European Review of Speculative Fiction

Andor Bochenkov

 

Title: Valducan Series – Redemptor

Author: Seth Skorkowsky

 

Seth Skorkowsky’s fourth outing with the Valducan knights promises to be a lighter more action-oriented adventure. Redemptorintroduces Vatican demon hunters aptly named Paladins who run a collision course with the disfigured corpus of the emotionally maimed Valducans. All seems clear: the Valducans and their professional rivals have demons meddling with human affairs in South America and as they give chase inevitable mayhem will result. But Redemptorraises the stakes, taking the Valducan universe to a Lovecraftian level of divine indifference. If the prior books explored the soul breaking hunger of demons and angels, of the slow corruption that both hunters and prey experience, this novel provides a breezy cheerful trapdoor to existential hell itself.

At the open, the reader staggers from grotesque corruption of human life to the next, stalking behind the hunters as they seek to prevent a major demon incursion. It takes all they have to simply fight this agent of perversion to a standstill. It’s an enduring theme of Skorkowsky’s work that in the pursuit of free will for the innocent, the tainted and the blessed alike lose themselves to forces both divine and amoral. The weapon Redemptoritself proves to be a conceit one step beyond this, a cosmic horror that eclipses that battle. In a heartbeat the book’s primary antagonist subsumes that cluster of evil almost effortlessly.

What hope do a group of hunters have against something so inexorable and vast? It’s the question to punches holes in the moral floor, putting the book into freefall. Suddenly Skorkowsky’s heart-warming inclusion of families and children, mentors and students, mutates into a sinister race against dread fate. All those vulnerable souls, all that innocent flesh amply exposed to the unloving unreasoning force of an extinction event personified. That little adventure story so full of pulp and pace becomes a kind of farce where strength of arms, even purity of soul, mean almost nothing.

Do the Valducans prevail? It’s worth a read to find out. To suffer through the bruises, broken bones and deaths to get something akin to closure. Readers won’t get a satisfying end because Redemptorhas obliterated that option. In a universe capable of such casual negation and cruelty there can be no end on a human scale. We begin to question the threads of human existence, to wonder if all this struggle has value. One could argue that’s the point of horror as a literary form: to present our struggles and question what matters. The Valducans have an answer that may surprise the innocent and jaded alike.