In Hassan’s fantasy thriller, that most hellish of settings, an office, is the arena for a duel between a young superhero and his demonic opponents.
When Marc Lacroix emerges onto the Parisian job market, he has an enviable skill set; his university was the secret academy of the Elu, a mystic order devoted since Sumerian times to battling demons, and he is a newly minted Adept Minor—with the hidden name of Angibil—which means he has the ability to levitate, control minds, emit fire and move at the speed of sound. Best of all, he has an invisible scimitar that serves as both unconquerable weapon and unwavering moral compass. With that background, Angibil naturally gravitates to the public relations department of a newspaper whose halls silently echo with “the cries of tortured souls.” While that might sounds like a lot companies, Angibil perceives a sinister influence characteristic of a species of insectoid demon known as the Maskim Xul, a fiend that can be defeated only by the arcane device of hacking at its carapace for nine pages. The trail leads him to a Maskim Xul hive at a London consulting firm, then it’s on to China, where Angibil cuts such a swath of destruction that the very earth trembles. Steeped in the Dungeons & Dragons aesthetic, Hassan’s fable features finely graded power hierarchies, precise taxonomies of supernatural beasties, amulets with warrantees and energies that drain and recharge as predictably as cell-phone batteries. The author tries to deepen this prosaic concept of magic with mystic spiritual agonies; Angibil is forever warding off feelings of depression, fear and lassitude beamed at him by adversaries. Conversely, we see little of the personalities of other characters, who exist mainly as external effigies for him to stalk and slaughter. For all the novel’s thunderous action, the reader feels trapped within the brooding confines of its hero’s head.
A boisterous but oddly claustrophobic sword-and-sorcery epic.