Damastor by Dimitri Iatrou: Book Review

Damastor by Dimitri Iatrou, available at Amazon, features three mid-fourteenth-century figures, Herendin, Nestor and Ann, living under the pall of Black Death. 

England has been decimated by the plague, its people so adversely affected that society has broken down. Nestor – effectively a village idiot reluctantly abandoned by his family – finds Herendin hanging from a tree – executed. Seeing that the man still lives, Nestor cuts the elderly warrior down. Herendin’s attempted murderers have fled. The pair encounter Ann, daughter of a doctor, who has been employing her medical expertise to treat victims of plague. The nature of this historical fiction is both parable-like and epic. The journey or quest, with its group and story expanding, is complemented by encounters such as that of the man carrying his dead child, and another who takes his own life in front of a place of refuge, and the panicked noble keen to sell his castle for the indulgence of salvation from disease and survival. We learn of Herendin’s status as a soldier battling the Scots decades earlier, and episodes of his captivity and torture. 
But Damastor is also set in the present-day. In truth, it’s the story of Kameron, a young man so poisoned by childhood abuse and subsequent addiction that the reader can barely recognise his humanity. Long after being introduced to Kam, we match-cut between scenes of torture in the fourteenth century and similar present-day goings-on in an urban gangland milieu. Next, we see a balletic (and ballistic) gun and knife battle. The results are shocking. 
Similar shocks await the novel’s fourteenth century characters. Interspersed too – and presented in a somewhat anthropomorphised form – are battles between what appear to be angels and demons. Although the novel’s mythos is Abrahamic, the good vs evil themes are universal. We learn that Kameron faces regular beatings by a malevolent force of some kind, and it seems to happen every time he acts violently himself. There are great touches that are almost throwaway (the above encounters with plague victims included), and fleeting cameos here and there that could certainly be developed. But squandering the good stuff to tell this tale is superior to delivering garbage.
Better to tut at the death of somebody we’d like to hear more from than to tut at poor characterisation. 
Through both scenes of violence and displays of humanity, with flashbacks to Kameron’s childhood and Herendin’s soldiering days, and a celestial subplot (sur-plot?) that suggests As Above So Below, Mr Iatrou serves up a very different kind of novel.
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Get Damastor at Amazon.

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