Rory Surtain’s fantasy adventure FIREFANGED: Demon in Exile is centered largely on Ara, a 17-year-old hunter based at the foot of Everest (one of the only real-world references in a fantasy realm). Ara proves to have almost supernatural abilities, revealed when he encounters a large demon, and uses his tactical noose to win a vicious battle to the death. Ara is severely injured, but collects the demon’s fangs as a souvenir of his victory, and is soon contacted by The Vigil, a slightly shadowy organization that is tasked with keeping demonic attacks under control. Leaving his orphan’s upbringing with the local church, he relocates and starts to learn how the group trains its fighters and protects the world. The Vigil is a highly trained unit designed to take on the many demons that appear from caves and form into small bands, roaming the landscape, and it’s immediately clear early on that Ara is a talent amongst them, a man born with special skills. He’s able to sense the presence of enemies, and his skills enable him to save a half-breed elf, Rae, who goes on to become a central figure in the story.
FIREFANGED: Demon in Exile is a first-person adventure book set in an indistinct time — one that feels like the past but nicely mingles a sense of the world’s normality and friendships with its need to survive under pressures from the dark side. Uncovering that world alongside Ara is a smart way of exploring its systems and power structures, and it has the added bonus of slowly unraveling how key he is to a unit that had struggled distinctly in his absence. On arriving, Ara is already superior to many of its established fighters.
At times, FIREFANGED: Demon in Exile is quite plodding, but that gives the book atmosphere, and the regular asides into the perspective of characters in a bar in the underworld hint at a broader story. The feel is very much one of setting the tone to a broader multi-book adventure. There’s a delicacy here, too, amid the violence, in particular in the way Ara relates to some of the weaker characters in the book, and his more mundane adventures in the town and around The Vigil’s fortress allow us to uncover his character traits and what drives him between the harsher moments where he’s battling demons, or casually defeating long-trained recruits. Readers are left with the overall sense of a far more sweeping world, one that’s enticing and touches on the creation of a universe without going to the length or detail to fully explore its offshoots.
A fantasy adventure book based around a developing young demon fighter, FIREFANGED: Demon in Exile is a slow-building fantasy journey with dark undertones and strong character development, featuring plenty of stark battles.
~James Hendicott for IndieReader