Pax Demonica by Julie Kenner was recently No. 1. on Amazon.com’s “Christian Fiction” list. That was the only reason I wanted to review it. I mean, really–“A Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom Adventure.” What could be sillier?
Except for a weak theological foundation that gets progressively weaker until it just collapses, Pax Demonica turned out to be mostly good instead of gut-wrenchingly awful. Julie Kenner makes writing a novel look easy–always the mark of a pro. She has also published “dark and sexy paranormal romances,” and it will not make me a better person to find out any more about them.
Oddly–very oddly!–this book appears to be self-published. Ms. Kenner has had titles published by several different major publishers, and has appeared on both the New York Times and USA Today best-seller lists. It’s hard to believe she really has to worry about getting turned down by any serious publisher.
But on to the show.
Suburban soccer mom Kate Connor has an interesting past: orphaned in infancy, she is taken in and raised by a secret Vatican unit whose mission is to hunt down and destroy demons. This is a very adventurous job. Pax Demonica is the latest in a series, so when the story opens, Kate is in a second marriage, with a teenage daughter and a toddler, and the family is flying to Rome for a vacation.
I know, I know. I thought the whole thing sounded ridiculous, too. But it’s not. Julie Kenner really does know what she’s doing… mostly.
I’m going to save the theological faults for another time, because they’re quite serious, and go on to make two observations about how to write an action-adventure novel.
The action in Pax Demonica is compressed into two days, requiring plus-200 pages to tell. From the moment the airplane touches down in Italy, hellzapoppin. You never saw so many attempted murders in one book.
This was fun at first; but by and by, I got to feeling, “Like, oh, well, another knife fight.” Hint: When you’re writing an action-adventure novel, the action sequences should be islands, not the whole continent. If you’ve got something going on every page, the action loses impact. Trust me on this.
Another Hint: Try not to rely on things that simply cannot happen. Here, the only sure way to get a demon out of a human body is to jab it in the eye (a technique not exhibited even once in the Bible). So all the demon-hunters pack knives; and what they often have to do is throw the knife so that it stabs the demon’s eye.
All right, I’ve never tried this myself. I have a feeling it’s impossible–especially when your target is a demon who’s rapidly moving to attack you and to avoid getting his eye poked out. I couldn’t help wondering how many tries you’d need before you actually succeeded in throwing a knife into the eye of a moving human target. A million? Ten million?
It was hard enough for me to live with Ms. Kenner’s made-up-as-she-went-along theology.( Hint No. 3: Just because amazon.com lists a book as “Christian” doesn’t make it so.) But after a while I lost count of the demons’ attempts to kill off the Connor family, and lost patience with fantastic martial arts techniques that outclass even jumpin’, spinnin’ kicks done with back flips.
I enjoyed it for a while, but she lost me down the stretch.