God’s Demon by Wayne Barlowe (book review).

‘God’s Demon’ was inspired by John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and is mainly the story of the fallen angel Sargatanas’s quest for redemption. Sargatanas no longer wants to rule as a demon lord of Hell but to return to the Kingdom of Heaven.


The story starts with the Fall, as the defeated angels who fought against God are sent to Hell. On the way down, they lose their angelic trappings and become demons. Although all demons differ in appearances, most have bodies largely made from bone with most of the flesh stripped away and a hole where their hearts have been removed. There are different classes of demons, the most powerful demons are called Demon Major followed by the Demons Minor and the rest of the demons. The demon’s rank is identifiable by their individual flaming sigils above their heads. Demons Major rule various cities in Hell with the help of their Demon Minor vassals and are themselves ruled by Prince Beelzebub who is known as The Fly. The demons use the human souls in Hell to build their cities not just with their manual labour but by turning their bodies into the bricks used in their buildings. The souls are entirely sentient as they are held in this brick form for all eternity.

The story is told through various POV characters. Sargatanas’ story is told through the eyes of Eligor, a loyal friend and Captain of the Flying Guard in Sargatanas’ city Adamantinarx-upon-the-Acheron. Hani, one of the condemned human souls in Hell reveals another side of Adamantinarx. The other two POV characters are from Dis, the capital city ruled by Prince Beelzebub where Lilith is his consort and Adramalik is the Chancellor General of the Order of The Fly who act as Beelzebub’s bodyguards.

The Demon Major Sargatanas is widely known for being a benevolent demon and his city Adamantinarx being as similar to a city of Heaven as you can get in Hell. Over the millennia, Sargatanas has steadily grown weary of Hell and his demonic existence. He decides that the only way to gain his angelic status is to do God’s work in Hell by defeating The Fly and his armies. To do this, he must raise his own armies and find allies who share his ideals.

Hani, a human soul in Hell with no memory of his past, has lead a tortured existence for hundreds of years building Adamantinarx and lives in constant fear of being turned into a soul brick, from which there is no return. Hani’s one comfort is that of the carved statue of his ‘White Mistress’ which sends him hope filled visions of souls kneeling at the clawed feet of a beautiful woman. These visions cause Hani to rebel against his demon overseers which leads to him becoming instrumental in the fight against The Fly.

The ‘White Mistress’ is shown to be Lilith, the unhappy consort of The Fly, living as a prisoner in the capital Dis. Lilith was first the consort of Lucifer but when he disappeared was given to The Fly along with the governing of Hell. Suffering for millennia from the violent and possessive love of Beelzebub, Lilith sculpts her likeness into statues and distributes them among the souls in Hell with the help of her trusted handmaiden, Ardat Lili, in hope of inspiring them to create an uprising to defeat the Fly. Lilith is shown as the only demon who hasn’t previously been an angel and still retains her heart.

Adramalik guards The Fly with his knights in Dis, the disturbing and depraved demon capital. Adramalik, though favoured by The Fly, lives in fear of his rages and paranoid behaviour. Beelzebub has no real need of his protection as he is the most powerful demon in Hell but Adramalik stays by his side to serve his own need for power. He is a pragmatic and sadistic character who, like many demons, sees Hell as his true home and thinks of Sargatanas’ wish to return to Heaven as heresy.

‘God’s Demon’ is an intricate novel and Wayne Barlowe goes into great depth describing every aspect of his version of Hell. Barlowe not only describes the variety of demons found in Hell and their culture but also that of the human souls, the soul steeds, the Abyssals which are creatures that were present in Hell since before the Fall and the Waste dwellers who are neither demon or human souls. The author also describes in detail the architecture and layout of the cities of Hell like Dis and Adamantinarx and various regions of Hell like the Wastes, the Flaming Cut and the Molars of Leviathan.

I found the various POV characters very refreshing as they helped me perceive a more rounded view of Barlowe’s Hell. Eligor, who describes Sargatanas’s quest, does not have his Lord’s unfailing belief that he can find redemption and Hani shows us that even the most benevolent of demons still view souls as objects. Lilith and Adramalik showed me that Hell is not only a place of punishment but that some truly think of it as home.

There are a few unanswered questions in ‘God’s Demon’. Where is Lucifer? He is only mentioned as being missing and where do the demons and human souls destroyed in battle in Hell go? What manner of creatures are the Waste dwellers and why were they in Hell? If Barlowe wasn’t so detailed in his description of Hell, I might not even have wondered at these questions. I understand that some of the characters’ past is left up to our own imagination and interpretation such as Lilith’s past but I still found it a little frustrating. My only other complaint would be that there were not enough female characters in the book. Lilith was the only female character that Barlowe portayed at any depth. The other female characters were just mentioned in passing even when they seemed rather interesting. Having said that, I enjoyed ‘God’s Demon’ and would definitely recommend it to anyone as long as they aren’t too squeamish about flesh, blood and torture.

Supreethi Selvam

January 2016

God’s Demon by Wayne Barlowe

(pub: TOR/Forge, 2007. 352 page hardback. Price: $24.95 (US), $28.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-0985-3)

check out websites: www.tor-forge.com, www.goddemon.com and www.waynebarlowe.com

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