Augustus Thorne is a Cambion — a human/demon hybrid. Cursed with a hunger he can barely control, it’s been a struggle to retain his humanity. All he’s ever wanted to do is enjoy what everyone else takes for granted. To lead a normal life. Fall in love. Start a family. Alas, such things are denied him because of what he is. Fated to feed off humans, he has channeled his self-loathing into a quest for revenge. For over two hundred years, Augustus has hunted and executed every Incubi and Succubae he can find. But he has yet to track down and kill the one responsible for attacking his mother and causing decades of suffering: his own spawn-father, Fanon.
— From the Prologue to Call of the Cambion
Andrew P. Weston’s second outing is just as good as the first book in his new series, A Hybrid’s Tale, which I have also reviewed here. This time around, in Call of the Cambion, Weston delves deeper into Augustus Thorne’s past, his relationships and his character. Born in 1760, Thorn has sworn to seek out and destroy the Demondim and its “department” of Incubi and Succubae assassins, known as the Forge, as he hunts for Fanon, the Incubus who sired him, then abandoned him and his mortal mother. Thorne is a complicated man: in spite of his supernatural and magical powers, and his killer’s instinct, he is an honorable and loyal man, not without mercy and his own code of ethics. Once again, Weston combines magic, metaphysics, science fiction, and the paranormal to tell his tale and give substance to his world and his characters.
Perhaps doomed to live his life as a Cambion, Augustus Thorne has spent centuries hunting Fanon. Along the way, he has built something of a reputation as a demon slayer. However, his reputation proves to be a two-edged sword, for while it keeps him safe, it prevents him from forming any sort of meaningful relationships; something he yearns for with all his heart. Neither does it protect him from the wrath of the Demondim, who view his activities as a threat. In an effort to overcome all the obstacles in his way, Thorne finds it necessary to confront the darker aspects of his Cambion nature. Something, it seems, he must fully embrace. Only then can he be free to make his own choices, and in a position to end his father once and for all.
Alas, Such a Path Results in Dire Consequences
The story opens at the Pantheon in Rome, where Thorne seeks to find the portal into a specialized pocket of the esoteric realm of demon-kind. This portal can only be opened by way of a sort of psychic form of magical ritual and incantation. There he experiences a rush of images — visions of battles in which he is taking part. It’s like watching himself in a movie. A voice then tries to seduce him, tempting him with the power and glory he could have if he’d just submit to it. He battles the assassins of the Forge, encounters Ebliss, the Eternal Coward, and Jenna, a Succubae “hired gun” who finds herself attracted to Augustus. He also begins to learn of his own, somewhat mysterious heritage: born of Paladin Blood, he’s a potentate among demons, but also has the “uncommon valor and deep sense of honor” instilled in him by his human mother’s guidance. If not for her influence, for those two things, he might become a great threat to demon-kind, a powerful hybrid they can’t control or contend with. And then there’s the cryptic writings of his father, Fanon: something he mentioned that Augustus can’t quite figure out, something concerning Rosemary, his mortal and long-deceased mother. As Augustus sees it:
“Fanon was obviously concerned that his death was a nigh on certainty. For some reason he had expressed the need to visit Rosemary at the place where everything began. Somewhere she was currently resting within the Well. That confused me a little, because we hadn’t seen sight or sound of Fanon for over ten years by the time my mother died, not long after her forty-eighth birthday. And she hadn’t been interred in a well of any sort.”
Augustus’ mother had been born Rosemary Smith, in Thimblemill, Bearwood, in the United Kingdom. This is where it all began, where Fanon first encountered Rosemary and blighted her life. The village had grown immensely when Augustus first came to know it. Its prehistoric location, as part of the huge Forest of Arden, was ancient history by the time he was born. He knew the area for its endless miles of both dense and open woodlands, and sweeping vistas of flower-covered slopes and fields. So now he begins to wonder, to make sense of it all:
If Bearwood was the site of a Nexus Well, its tranquil front would have been a beacon to those of the Demondim seeking to hide there, or those intent on the kind of dealings that needed to remain a secret. In hindsight, it was also the perfect location for someone like Fanon. My poor mother hadn’t stood a chance.
Augustus also learns that he has a spawn-mother, a sort of stepmother, and he sets out to learn all he can about her, how she figures into all this, and what place she holds among the Demondim. Meanwhile, he continues to pore through his birth-mother’s diary, searching for more clues, and learns that Fanon, his Incubi father, called him “a champion and a true prince,” and believed that one day his hybrid son would change the world. Is this the reason why certain high-ranking members of the Forge concoct plans to enlist Augustus to their cause, because their agenda and their goal are the same as his? Does he truly present an unexpected opportunity for this faction of Incubi and Succubae assassins, who wish to see Fanon and his plans ruined, and Fanon himself destroyed? Or does the Forge see Augustus as a major threat, and winning him over to their cause makes it possible for them to destroy him? As Augustus delves deeper into the past, into his mortal mother’s and his spawn-father’s past, we begin to learn more of the history of Demondim, of the Succubae and Incubi, the Lords of Hell, and of the Cambion — the hybrids, of which he is one.
Augustus hooks up with Colleen again, the sexually-charged flight attendant he previously met during his transatlantic flight to Rome. There’s a true connection between them, and early on we see that Augustus has feelings for her. There is a love story here, and an interesting one, at that. Colleen is a most likable and attractive character, and she and Augustus, who is an equally likable character, seem made for each other. But then there’s Jenna, the Succubae assassin, who sees Colleen as a rival to Augustus’ affections, and this leads to further complications. There were moments when I wondered if Colleen was too much for Augustus to handle or if she was much more than she appeared to be. Could she possibly be the bait certain factions of the Forge set to trap him, to win him over or destroy him? But then, when Colleen eventually learns just who and what Augustus truly is, she comes to the realization that he’s immortal and she isn’t. That she will grow old and die, and he won’t. What decisions about her life and her role in Augustus’ life will she make? These are questions that can only be answered by reading Call of the Cambion. And I recommend that you do. This is a wickedly entertaining and exciting novel that’s not only full of surprises, twists and turns, but is very well plotted, too. Weston’s fast-paced writing style, his crisp dialogue, his imagination, and his sense of humor all breathe life into this story. And Weston does not deny his readership the emotional impact, the human elements and the personal drama of what’s at stake here.
Andrew P. Weston is the author of Hell Bound, Hell Hounds, Hell Gate, The IX, The IX: Prelude to Sorrow, The IX: Exordium of Tears, and many others. He is also a regular contributor to Janet and Chris Morris’ Heroes in Hell™ series.
Visit his Amazon page by clicking here.
Joe Bonadonna is the author of the heroic fantasies Mad Shadows—Book One: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser (winner of the 2017 Golden Book Readers’ Choice Award for Fantasy); Mad Shadows—Book Two: The Order of the Serpent; Mad Shadows—Book Three: The Heroes of Echo Gate; the space opera Three Against The Stars and its sequel, the sword and planet space adventure, The MechMen of Canis-9; and the sword & sorcery pirate novel, Waters of Darkness, in collaboration with David C. Smith. With co-writer Erika M Szabo, he penned Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin (winner of the 2017 Golden Books Judge’s Choice Award for Children’s Fantasy), and its sequel, The Power of the Sapphire Wand.
He also has stories appearing in: Azieran: Artifacts and Relics; Savage Realms Monthly (March 2022); Griots 2: Sisters of the Spear; Heroika I: Dragon Eaters; Poets in Hell; Doctors in Hell; Pirates in Hell; Lovers in Hell; Mystics in Hell; Liars in Hell (forthcoming); Sinbad: The New Voyages, Volume 4; Unbreakable Ink; Stand Together: A Collection of Poems and Short Stories for Ukraine; the shared-world anthology Sha’Daa: Toys, in collaboration with author Shebat Legion; and with David C. Smith for the shared-universe anthology, The Lost Empire of Sol.
In addition to his fiction, Joe has written numerous articles, book and movie reviews, and author interviews for Black Gate.
Visit Joe’s Amazon Author’s page!