REVIEW: Practical Demonkeeping by Christoher Moore

The good-looking one is one-hundred-year-old ex-seminarian and “roads” scholar Travis O’Hearn. The green one is Catch, a demon with a nasty habit of eating most of the people he meets. Behind the fake Tudor façade of Pine Cove, California, Catch sees a four-star buffet. Travis, on the other hand, thinks he sees a way of ridding himself of his toothy traveling companion. The winos, neo-pagans, and deadbeat Lotharios of Pine Cove, meanwhile, have other ideas. And none of them is quite prepared when all hell breaks loose.

Warnings: Domestic abuse, transphobia

Category: M/F

Practical Demonkeeping is the first instalment in the Pine Cove series of comedy urban fantasy novels. Very lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek, this book is a horror-parody that follows a would-be priest who accidentally bound a demon to his service and is trying to get rid of it.

This is a very silly book that follows the lives of people in the small little town of Pine Cove. Like a lot of horror stories, it gives us snippets of the lives of the people living in the town when the monster arrives, and like a lot of horror stories, the monster will get a lot of them before the story ends! Since it’s more comedy/parody than horror though, the tone is never menacing, and the violence is played for laughs. It’s written well enough, but I will caution for some content that strikes me as fairly offensive- sexist tropes abound in the female characters, some weird racial caricatures, and a trans woman character that is presented as a man who likes to pretend to be a woman online all left a sour taste in my mouth.

The story gives us many different interesting characters to become invested in, and some of them are more engaging than others. It does a pretty good job at giving us full and rounded pictures of these characters, who are all just a little bit more zany than would be realistic, but not so much as to be cartoonish. It also gives us some interesting relationship dynamics, but unfortunately I found some of its relational content a little bit lackluster. There’s a story of personal agency and empowerment as a woman gets away from an abusive husband, but it drops the ball in portraying her as complex past that point. There’s another woman who leaves her drunkard husband, but ends up taking him back because he helped save the town from the demon. I just didn’t feel like the relationships or female characters were well enough thought through.

The worldbuilding and lore here is all very interesting and probably the most intriguing part of the novel. It’s a lot of throwing a bunch of different religious and mythological ideas into a blender and coming up with something very silly and pretty fun. If you’re at all religious however, this will ring as incredibly sacrilegious and hard to swallow. There’s some Catholicism to the narrative but it’s all been blended together with stories of Djin and other fanciful ideas. What results is a hodge-podge that is perfectly suited to comedy, as long as you’re not particularly invested in any of it’s source inspiration, in which case it’s bound to rub you wrong.

This book is crass. There is plenty of frank discussions of sex, sexual fantasies, masturbation, and titties. This was of course what put it on my radar in the first place. However, I was surprised that, when reviews call the author “a very sick man”, it wasn’t actually as shocking or explicit as I was expecting. I was hoping for some truly raunchy content, but instead I just got a few sex jokes here and there. There’s no on-screen sex, although there are plenty of characters that are horny enough for it. I wish the author had gone a wee bit harder- as it is it lands in that middle ground of “too dirty for anyone not looking for sex in their books, but not explicit enough for anyone who is”.

Altogether I was more or less pretty disappointed with this novel. It would have been easier to take its more minor flaws of course if it weren’t for the offensive content that the author included, and I would have probably been kinder where it not for those elements. All in all though it’s mostly just mediocre, though it did make me chuckle here and there.

Have you read Practical Demonkeeping? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!

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