Time for another guest post, this time from Youngest Child who’s been reading the new Derek Landy book, kindly provided by the publisher via NetGalley. Take it away, Youngest!
Derek Landy, best-selling author of the children’s series Skulduggery Pleasant, releases his new Book Demon Road, today. Youngest Child is here to review the new work of her favourite author, kindly procured by my dear mother. A lot of fangirling may ensue!
Skulduggery Pleasant spanned 9 books, and fitted comfortably into genres of adventure and fantasy, bordering on horror at times. With the series ending in 2014, fans were eagerly awaiting Landy’s new series. Demon Road not only lives up to its predecessors, it achieves a mature sense of writing as well as providing thrilling action, tense stealth sequences and, of course, Landy’s classic sense of humour.
The new work begins following the protagonist, Amber Lamont. We find her in the Principal’s office being reprimanded for ‘altercations’. In the first chapter we are introduced to Amber’s parents, Betty and Bill. Immediately we sense they enjoy power, and take pleasure in securing Amber’s education through threatening the Principal’s position. This sets the tone for the book. Amber will soon discover she is a demon, and that she must escape the murderous intent of her parents, who are also demons. Accompanied by bodyguard Milo Sebastian, she embarks on a desperate road trip across America to evade her parents and find a way to survive.
As a long-standing fan of Landy, it was a welcome surprise to see him cater to a more mature audience. Skulduggery Pleasant was a series filled with humour, wit and sharp sarcasm, and as the series and its loyal readers grew, it took on a more sophisticated style to match the gravity of the plot. Demon Road, however, establishes itself as a story that addresses dark themes and more serious concepts. The violent and dangerous tone of the encounters is set in place within the preliminary chapters, and the weight of death is given close attention. Amber takes it upon herself to remember the names and faces of those she has come into conflict with. The very idea that parents are trying to murder their daughter for their own longevity was hard-hitting, and I was instantly rooting for Amber to find a way to survive.
One of the concepts readers can relate to strongly in the book is Amber’s view of her image and femininity. When she is human, she is shameful and miserable about her appearance, which resonates with many people’s experience at some point in their life. However, she is empowered in her demon form: she’s strong, elegant and can protect herself. The action sequences are fluid, and instead of stuttering through them such as other thriller books, reading the scenes flows naturally, and the combat is believable.
I think the aspect of the book I most enjoyed is subtle and not so subtle commentaries on women’s position in society, and the dangers they face. One scene that sticks in my mind is when Amber aids a distressed woman, who gets cat-called late at night. The harasser insists he is a, wait for it, ‘nice guy’ [Cue audience groan]. Amber calls him out, and educates him on how predatory cat-calling is, and that the woman did not owe him attention or thanks for an unsolicited compliment. It is gratifying to see Landy address this, as such a large portion of his readers are in their teens, and hopefully this message hits home about a societal issue that irks me to a gargantuan degree.
Amber also has to deal with people comparing her dull, human form to her mesmerising demon form. Companion Glen constantly wishes her to transform, and is visibly disappointed when she remains in her human form. Landy communicates Amber’s feeling without overtly stating the way these instances make her feel, and the reader is provoked to feel indignant on Amber’s behalf.
I’ve been a fan of Derek’s for the last 9 or so years, and I was apprehensive approaching his new series. Fortunately, I was absorbed in the plot and characters, and enjoyed the book as a departure from Skulduggery Pleasant. It was very much its own piece, and whilst the classic sense of humour was frequently utilised, the characters and sense of danger, threat and overcoming obstacles was dealt with differently to Skulduggery Pleasant. Furthermore, Amber felt far more down to earth, human and fallible. She was easy to relate to, being a believable character that grew on her journey, and was someone I wanted to root for.
Overall I was more than satisfied with Demon Road. Luckily, we fans only have to wait until March 2016 for book two. With that on the horizon, the semi cliff hanger ending was not too painful to end the book on. I look forward to see Amber and Milo’s companionship grow, and to see how they deal with the next threat. I think his book resonated so much with me, because I was human Amber for so long. Demon me only came out at University! [Sorry mum…]
Derek is launching his book tour with an event in Hampstead. Sadly, I am not able to attend. The event is in the evening, and the lengthy train and tube journeys are not viable. I am not Amber. If something were to happen, even on the .1% chance I was in danger, I do not have a demon form to transform into. I am a 20-year-old woman, and travelling on an empty tube carriage late at night scares me more than demons and murderous parents. I do not want to encounter Amber’s cat-caller, and I can’t rely on someone to help me if I did. So hopefully Derek will tour again in March, and I can attend his events and moan at him for killing off my favourite characters!
Thanks to Youngest Child for her review of Derek Landy’s book, out today, and also to publishers HarperCollins for making the book available via NetGalley. The hideous pun in the title belongs to Youngest Child….