Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Eliot had been practicing magic for most of his life but never had he been successful in summoning a demon…until now. Far too impulsive for his own good, Eliot’s spell casting has always been a hit or miss proposition. Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn’t. So when the summoning succeeded and brought forth a demon, it didn’t work out exactly as Eliot had hoped. Instead of a demon to control, the demon Prynthius now had control of Eliot. With Prynthius deep within Eliot’s body, Eliot decides, to his horror and pain, that the only way to dislodge the demon is to pass him on to another unsuspecting body, one that the demon must approve of before the transfer is made.
Dean, tall, gorgeous and sexy, seems like the perfect target when Eliot sees him at the local gay hookup bar. With the demon’s pain induced instructions echoing in his mind, Eliot accepts Dean’s invitation to return home with him for a night full of hot sex and kinky exploration. But is Dean as straightforward as he appears? Who will be left standing when all the secrets are exposed?
Christian Baines’ first novel, The Beast Without, was a terrific supernatural tale of horror. It contained multidimensional characters and a complex plot. At 234 pages, the author gave himself the length necessary to explore in detail the world he was creating as well as construct a complex history for his main and secondary characters. It was a refreshing take on creatures dominating all forms of media these days, vampires and werewolves, and I loved it.
The Prince and the Practitioner has many of the same elements that exemplified The Beast Without but at approximately 27 pages it seems to be missing the breadth and detail necessary to make this story feel as well constructed and polished as the one that preceded it.
Once again Christian Baines has chosen to feature in his story a couple of creatures seen often in novels and on tv and movie screens these days, the demon and the wizard. Baines appears to enjoy tearing away any romantic overlay from often used character types to pare them down to the horrific bare bones they are capable of. That is certainly the case with his characters here. Eliot is not an especially admirable person. He is certainly not one most readers will relate to. His is a slapdash morality, one more composed of expediency and self interest than one based in any sort of ethicality and righteousness. Prynthius is everything a malevolent demon should be or at least the backstory provided by the author makes him out to be. Prynthius is more a dubious outline of a monster than a fleshed out one. And that lack of solidity lessens the impact his demon is supposed to make.
Dean only snaps into place as a credible character midway through the story. I can understand why the author made this decision but again it delays the cohesion to the narrative. The story starts off more like a simplistic piece of porn than a tale of horror. Had Baines given the reader a little more substance, a little more back story to the opening scenes of The Prince and the Practitioner, this would have felt more polished and solid than the story it finally morphed into.
I don’t have to like a book or its characters to admire the cleverness of the plot is or the preciseness of the prose, both of which can be found within this story. Like fun house mirrors, nothing is as it seems here but still I had an issue or two with Eliot. With characters whose sense of morality has the same properties as a puddle of muddy water, one character’s righteous indignation at the end seemed false and out of place, especially considering the events that preceded it. Either the author meant to show Eliot’s gift of self deception to be as endless as I felt it was or the hypocrisy of the scene didn’t bother him as it did me. This departure from the persona the author has created felt like a break in the characterization, an unnecessary one to my mind.
I do feel the twist at the end elevated The Prince and the Practitioner past porn into a story with layers as opposed to merely sequential sex scenes. I only wish that the author had included trace elements early on that hinted at the depth and twists of plot to come. So too does any tenderness and compassion feel completely out of place among these egocentric masters of magic.
This short story contains elements of bdsm (whipping to be precise), D/s, and non con. For some readers, including lovers of horror, this quick read might be just the thing for you. For others, especially those lovers of stories of romantic love, I recommend you look elsewhere and to another author as romance does not seem to be in Christian Baines’ box of literary ingredients the way horror and the supernatural most certainly are.
I am looking forward to what his imagination turns to next. At any rate I expect it to be entertaining and worthy of discussion. I leave any recommendations up to you.
Cover art by Wilde City Press. This cover has a generic feel to it. It certainly does not speak to the magic and demon you will find inside.