Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Warlock in Training
SERIES: Studies in Demonology #1
AUTHOR: T.J. Nichols
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 226 pages
RELEASE DATE: February 14, 2017
Angus Donohue doesn’t want to be a warlock. He believes draining demons for magic is evil, but it’s a dangerous opinion to have—his father is a powerful and well-connected warlock, and Angus is expected to follow the family tradition.
His only way out is to fail the demon summoning class. Failure means expulsion from the Warlock College. Despite Angus’s best efforts to fumble the summoning, it works. Although not the way anyone expects.
Angus’s demon, Saka, is a powerful mage with his own need for a warlock.
Saka wants to use Angus in a ritual to rebalance the magic that is being stripped from Demonside by warlocks. If Angus survives his demon’s desires and the perils of Demonside, he’ll have to face the Warlock College and their demands.
Angus must choose: obey the College and forget about Demonside or trust Saka and try to fix the damage before it’s too late. Whatever he does, he is in the middle of a war he isn’t qualified to fight.
Angus Donohue never wanted to be a warlock–a magic user who gets most of his power by using a demon–but his father has ideas about how Angus’ life should be lived and let’s just say self-determination is not involved in any way. That’s how Angus finds himself in college training to be a warlock and failing miserably at failing to be said warlock. When his purposefully botched summoning actually results in him summoning a demon from the other side he is confused a more than a little disappointed. But things go from bad to worse when instead of having the demon under his command, Angus is instead pulled thru the veil to the Demonside by the demon he summoned.
Once a reluctant warlock in training, now Angus is a warlock trapped on the other side and unable to get home. He also has little say in what happens to him on the Demonside, and the demons are not shy in asking for his blood, his soul, or his body to help rebalance the terrible effects of the warlocks’ use of demons and their magic. Angus also has a DemonMaster who challenges his every preconceived notion about how both their worlds work. Something that could get Angus killed if he ever did find a way back to his home.
As much as I was looking forward to this story, I’m a bit unsure how I feel about it in the end. There was definitely a lot of things going for it, but I must admit to a lack of connection to both the characters and the story. On paper, and taken on their own, the characters and the world built up here was really good. Angus and Saka–the demon that Angus ends up summoning–are interesting and nicely crafted. I also really liked the way the morality in this book is heavy on the shades of gray. Demons and humans alike rarely ever come across as “good guys.” Probably all that human sacrificing going on. Hard to be a typical good guy when you either participate in or supply the means of human sacrifices.
The first chapter of this book was good. It totally pulled me in and Angus’ failed attempts at failing (and the consequences thereof) seemed like a really good set up to this story. But after that part I struggled with connection to Saka, and as a result Angus (since their actions were so tied up in each other). I liked them, yeah, but I never got any deeper than that. There was just no need to know how everything turned out. No deeper connection, no driving force. And I’m not entirely sure that it is the book’s fault. I think this might be the result of several things that happen in the book that I just didn’t feel comfortable with personally even though I feel they were very well done.
Mostly the human sacrifices. Like, I get it. I really do. And I even like the whole idea. Just some part of me kinda withdrew every time the topic came up. In my head I can totally rationalize it as different cultures and social norms. That this was a necessary part of keeping their whole world alive. I just can’t care all that much about characters and people that are willing to slaughter a bunch of people. Even if they are demons and that’s what demons do.
Also, the orgy in the last quarter of the book so wasn’t my thing. I felt uncomfortable for that whole scene.
So even though I liked this book a whole lot, I never really felt the connection to it that I was really hoping for. I would definitely recommend it if you like characters of dubious morality and well-written paranormal/fantasy, though. There was a lot here that I can tell other people will really love, but just didn’t work quite as well with me for whatever reason.