Thursday, 21 July 2016

Review: Demon Road by Derek Landy

Author: Derek Landy
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Borrowed 
Pages: 507
Reader Experience: *****
Technical Rating: ****

Blurb: Full of Landy’s trademark wit, action and razor sharp dialogue, DEMON ROAD kicks off with a shocking opener and never lets up the pace in an epic road-trip across the supernatural landscape of America. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers: they’re all here. And the demons? Well, that’s where Amber comes in...Sixteen years old, smart and spirited, she’s just a normal American teenager until the lies are torn away and the demons reveal themselves.

Forced to go on the run, she hurtles from one threat to another, revealing a tapestry of terror woven into the very fabric of her life. Her only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be…

Demon Road is special, because I haven't had the attention span/time to finish a book for months, but yesterday I picked this up and was gripped by the very first line and carried through all 507 pages by the relentless pacing in about 5 hours. 

Seriously. Really fantastic. I don't know how much of that was the love I already have for Derek's writing thanks to Skulduggery Pleasant or my joy at finally getting into a book again after months, but I just really really enjoyed the experience of blasting through Demon Road

(I'm very out of practise with this whole book reviewing lark. Also, I should really get back into Netgalley). 

Here's what I loved:

Dialogue: Derek has a gift for dialogue that I've never seen in anyone else's writing (look, if his ego hasn't knocked his head off yet it never will). It's just hilarious - very reminiscent of Skulduggery Pleasant in this book, but I wasn't complaining because I love that. The sarcasm and snark is constant, even in life-or-death situations, and it's wonderful. The dialogue from Imelda on page 50 is particularly delicious, so look out for that.

Twists: I can't necessarily say I enjoyed this aspect, since I like seeing my characters happy and well, but those twists were masterful and basically taught me not to trust anyone. ANYONE. I can't really talk about this part without spoilers but I will tell you this: fifteen minutes after I finished the book, my legs were still shaking. What adrenaline.

No romance: I like Derek's approach to romance, both in Skulduggery and here. He diverges from average YA fare by, in Skulduggery, showing both the breakdown of a normal teenage relationship (these things happen) and an unhealthy relationship. Here, the main character just isn't interested in a relationship - and while I like romance when it's subtle and done right, I liked that there was no distracting romantic subplot here. 

Imelda: I really liked Imelda and her secret, but I can say no more without spoilers. Read the book! Read it!

Action: Derek's action is just flawless. He's so knowledgeable about hand-to-hand combat that it makes for an amazing reading experience.

Pacing: The book starts off with a bang - the first sentence is "Twelve hours before Amber Lamont's parents tried to kill her, she was sitting between them in the principal's office, her hands in her lap, stifling all the things she wanted to say."  Way to make an impression! The pacing rarely drops after that so it's definitely a breathless read - I don't know how he succeeds in continuously ratcheting up the tension (I mean, the time limit is definitely a factor) but he's damn good at it.

Stuff I'm conflicted about:

Characters: I'm not sure how I feel about the main characters. I've seen Amber, the protag, criticised for wanting to go back and reason with them after she found out her parents were psychopathic murderers - but honestly I can empathise with this. No matter what your parents have done - to you or to others - they're still your parents, and it's hard to let go of that. That said, I still didn't get much of a sense of her as a person with any standout traits. (PS -  It's so strange reading about sixteen-year-olds doing all these things when I'm seventeen. Am I aging out of YA?!)

 Glen was a bit annoying without being cute enough to make up for it, like Fletcher. Milo was cool but too mysterious - I would've liked to know a lot more about him.

Grey Morality: Amber makes a lot of bad choices and has to do a lot of harm and kill people. As a sixteen-year-old. 

Names: The names aren't awful here, but I do miss the cool/meaningful names from Skulduggery Pleasant

Stuff I dislike:

Repetition - I didn't actually notice this until I read other reviews, but it's true that the plot is just a road trip interrupted by fights. Like, drive, attack, drive, attack, drive attack, with bits of sleuthing mixed in that always turned into fights anyway. I enjoyed it, but it was pretty predictable plot-wise. 

Sequel - Sequels just annoy me in general. Why can't I just get one good standalone YA?! Actually, you know what? It doesn't even have to be a standalone, you can leave some threads untied - but give the first book in the series a goddamn ending. This book had a beginning, middle and climax, but no resolution.

The Inevitable Skulduggery Comparisons
1. There were vampires, although their rules were different from those in SP.
2. The hand-to-hand/gun combat and other action was very similar.
3. The pacing in SP was also fast.
4. Both this and SP are full of wit and sarcasm and hilarity.
5. Repeated characters - Amber is like Valkyrie, Milo is like Skulduggery and Glen is like Fletcher in terms of the roles they play - but they're all flatter, less funny versions of Val, Skul and Fletch.
6. The morality was darker here than it was in SP - in the first few SP books, the morality was pretty white and only got grey later on, but this just gets very dark very fast. 
- morality

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