What is it?
Prosper's Demon is a 2019 novella by K.J.Parker (who also writes under the name Tom Holt) taking place in an alternate-universe, in a time period very like the Renaissance period, following an unscrupulous and unnamed exorcist as he tries to deal with the brilliant and court-favored artist, Prosper de Schanz, and the demon dwelling inside of him who is secretly guiding his art.
Our exorcist narrator, who has no name given, wakes up to finds that a demon has possessed him in his sleep and murdered the prostitute he'd spent the night with. This is not the first time this has happened. The demon, known only as Him, is a well known entity to our exorcist, and, after casually dispensing of the body, the exorcist tracks Him down to the capital, only to find that the famous, artistic genius, Prosper of Schanz, is developing an ambitious new project: a bronze statue larger than any bronze statue ever made before-- all at the subtle behest of an unfamiliar demon referred to only as She. Now our narrator must figure out how to remove the demons from their hosts without incurring the wrath of the Duke and Duchess who are unwittingly protecting them.
Interspersed between the current-day struggles, we are treated to glimpses in the narrator's life, such as the first time he encountered Him (in the womb, before he was born), his first exorcism, first murder, and the lessons he's learned from others in his Order on how to deal with demons.
I am legitimately surprised by how much I loved this book. Novella. Whatever. I got it on kindle for a few bucks, then (after completing it) immediately bought the paperback version, just because I loved it so much.
The narrator is an unscrupulous dick with a dry sense of humor who admits that he's in the exorcism gig because he has a fascination and urge to hurt demons, as opposed to a desire for saving humans. In this world, if a demon possesses a person and doesn't want to leave, then the exorcist has the ability to yank them out. This causes immense pain (and sometimes death) to the host, but 10x that amount of pain to the demon in question. That's the trade off, so to speak: demons are immortal and will continue possessing people forever, but though humans are mortal and will inevitably die, they can severely hurt and command the demons (or at least, command them to leave). There are also only about 73,000 demons wandering around on the planet, and so it is inevitable that exorcists will run into familiar faces.
Our narrator has a personal gripe with the demon Him; their first encounter was when He tried to possess the narrator while the narrator was unborn in his mother's womb-- which is apparently a common ploy by demons, as it guarantees them a few months respite from being hunted down by exorcists. However, even then, the narrator was able to beat up on Him, which He could not escape. Since then, He and the Narrator have been running into each other, and each time, He acts like a petulant child, whining about how the narrator is bullying Him-- which is arguably true. Though the reason the narrator has for disliking him is revealed to be pretty dark, their interactions are still oddly hilarious.
The ending was fantastically done, in my opinion. Dark, but funny, and entirely in keeping with the narrator's personality.
In short, I just love this little story to pieces.