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The Rose Demon by Paul Doherty
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The Rose Demon

by Paul Doherty

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861213,470 (2.96)5
Matthias Fitzosbert is the illegitimate son of the parish priest of the village of Sutton Courteny. Despite the recent spate of murders, each day he braves the dark woods to visit his friend, a mysterious hermit who shows him many strange and beautiful things. Though enthralled, the boy is always puzzled by his lessons with the hermit - never more so than the night the villagers hunt the hermit down, and burn him, believing him to be responsible for the many deaths. THE ROSE DEMON explores Matthias's unique relationship with a spirit he strives to placate but ultimately flees from. His story is played out against the vivid panorama of medieval life: the fall and sack of Constantinople; the turbulent Wars of the Roses; the terror of witchcraft; the battlefields of Spain and finally the lush jungles of the Caribbean where the Rose Demon and Matthias have one final, dramatic confrontation.… (more)

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“The Rose Demon” is about a fallen angel, known as the Rosifer, and his association with a human named Matthias.

The story weaves in and out of true historical facts that transpired during the 1400s. It is set in four parts, preceded by several prologues. Part One features Matthias as a seven-year-old, unaware that his only real friend – an old hermit – is in fact possessed by the rose demon.

The Rosifer is able to possess most people, depending on their soul’s strength and will power. Throughout the novel he reappears in numerous guises, though on most occasions Matthias seldom guesses that his latest friend – or enemy – is possessed until the demon decides to make himself known.

The Rosifer appears mainly in this first part and is featured less and less as the narrative progresses. As a result, I became less and less engaged with the book.

Part One is a hard act to follow. The relationship between the demon – in the guise of the hermit – and the young Matthias is a key factor that makes this so good. None of the demon’s other possessions are as entertaining as the hermit, while Matthias the boy is more interesting than Matthias the man.

That said, the Rosifer is such a strong character that whoever he pops up as, he immediately spices up whatever situation Matthias is faced with.

But as the demon’s interventions becomes fewer and far between, the storyline becomes too repetitive for my tastes. Matthias gets hit over the head and wakes up somewhere new. Matthias is captured with death hovering above him. Matthias keeps dreaming about certain past events. And on the whole his life seems too full and varied to be believed.

Had more events been structured around the village setting in Part One, perhaps it would’ve proved a much more engaging read. Many other reviewers feel otherwise, but for me it seems like the author has been determined to include too many historical events for one story.

Speaking of true events, Richard III did not kill his brother, George Duke of Clarence, as is stated here by one of the characters; Edward IV had him executed, which didn’t go down well with Richard.

Richard does briefly appear in the story when he was the Duke of Gloucester and is described as having red hair – unless I’m colour blind, it’s brown in every portrait I’ve seen of him.

My main criticism, though, is that when it comes to writing dialogue, Mr Doherty is one of those authors who are determined to substitute the word “said” with as many alternatives as possible:

Matthias declared, he asked, she demanded, Matthias snapped, he purred, she murmured, etc.

This sort of thing is distracting. Most historical novelists do this. It’s as though they spend so much time researching historical facts that they have no time to study English style. It is, of course, best not to use “said” wherever possible, but when it’s important to indicate who’s speaking, “said” goes by with little notice. Start using “retorted”, “demanded”, “purred” – please don’t ever use “purred” – it sticks out.

In addition, I may read a character’s speech, for example, as though he/she is happy, so if by the end of the line I’m told “Matthias murmured”, I have to pause and adjust how I imagined his tone.

This in my opinion is the worst line in the book:

‘Matthias is my guest,’ Abbot Benedict declared sharply and glared determinedly at the Prior.

Overall, Paul Doherty is a good writer, but lines like the above should be greeted with the backspace key. Authors who study English style would be able to “show” the reader Abbot Benedict’s emotions without resorting to adverbs and overlong dialogue attribution.

Had this work been 100 pages fewer, devoid of excess adverbs and adjectives, free from every known substitute for “said”, featured the Rosifer in more scenes, wasn’t so repetitive, and used the “less is more” approach regarding the amount of true historical events covered, then this may well have been a classic. Many reviewers think it is anyway, so the author need not worry about any negative remarks made here, or poor reviews elsewhere.

I feel that there is potential here that hasn’t been tapped into. But as the good does outweigh the bad I rate this 3 stars, not 2. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Oct 29, 2014 |
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Epigraph
The Rose is the Perfume of the Gods. -Anacreon, Ode 51C, 6th century BC
Quantum Mechanics suggest that consciousness or mind, may be independent of the body it inhabits. -Hans J. Eysenck & Com. Sargent, Explaining the Unexplained, Prion, 1993
The same Evil Spirit may serve as a succubus to a Man and an incubus to a Woman. -Charles Rene Billuart, Treatise on Angels, 1746
Dedication
Dedicated to the memory of Colonel Gilland Wales Corbitt (U.S.A.F.) D.F.C.
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The opening lines of the Dies Irae echoled along the marble naves of the churches.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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