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The Rose Demon

Paul Doherty


ISBN 0-7472-5441-9

UK Paperback

502 pages; £5.99; $15.95

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2001



The horror epic is in the midst of an imaginative resurgence. In 'The Rose Demon', Paul Doherty uses an amazingly detailed historical backdrop to tell the tale of a boy who grows up under the tutelage and protection of a body-hopping immortal demon. From the fall of Constantinople to the arrival of Columbus in the new world, Doherty's tale of Matthias Fitzospert paints a complex and vividly realized picture of life in England, Europe and beyond. Doherty uses his supernatural supposition to spin his extravagant tale in the most memorable colors he can possibly create.

What sets Doherty's writing apart from other historical authors is his lush period language. He fills his scenes with unusual yet comprehensible terms from the periods about which he is writing. The effect is to make the past seem as alien and bizarre as another planet. His research is impressive, his ability to span countries and cultures admirable.

All of this would come to naught if Doherty did not also make us care about his characters, both natural and supernatural. Matthias Fitzospert is not the brightest light on the Christmas tree, but he is something special enough to be followed, loved, cared for and tormented. Rosifer is an immortal being with many faces but a single goal. The great hope of Rosifer is that Matthias come to love it of his own free will.

Doherty's great strength in this novel is his ability to quickly create characters in each landscape that Matthias comes to inhabit, and to make the reader care about these characters greatly, knowing that being in the proximity of Matthias Fitzospert is about as healthy as being in the company of Hercule Poirot. The people around Matthias have a tendency to die, often drained of blood. But this is certainly no vampire novel. The being that pursues Matthias is a complex, tormented, spiritual serial killer, that loves more strongly than the humans through which it moves.

Matthias himself moves through a number of landscapes, each a completely realized world, each eventually invaded by the being that he loves and hates, and that loves him more than it loves God. By the time he reaches the new world, the reader will wish that there were more discoveries yet to some. But 'The Rose Demon' does not suggest in its ending that there are more to come. The conclusion is somber and surreal. 'The Rose Demon' is a powerful work that the reader is will not want to end.