cover image Knight of the Demon Queen

Knight of the Demon Queen

Barbara Hambly. Del Rey Books, $24 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-345-42189-0

""The season of demons is on the world,"" announces the Demon Queen Aohila in this meditative sequel to the fantasies Dragonsbane and Dragonshadow. On the cusp of the winter following Jenny Waynest and Lord John Aversin's summer ordeal against demons and insurrectionists, their son, Ian, is driven to attempt suicide. His dreams, like his mother's, are haunted--both by the minor demon who possessed him during the summer and by Folcalor, an archdemon who seeks more gates between demons and humans to spawn mass ""pain and terror and rage, lust and guilt and shame."" Concurrently, Aohila visits Lord John to remind him of the debt he owes her for helping to vanquish the demons, who are now her prisoners behind the Mirror of Isychros. Up against her threats and pledges, John agrees to undertake an arduous quest with the demon Amayon--Jenny's former master--for his guide. Along the way, John discovers different hells, as well as a world whose inhabitants suffer from lives circumscribed by mood-altering drugs. Teaming up with a group of misfits who long for magic rather than for drugs, John strives to understand Aohila's demands as he attempts to execute them. Back in the Winterlands, Jenny, Ian and other residents face their own battles, but their opponents have been strangely superpowered, thus requiring special efforts of Jenny, who has been stripped of her mage's abilities in a prior battle. While John is an admirably realized character, he moves rather mechanically through his challenges, and Jenny and Ian's trials are overshadowed by his exploits. Intricately plotted and solidly written, the story nevertheless feels book-ended by past and likely future adventures--making this an amenable entry for series fans, but a difficult one for readers new to Hambly's demon-infested world. (Feb.)