Demon Gate by Mike Cannon
Review by Gary W Olson
Mike Cannon's debut novel, Demon Gate - Book 1 of the Grey King Saga, boasts a setting that many readers of supernatural fantasy fiction may find unusual: tenth century Japan, against the backdrop of the battles waged between two powerful samurai clans. As the author explains in the afterword, it was a time when the newly-shaped shogun class emerged as a power, and the image of Japan that would fascinate the Western mind was born. It was also a time when people believed that demons were as real as anything else in nature. It is fertile ground for an epic fantasy not rooted in the usual European medieval tropes, and what grows from it is a compelling tale with just the right amount of period detail, with a flawed hero at its center.
The book's protagonist, Hikaru, is a highly-skilled swordsman, but also has gained a reputation for irresponsible behavior, including drinking and gambling. Even when doing something heroic, such as saving a potential future Empress from being assaulted in a back alley, he seems to cause more problems than he solves, thanks to the tense political situation. The intricacies of late-Heian-era courtly politics are pretty well presented here, without getting bogged down in infodumps, and we feel for Hikaru's frustrations and embarrassments. But when the demons invade, he is forced to contend not only with them, but with his own nature as a warrior, and lives turn on the outcome. Without laying it on too thick, the author does a good job of pushing Hikaru to the breaking point, forcing him to a decision and change he could not have before imagined.
Magic is present as a force in the novel, but is used subtly, avoiding uses that would jar readers out of their immersion in the period. Even the supernatural aspects are well-handled, as the general acceptance of the existence of demons and other creatures feels woven into the fabric of the book. It's not quite 'magic realism,' but it's certainly closer to it than 'Lord of the Rings'. The nature of the demons is only tangentially explored, however - likely we will get more detail in future volumes of the series, as well as more about the Grey King from which the series' name derives.
This is not to say there weren't a few nits to pick. The battle scenes were well-handled, though it was not always clear in some passages what was happening, or to whom. The principal non-demonic antagonist, Shoya, also had a 'stock character' feel, despite scenes late in the book that gave him some additional dimension. Also, there were times when the author's period details grew a bit too lush, sapping the pace of the story. Despite these minor issues, Demon Gate proved to be an involving and entertaining start to a fantasy series with memorable characters and locales - a promising start to an unusual new series.
This Demon Gate book review was written by Floresiensis
All reviews for: Grey King Saga
Grey King Saga: Book 1
Hikaru is a warrior born from betrayal at the time of the warrior clans' greatest peril. With the magic of the Imperial Court fading the Isles have become a dangerous p...
Have you read Demon Gate?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Demon Gate reader reviews
8.5/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
The year is 1939. Raybould Marsh and other members of British Intelligence have gathered to watch a damaged reel of film in a darkened room. It appears to show German troop...
Guy Gavriel Kay
Set in a beleaguered land caught in a web of tyranny, Tigana is the deeply moving story of a people struggling to be free. A people so cursed by the dark sorceries of the t...
A Christmas Carol
It is Christmas Eve in Victorian London, and all around the snow-covered city people are rushing home to be with their families. All except one man, that is: Ebenezer Scroo...
Sailing to Sarantium
Guy Gavriel Kay
Rumoured to be responsible for the ascension of the previous Emperor, his uncle, amid fire and blood, Valerius the Trakesian has himself now risen to the Golden Throne of t...
In the winter of his eleventh year, Little Hawk goes deep into the forest, where he must endure a three-month test of solitude and survival which will turn him into a man. ...
As they approach adulthood, Cat Barahal and her cousin Bee think they understand the society they live in and their place within it. At a select academy they study new airs...
The Moon and the Sun
Vonda N McIntyre
Louis XIV, the Sun King, rules the Western World from the Chateau at Versailles. Marie- Josèphe de la Croix looks forward to assisting her brother in the scientific ...
Come one come all to greatest city in the world. In London, all men are free, the streets are lined with gold and the naughty ladies are friendly to all. In London there ar...
Who or what is Endymion Spring? A power for good, or for evil... A legendary book that holds the secret to a world of knowledge... A young boy without a voice - whose five-...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: