‘The Dark Price of Ahriman:’ Advance Book Review

As anyone who gets behind the wheel of car can tell you, Los Angeles is going to hell in a hand basket.  In Justin Robinson's The Dark Price of Ahriman, this is literally true.  Of course, in Robinson's world, hell is the Dark Planet of Ahriman, and the hand basket is a group of brave, but ill-fated, humans who have chosen to try to interact with and control it.

The Dark Price of Ahriman begins shortly after the events of the first installment in the Ahriman series, The Last Son of Ahriman, with Simon Bell honing his skills as a mage of the Order of Ahriman, attempting to push back the encroaching and devastating influence of the Dark Planet Ahriman on the city around him. We are re-introduced to the fairly wide cast of characters surrounding Simon and quickly reminded that the Order of Ahriman is a polarizing career choice, and that Simon’s friends and family have to make hard choices about how best to fit into the dark and magical world in which they find themselves.

And, naturally, there is a chorus of enemies, some of whom are immediate threats, others who stay for a time in the shadows, and all with their own designs on Simon and the power he has assumed. 

At a certain point in Dark Price, Simon makes such an obviously bad decision that I wanted to dive right into the pages like they were Dumbledore's Pensieve and give him a really solid whack on the head with a large solid object.  And then ground him until he turns 165 years old.  Although, both of those penalties would be severe understatements compared with the actual consequences of this action.  No inadvisable deed goes unpunished in the world of Ahriman.

Reading the first installment of the Ahriman series conjured up a number of connections to Lovecraft, Hellboy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and ConstantineDark Price continues to call to mind parallels to some of my favorite stories and visuals: the fight-scene choreography in Thor: The Dark World with its shifting portals between multiple realms; the primordial chaos known as the Prim in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series; the fall of Los Angeles into a hell dimension in the Angel "After the Fall" story arc.

Robinson continues to excel in his description of the incredibly complex world of Ahriman, and especially of the seemingly endless litany of terrifying creatures Ahriman is spewing onto the streets of Los Angeles.  It is a visual world that begs to be portrayed on the big screen, and that, frankly, I sometimes have a hard time fully taking in on the first read of certain sections.  It's the mark of a good story teller that the further you dive into the world they have created, the deeper you want to go.  I have a feeling that Robinson has an endless catalog of monsters and realms to throw at his audience.  I say, "Bring it on!"

And, if a malevolent supernatural planet does have designs on overtaking Earth and turning it, or at least portions of it, into a hell mouth teeming with monsters and demons, I would volunteer to open a portal to it right over the interchange between the 101 and 405 freeways.  Not that there would be any discernible difference afterwards.

Favorite Line:
[Spoken to a vaguely human-esque killing machine called the "Axe-Man"]
“No, no. I don’t think you eat at all. Well, if you change your mind or physiology, there’s plenty of soup in the pantry."

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