A review that originally appeared in Black Static #14:-
Tony Richards: Night of Demons
(Harper paperback, 400pp, $7.99)
This sequel to Dark Rain, which I reviewed back in Black Static #9, sees the town of Raine’s Landing once again under magical attack, with Ross Devries and Cass Mallory in the front line. Trouble begins with the arrival of serial killer Cornelius Hanlon, who believes that he is destined to usher in the apocalypse. His first act in the Landing is to murder a powerful adept and steal the Wand of Dantiere, a magical artifact that will enable him to bring down the End of Days. With aid from one of the Landing’s own, Hanlon carves a trail of destruction. Events steadily escalate, the townsfolk having to deal with a zombie, citizens transformed into monsters, a dragon, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a giant and an army of demons from another dimension, before some sort of resolution is achieved.
Much of the fun here, as with the first book, is rooted in the idea of a town where magic works, populated by descendants of the Salem witches and cut off from the rest of the world (Brigadoon is referenced early on). Richards is playfully analytic in working out the implications of that, and showing just how such a community might function. As before, he is superb at delineating character, with prior creations such as Woodward Raine and his butler Hampton fleshed out (urban fantasy’s answer to Jeeves and Wooster), and the introduction of new people like ‘good witch’ Martha and outsider Lauren, who brings a different perspective to the book, one that places the Landing in the context of the real world. The main protagonists, Ross Devries and Cass Mallory, gain depth as we learn more of their back story, with new and tragic facets revealed, and dire consequences, especially for Cass, who has to deal with her own inner darkness.
The plot is the thing though, and it’s one in which the action doesn’t let up for a page as Richards pulls one menace out of the bag after another, with all the glee of a crazed schoolboy given total control of Hollywood’s biggest and best sfx studio. There’s sound and fury aplenty, battles fought with grimoires and guns as the adepts and local police join forces to tackle the monsters that threaten their community, everyone pulling together in this hour of need. The back story of the Wand, and the war between various groups of adepts, adds yet more detail to the mythology Richards seems to be piecing together, with Ross’ role as Defender central to the emerging pattern.
Raine’s Landing is a playground for Richards’ vibrant imagination, while the rest of us stand on the sidelines with eyes wide open at his audacity and wonder what he’ll do next; as far as that goes I have high hopes that with all the loose ends left hanging this won’t be the end of the Landing’s story. Only next time, if there is a next time, I’d like to see something a bit more intimate and minimalist as there are only so many apocalypses a reader can take.