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    W_L
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WL's Mainstream Gay Book Reviews - 45. Halloween Month Special Reviews: Hunter of Demons (Book 1 of SPECTR Series) by Jordan L. Hawk

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16281053-hunter-of-demons

A gay romantic paranormal investigation procedural story set in Charlestown, South Carolina between an exorcist and a possessed telekinetic human with a vampire spirit with a distinct personality. The premise is interesting, the setting is unique in the contemporary American South, and the characters are very complex. Jordan L. Hawk is also a unique gay fiction author, being a trans-male writer from North Carolina, I did not know what to expect from him. It’s a surprising story and sets up a unique series of books. As a Halloween special review, I am intrigued by the horror concepts of exorcists and demons, along with those being possessed by a demon, especially when the demon in question isn’t malevolent, but a benign entity.

Length-wise, it is 127 pages long and 4 hours 14 minutes on audible. It is a decent short reading horror novella, there’s just a little bit of world-building, a hint of romance between the exorcist, the telekinetic human, and the demonic vampire spirit. If you are a fan of odd paranormal relationships, it’s a really good story.

Plot: Caleb Jansen, an unregistered paranormal individual with the power of telekinesis, is hunting the demon that murdered his brother, Ben. He joins his sister-in-law and a group of religious zealots, who find the corpse of his possessed brother and accidentally falls dead, only to be resurrected by a creature hunting the demon that killed his brother. It’s a vampiric spirit, a Drakul named Gray, whose origin stretches across the centuries to the time of Ziggurats and ancient Sumer. Federal Exorcist John Starkweather investigating the case of Caleb’s brother murder attempts and fails to expel Gray from Caleb. Learning Gray is not the demon he’s hunting and seeing all 3 beings are jointly invested in hunting the same demon, they form an uneasy truce with Caleb and Gray sharing a body. Caleb begins to learn horrible things through his connection with Gray, because Gray had possessed his brother Ben and has his memories, including the fact that Ben had been part of an anti-paranormal Christian religious sect. As evidence and bodies grows connecting the deaths to this extremist hate group, John Starkweather finds himself falling deeper in love with Caleb, along with an unnatural attraction to the demon within him. The ending sets the stage for many future plotlines. There’s a dark implication that this world has many ugly realities about its alternate US government and their attempts to control paranormal and non-humanoid entities through either extermination or subjugation.

Review: I really enjoyed this novella. Its atmosphere and world are very unique in urban fantasy. There’s an oppressive air to how people with paranormal abilities are treated by normal human beings. It sort of reminds me of the X-Men, people with abilities hated for no other reason than they have them, or the general Marvel human attitudes to extraterrestrials/extra-dimensional beings. There’s also a nuance to how Jordan cultivates his world-building in a way relatable to a LGBT audience, John Starkweather and Caleb are great gay characters helping to bridge our understanding and tempering concepts for contemporaries.

While each of the 3 main characters contribute to set up the premise, Caleb and John are the main stars of the first novel. Caleb’s insecurities and fears about being who he is, while learning his own brother hated him for being paranormal in secret was heartbreaking. I wonder how many people have had siblings openly say they are okay with our sexuality or gender identity, only to be in reality highly antagonistic towards who we are as people. I think that help humanize Caleb’s plight in this story and makes him a very believable and understandable character in the context of this book.

On the other hand, John is a complex gay character, who is unable to connect or be happy, since his former lover abandoned him. I get where Jordan was going with John, it worked to establish him as a character isolated from his emotions. There’s more in later books that explain his behavior more, i.e., he being sent to what amount to conversion therapy, but we only get glimpses at this dark well of negative connections in John in book 1. I can’t really evaluate the character fully without revealing further details from later books, but I can say that having read the 1st series, it’s not as simple as you may think. John also has captured and sent many demonic spirits in little containment vessels, which he knows would be destroyed along with killing the host human if they pass the point of being unable to separate from the demon spirit.

Gray also doesn’t get much more than a showcase of his abilities and desires in this novella. He’s a non-human entity, but unlike other demonic beings encountered by humans, he is not malevolent or out for his own desires. While he has never possessed a living human being before, the feeling of being alive and learning to feel emotions such as pain, anger, arousal, and temptation are very fun experiences in this book.

There are several weaknesses though in this novella that I know get fixed in later books, but I should note them. The worldbuilding is quite uneven, while most people don’t consider it dystopian, I actually think such a world where an entire population is punished on the basis of their natures or affinities is absolutely dystopia even if we have come to accept it. Also, while federal agents like John Starkweather may be paranormal, they are impressed to serve the state in order to monitor their own population and execute “abnormal” creatures along with human hosts. Later books will explore some of this, but bottom line, such a system of government control and oversight would be interesting to understand further. There are also some weaknesses in the premise of the Director of SPECTR allowing Caleb/Gray to be of assistance for the case. It’s an interesting concept, but an organization with a “kill on sight” order for demons along with human hosts would likely be too hostile to entertain such a notion, no matter how seemingly open-minded the Director appears.

Overall, the dark nature of this novel is fun and entertaining, especially for fans of darker subject matters and horror fiction in general. I know this is not a type of story for everyone, but it does get better over the series.

My Review: 4 out of 5, it’s a good story and I can recommend it for readers, who enjoy horror stories and themes.

Copyright © 2021 W_L; All Rights Reserved.

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