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Son of Darkness
Josepha Sherman
Roc Books, 304 pages

Cover art by Royo Son of Darkness
Josepha Sherman
Josepha Sherman is a fantasy and Star Trek novelist, as well as a folklorist and storyteller. Write about what you know? Her latest novel, Son of Darkness, is a dark urban tale set in New York City, her hometown. And yes, the bit about "The Tunnel" is quite true!

Josepha Sherman Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alexander von Thorn

A prince of the Unseelie Court abandons his world to hide in the realm of mortals. A demon of death and disease strikes people down at random. A dark hunter sends his spellbound minions to sacrifice their lives. A fanatic cult dabbles in occult mysteries. Nothing too unusual in the days and nights of the Big Apple.

In Son of Darkness, Denise Sheridan, a curator of Mesopotamian antiquities at a prominent New York museum, discovers that an acquaintance of hers is more than he appears. The handsome art dealer with the hard-to-place accent rescues her from a malicious street attack. But her assailant turns out to be something far more sinister than some hopped-up gang banger, and her rescuer is perhaps even more dangerous. The urbane Ilaron Highborn of the Highborn Gallery is revealed to be an exiled noble from the dark side of Faerie. The attacker was a cultist trying to take Sheridan as a sacrifice to summon a demon to restore the glory of ancient Sumeria. He escapes, and later succeeds without her; the other cultists become the offering whose life force opens the gateway between worlds.

Unfortunately, at the moment of the ritual, Ilaron's rival Kerezar is bargaining with the demon Lammashtu in a scheme to strike against Ilaron. Kerezar is pulled through the gateway and finds himself in New York. He quickly finds a street gang willing to serve, mistaking him for an avatar of Satan. Kerezar and Ilaron begin a mutual hunt, while Lammashtu inhabits the body of her follower and has the power to kill at a touch.

The author draws a distinction between the supernatural forces of light and darkness and the inner struggle of moral good versus evil. Ilaron is a creature of darkness, requiring sunblock and shades to abide his brief excursions into daylight. A part of him thrills to the hunt, delights in the crunch of bone and spray of blood. But he chose the path of Light, so he finds himself in constant conflict between his instincts and his conscious choices. This conflict is not limited to his kind; ordinary humans have the ability to open themselves to Darkness if they really work at it. The story has subtlety and depth in the grey areas where goodness overlaps Darkness, or where mortals willingly but unwittingly cross the line into something beyond human ken.

The story is a bit indulgent, with the heroine working at an institution very similar to one the author once worked at. But New York is a good setting for urban fantasy, especially with the New Yorker's conceit that they can cope with any adversity, up to and including extradimensional stalkers, demons who can pass through walls, and so forth. Almost as amusing is the difficulty the non-humans have in getting around, particularly considering their aversion to sunlight and iron. A journey on the subway is a particular challenge.

As an author of Star Trek novels and children's literature, Josepha Sherman writes with a very accessible style; this book is easy to digest. But the characters are complex, and in some ways the story seems like only a beginning. The author has left a lot of room for growth in both the characters and the setting (mundane and supernatural). I would be happy to see Son of Darkness be the first in a new series of urban fantasy stories.

Copyright © 1998 by Alexander von Thorn

Alexander von Thorn works two jobs, at The Worldhouse (Toronto's oldest game store) and in the network control centre of UUNET Canada. In his spare time, he is active in several fan and community organizations, including the Toronto in 2003 Worldcon bid. He is also a game designer, novelist-in-training (with the Ink*Specs, the Downsview speculative fiction writing circle), feeder of one dog and two cats, and avid watcher of bad television. He rarely sleeps.

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