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My guest today is Canadian writer Michael Drakich, author of five speculative fiction novels in eight years, including his latest, Demon Stones. Michael joins us to discuss his life and his writing.
What was your first car? – 1969 Delta Royale. It had a huge engine and only got 10 miles to the gallon!
Who would you most like to sit next to on an airplane? – The Prime Minister of Canada – no matter who it is. As a Canadian, the opportunity to impress my ideas and values on the top politician in the country would be invaluable.
Who would play you in the movie? – No one is good enough!
As a child (or now!), what did you want to be when you grew up? – An interstellar astronaut!
Are the names of the characters in your novels significant? – Not in this novel, but in many others I have included my kids names.
What is the single biggest challenge of creating the settings in your novels? – Being unique. So much of it has been done before.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard? – Keep writing.
Michael lives in the quaint neighbourhood of Olde Walkerville in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Father to three, the family home is an historic Albert Kahn design built in 1895. When not writing, you can find Michael walking down the majestic trees lined streets.
Contact: Michael can be found online here.
BlurbIt’s been almost a hundred years since warlock meddling freed the demons from their underground domain. Their eventual capture has encased them in large stones across all the lands. They became known as the demon stones.
Over time, the truth of their imprisonment devolved into legend and tales to frighten children.
Now, the seven kingdoms are in upheaval. The demon stones are being opened and the vile creatures once more roam the land. War has broken open between realms as the fingers of accusation are pointed.
Caught in the middle is Gar Murdach, a farm boy who recently passed the age of ascension of sixteen marking him as a man, and his younger sister, Darlee, as they both struggle in their separate ways to escape the horrors wrought by the demons and the war that swarms round them.
- Book Title: Demon Stones
- Author: Michael Drakich
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Length: 368 pages
- Release Date: July 20, 2014
- Purchase Links: Amazon
My Review: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars for Demon Stones
I’ve always been a sucker for epics. High fantasy? Bring it on. I cut my teeth on Narnia, swallowed Dune and LOTR before I was in my teens. David Eddings was a god. Terry Brooks, Anne MacCaffery, Tamora Pierce? They owned me. Or at least they had a lifetime lien on my library card. So when I saw the blurb for Michael Drakich’s Demon Stones, I said bring it on!
I really liked the setup of Demon Stones. In a medieval setting, the story starts with a sixteen year old country boy, Gar Murdach. Despite going to the same school as the children of the wealthy and privileged, Gar doesn’t know much—okay, anything—about the world. His life consists of school, beatings from his father who seems to hate him, and lusting after his pretty, rich classmate Lialee. But when Gar accidentally opens the stone imprisoning one of the seven deadly demons who formerly plagued the land, he sets in motion a chain of events that would result in war, destruction, and death for his friends, family, and the seven kingdoms that make up his world. Caught up in the tide of events, Gar is conscripted into the army, only to find himself fleeing for his life.
As I read on, there were several other things that I liked about Demon Stones. First, instead of a brave, brilliant, and of course, handsome hero, the story centers around a boy who is handicapped by his ignorance, immaturity, and naiveté. Female characters are well-rounded and captivating, such as Gar’s brave and loyal young sister Darlee, the badass warlock Daphora, and the maternally sensible demon Silk. People act like people—which is to say their motivations range from devotion to family and country to purest greed and self-interest. And the scale of action sweeping all seven countries is suitably epic.
Unfortunately, I soon found that young Gar has a few other problems too, including an epic heap of stupid, a surprising helping of lust, and a disturbing capacity for callous insensitivity. But most painful for me is the way Gar simply pings around the seven-country playing field, banging into trouble and unlocking demons willy-nilly along the way. His generic “oops-my-bad” attitude firms into callous disregard for almost anyone or anything in his path.
Also annoying, given the size of the story and cast, was the scarcity of descriptions for the characters. Although we’re told that Gar’s infatuation with classmate Lialee is the match that ignites the fuse of war and death, we never hear what she looks like, except to hear of Gar’s disappointment with her body—after a lot of big-boob demon sex, that is. There is a fair amount of description for the graphic scenes of torture, but I ended up skipping over most of that.
Another problem I had was that the political situation, of course the real source of the war and destruction, was trivialized to the “greedy king bad” level. It would have been interesting if Gar’s blundering had been contrasted at each point with some revelation of the actual machinations at ruling levels. Gar’s military commander Lieutenant Devron was well-placed (as the King’s cousin) to show both an insider’s knowledge and a patriot’s reaction, but that potential for perspective and insight wasn’t really explored.
At the end of the day, I would give three and a half stars to Demon Stones. The writing was professional and clear, but the pace was uneven and I found Gar’s passivity kept me from engaging with the story. The other problem is with the genre. The story itself and its young protagonist would seem to put it at YA, but the (frequently public) big-boob demon sex and graphic torture scenes would have me questioning that. And that’s all a shame. Michael Drakich seems like a talented and professional writer. I know it’s too late, but I kept thinking as I read Demon Stones that the story had huge potential and a talented, professional writer—as Michael Drakich clearly is—could have turned it into a masterpiece with just a bit of solid critique. Still, I will pick up his next book, in hopes that he’s found that critique partner by then.*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
When he finished eating, he placed his ear once more on the rock to see if he could hear anything. Yes, there was definitely something there. It wasn’t just his blood pumping in his ear.
He strained to listen for a while longer then decided to try and listen lower on the stone. Stretching out, he reposed on his back and placed his head so that his ear rested against the hard surface of the rock. There was no doubt in his mind now. The heartbeat was definitely there.
As he lay there, he recalled the events from earlier in the day. How was he ever going to find the silver to buy the bracelet before Wirbon did? He hated Wirbon. If only Wirbon was dead. With that irksome brother out of the way then I would have Lialee all to myself.
He relaxed as the rhythmic beat from the stone reverberated in his head. Tired, he decided to close his eyes.
Free me, and me serve you.
Free you? Who are you?
Me held within stone. Free me, and me be faithful servant.
I don’t know how. How do I free you?
A key? I don’t have any key.
Not a key, the Key. It is link to great magical power.
Magic? I don’t know any magic. Magic is illegal in the seven kingdoms. No one knows any magic.
Me know it. But me cannot do it from inside. You must do it. Me teach you.
What are you doing? My head hurts. It’s hurting really bad. Stop it. Stop it.
It stop hurting when you open stone and free me. Open stone now. Imagine it open and it open.
Okay, I’ll open it, just stop it from hurting. I’m doing it.
Gar bolted upright. It was dark out. He must have fallen asleep. What a terrible dream. Even now, his head hurt terribly. He tried to stand up, but the pain was horrible and he lost his balance and fell. Pushing up to his hands and knees, he shook his head to try to clear it. In the starlight, he could see movement by the stone. He crawled closer. A huge crack had formed, with pieces lying all around. Peeking out from it were long fingers terminating in sharp points.
“By the gods.” A chill ran through him. I’ve got to get out of here. He forced himself to his feet and, severe headache or not, staggered off in the direction of the house.