The Rift
R.J. Clark
Paperback, Kindle April 25, 2011
Review by Darkeva

New Orleans. Demons. A cordoned-off area of the city that houses supernatural nasties. A main character that has a demon actually living inside him. What’s not to love about R.J. Clark’s novel The Rift? There’s a lot to like, as it turns out, and although some of the execution of plotting and characterization (particularly of villains) could have been handled better, The Rift has some pretty cool concepts, and I enjoyed it overall. Now, onto some more specifics.

Matt Faustus (yes, he changed his name to that) has been fighting demons for a long time, all while having a demon inside him, which complicates things considerably. Although he’s not technically possessed, the demon is an ever-present part of Matt’s day-to-day, and has made its plans to break out no secret.

Matt’s struggle with the demon (who is one of the head Fallen in Hell) is, although one of the more interesting points of the novel, a character who could have been executed better. The author does a reasonable job characterizing him, but I didn’t feel like the demon tortured Faustus enough (and not necessarily though physical or clichéd taunting/threat torture). While the demon’s escape does represent a huge threat, Matt’s interactions with another demon, alias John Legend, intrigued me far more.

Still, the demons are what make this novel. New Orleans is more fleshed out here than in most of the paranormal romances that use it as a setting to cash in on the Anne Rice/sexy vampires association, and in this version of the city, a Rift opened and split the city between humans and demonic creatures. This made The Bestiary necessary to contain them. Despite this, humans decided to use riptarts, minor demons, as little helpers, especially for cleaning houses, which one woman discovered was the worst thing she could do as a riptart ran off with her daughter, and the mother’s parents approach Matt about finding the little girl, Cassie.

Although the demons stick to the horned variety, there’s also an uninspired reptilian sub-class. Matt also fights an Egyptian demon. The body count rises, and as it does, skullstabbers, demons that kill with sharp tongues, emerge. They camouflage to blend in with household items, and love ambushing victims, which I thought was cool.

One of the book’s other strong points is the concept that demons can’t reproduce. In most fiction demons love shagging, which doesn’t produce the best results (Preacher, anyone?). But in this case, the Hellspawn (a term no longer unique to Todd McFarlane, apparently) have trouble breeding, which ties in to Matt’s case in a disturbing way.

Another cool tidbit: demons hate vampires but have to be invited in like them.

In one poignant scene, the demon inside Matt reveals his backstory, saying his brethren wanted to keep him locked away for a major plan, but now he wants to help Matt, break out, and teach his brethren a lesson. The demon hates one of his brothers in particular, Asmodeus, who, wouldn’t you know it, runs the Bestiary.

Although The Rift has an interesting plot and many cool elements, it does suffer from a bit too much telling. The author could have also worked on sequencing and plotting, but the story interested me enough that I kept reading.

To the author’s credit, the demon screws with Matt in the ultimate way by showing him how much stronger he is when he lets the demon loose. But the consequences are dire: “You don’t even want to know what happened when I lost my virginity,” Matt says at one point.

Another strong point is Matt’s relationship with a tough succubus, Alura. Despite the obvious name, she’s cool because she’s not the typical “come hither” succubus. Matt burned Alura in the past, which is why she doesn’t want to trust him, but they get together again eventually. The humour also works, especially with Matt’s voice.

As I mentioned earlier, the demon John Legend steals the show. He has more involvement in the riptart who took Cassie than Matt thought, and I found his exchanges with Legend to be far more interesting than those with his inner demon and with good reason-Legend has helped Hitler, Nero, Judas, etc, in the past. All of this leads to an epic confrontation and the big reveal at the end, which shows the reader a less-than-ideal answer to why demons would want to have anything to do with Cassie, but I didn’t buy that Legend’s actions were due to his anger at God’s preference for humans (a convenient and oft-relied upon motive).

Although I saw the plot twist at the end coming from a mile away, the ending resolves in a mostly satisfying way. If you like your demons and enjoyed Naomi Clark’s novel Demonized or if you like Supernatural, chances are you’ll enjoy The Rift.

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