddenly appearing in their actual demon shape. This demon practice had caused more than one death by fright. Children; our heroes Toby, Bobby, and later Shannon, do not accept the demon shapes when they are in various phases of capture and detention, but they are more easily resigned to them as they make escape attempts. Adults face problems with belief until it becomes, literally, in-your-face confrontation.
Oneka Falls is small with a population of under 1500. Three other similar sized communities are nearby, each one with a police force. Oneka Falls will be the center point for this novel. Oneka Falls has the most recent disappearances in 1979 when the novel opens. There have been occasional previous disappearances in the other communities, a subject discussed by periodic meetings of small-town police chiefs and the county sheriff. In a 1979 meeting, the five officials are meeting about Toby, a child missing for four days. Toby is a child that falls of the grid. He takes days off from school to recover from his mom’s beatings. They are not as bad as the beatings given by Randy, Candy’s live-in boyfriend. If it wasn’t for Benny’s initiative, the police would have never visited Toby’s house. When they did, they met Candy, an alcoholic part-time prostitute. They met Randy, who delighted in baiting and insulting police officers. Small town police officers have their own system of justice and they decided to instruct Randy in some realities of life. Big mistake. They didn’t know who they were dealing with. And his name was not really Randy. (Nope, he is not a demon).
In 2007 a Professor and, unknown to others, professional demon killer Andrew Reid returns to Oneka Falls. Somewhere in the interim between the two key years, Drew has developed an ability to see demons. Other humans see the disguise, Drew sees the reality. And whenever Drew detects a demon, he tries to kill it. If he were ever caught, he would be tried and convicted of murder. Drew is a careful man as far as disguises and deception. He has developed or discovered a chemical compound that disassembles the demons. Traditional guns and bullets (the police) have little effect. In an investigation led by the State, two Troopers visit Drew in his university office. One of them is a demon and he recognized that Drew could see the true demon shape. Once the Trooper/Demon and Drew spotted each other in Oneka Falls, the battle was on.
There are graphic descriptions of violence as demons rent humans asunder, people are shot, and there is a lot of torture. Big Important Point (BIP) and something central to everything that happens. Demons get their energy from the fear and suffering of their victim. They grow in strength based on the amount of pain inflicted. (For some reason, and I would like to hear from the author on this, when Vick presents a list of tortures, mayhem, and bad things, he includes orgasms.)
This is a very well-done novel as far as world creation. The Demon world is very descriptively rendered. The novel has well-developed characters. Inevitably, a lot of these characters need mental help with their several personalities (the humans, not the demons). I found I liked lots of the characters and felt sad as several of my favorite ones didn’t make it. There are lots of surprises in the end. There is little sexually explicit language but lots of violence. I felt this a five-star Amazon read which I read on Kindle Unlimited. I highly recommend it in its genre due to its complexity and the ability to sustain my reader interest (I bore easily) over many pages. It sells for USD 3.99.
Don’t forget to read the author’s biography. My background has some weird, unusual, and unique job titles but I think Erik Henry Vick has me beat.