Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: To Reign in Hell

Okay, so my journey to reading this book took about 12 years all told.  Back in 2000 I was playing a lot of White Wolf role playing games (RPG) (Vampire, Werewolf, Changeling, etc.) and was really getting into their Anime-inspired series Exalted, which may have actually eclipsed my childhood love of Dungeons & Dragons for sheer coolness.

Anyway, a huge part of what I've always loved about the White Wolf games was the recommended reading sections in the introductions of their various books.  Through those lists I found all sorts of now dearly held novels of dark fantasy and horror that have  been added to my collection over the years (and are honestly a big part of why I still own all those RPG books years after I stopped playing them.

So in 2002 there was an Exalted spin-off series focusing on the villains of the world, a militaristic, caste based group of warriors who spend all their time hunting down the Exalted (the protagonists of the main game) and in the third Caste book (Twilight), the recommended reading list included Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla, the first three novels of something called the Vlad Taltos series by a fellow called Steven Brust.

A few years later White Wolf comes out with the series Demon: the Fallen, and wouldn't you know it, sitting in the recommended reading section is a 1984 book called To Reign in Hell, also by Steven Brust.

So when I came across it in a used-bookstore run, I picked it up and for the next nine years it sat on my "to be read" shelf.  Then I spent a month waiting for my next horror book The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor part 2, to show up, and when I had finished my other books for the month, I went to that shelf and grabbed the first thing that caught my eye.

So I've just finished To Reign in Hell, and you know what?  It was pretty great - it's a fantasy-themed retelling of the War in Heaven (as described in John Milton's Paradise Lost - where the original fall of Lucifer from heaven is described, and you know what?  I really liked it.

The author starts with the conceit that "From all of [his] readings on the revolt of the angels, two things are clear: God is omnipotent and Satan is not a fool.  There seems to be a contradiction here…" and then goes on to tell a very moving story in which these beings, these angels end up in the story we all remember from Sunday school.

Definitely worth reading.

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