Demon Road and Desolation by Derek Landy

Book: Demon road (#1 in the series) 5 stars
For book 1, I’ll rate it 5. I really, really enjoyed this book, and I haven’t liked a book as much for a long time. I also enjoyed the characters, especially Glen, who is a nice change from all the brooding male love interest types in most stories – even though there is already another taciturn, brooding male in the story. The characters bounce off well against each other, and is fun to read. This book starts off with a rather cliched and uninspiring situation, but it picks up very quickly and is a definite page turner. It is, however, VERY dark horror that involves cannibalism right from the start, which I’m fine with (I write horror), but even I found it shocking. The setup, however, is intriguing for people who enjoy this sort of thing and the atmosphere is strong – I love stories about the ‘dark underbelly’ of society, and how there may be secret cabals of scary things on hidden ‘dark highways.’ This is a dark road trip fantasy crossed with a Faustian deal-with-the-devil kind of story, but definitely gory and dark, nor will it necessarily have a happy ending. Too gory for a YA book methinks, so consider yourself forewarned.

Book: Demon road (#2 in the series) 3.5 stars
For book 2, I’ll rate it 3.5. It’s competent and action-packed, but it’s even darker and gorier than book 1, and I just didn’t like the sheer ugliness of the world this story is set in. At some point, the awfulness of it all just crossed a line for me – it’s not fair to the book or the author, but I’m marking it down because it’s meant to be YA, and this is just too much. I wonder if it will be better off as adult fiction. Conversely, if you love nihilism and gory horror, then this book will probably be a 4.5 for you. For me personally, I loved the world the author built in book 1, but found that I liked it much less in book 2 because I found out more about it. I’ll be upfront – I have issues with some of the backstory and world-building, which I think leans too dark and lacks balance. If you compare it to adult dark urban fantasy like The Dresden Files, the latter does a better job of creating a magical, unseen dark layer of society with a strong balance between the forces of light and darkness. Here, it’s mostly darkness, which can make the situations so unappetising. It also fails to make the most of the “deal with the devil” sort of stories that Faust made famous – typically, doing deals with demons require a sprightly intellect and a genuinely clever twist to be effective, but both in book 1 AND book 2, the main character Amber fails to do both in the times she had to bargain with a powerful demon. She ended up relying on what feels like (a) violence and fighting, which isn’t quite the point of “deal with the devil” stories, and (b) what feels like a deus ex machina. As a result, I’m unsure of whether I want to read book 3, because given the nastiness of book 2 and the way book 3 is set up, I have a feeling it’s not suddenly going to lighten up. I do stress that this is a competently written and paced book though, so if TOTAL DARKNESS is your thing, by all means read it. I recommend it for it’s skill and pacing, even if I have other issues with it.

Special thanks to Harper Collins Publishers for giving me the Advanced Review Copies in exchange for an honest review.

-Queenie Chan

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