Hell’s denizens struggle for redemption in this evocative epic fantasy, inspired by Barlowe’s own artwork.
After the War in Heaven was lost, the fallen angels became demons and built vast new cities in Hell, mainly constructed of damned souls transformed into bricks. No one has seen Lucifer since the Fall, and Beelzebub, a powerful, hideous figure composed of thousands of flies, rules as Prince from the dreadful city of Dis. Meanwhile, the Demon Major Sargatanas is determined to preserve the memory of his once-noble existence as a seraph by constructing the city of Adamantinarx, which attempts to echo the glory he had known. And it is the shreds of that nobility that eventually makes Hell impossible for Sargatanas to endure. He resolves to see if he can send a message to Heaven, demonstrating his intention to return to the light by rebelling against Beelzebub’s depraved rule. Joining him in this exceptionally risky enterprise are a host of demons, plus Lilith, Adam’s cast-down first wife and Beelzebub’s runaway consort, and the soul of the Carthaginian general Hannibal. The plot drives forward in a fairly straightforward, episodic manner, with little in the way of twists and turns—readers seeking surprises should look elsewhere. Barlowe’s primary interest seems to be to repaint his landscapes in words and to breathe life, or afterlife, into his characters. In those aims, he succeeds; at some points, his depictions of both the grandeur and the horror of Hell even surpass his original paintings and drawings, available for comparison on the book’s cover as well as at the associated website.
From Barlowe (Barlowe’s Inferno, 1999, etc.), a vivid travelogue of a place we’d all like to avoid.