• The Good: A body-hopping demon with a heart of gold
  • The Bad: Unnecessarily complex plot with too many side-quests
  • The Literary: Opens with a highly useful dramatis personae

Kai is a demon who uses his pain magic to transfer between human bodies when needed, but he’s not a bad guy. After the body he inhabits is assassinated, his spirit wakes up in an elaborate water trap designed to limit his powers.

The story of Kai is told in two narratives, one in the present and one in the past, in alternating chapters. In the present, Kai slowly regains consciousness and must figure out how he came to be in a watery grave, who betrayed him, and why. The reader soon finds out that entirely new cultures and languages have appeared in the mortal realm since his entrapment.

The other timeline reveals how Kai became a demon and found a new family in a ragtag group of friends. They go on a bunch of violent adventures as part of a revolution against the rising World Coalition. Kai’s past gives clues to his future timeline.

One of the things I like about Kai is that he should be evil. He’s a powerful demon with necromancy-type magic. But instead he’s drawn as sympathetic, with a wry sense of humor. Also, there’s a lot of fun flashy action. And the characters are diverse and inclusive. The body-swapping nature of the demons allows for internal/external identities in a subtle way.

And yet, I don’t connect with these characters or feel like there are any stakes. The pacing is slow and the worldbuilding is dense without explanation. Kai and his friends travel from place to place, each time overcoming small obstacles, and the story ends up feeling like a video game. The prose is modern and snippy and doesn’t lend itself to its medieval fantasy setting.

Recommended for fans of Murderbot who are also fans of fantasy video games.