Thanks to Harper Collins Children’s Books and to Net Galley for offering me a free copy of the novel in exchange for an unbiased review.
I read Demon Road recently, loved it and was keen to know what happened next. The first novel was a ride, a succession of adventures along the demon road and there were many stories that I felt would have made great books in their own right.
The second book in the series is about Desolation Hill in Alaska, the only place where Amber and Milo think they might be safe from the hounds of hell that are after them. The novel is less of a road trip (they get there fairly quickly even if finding the actual place seems difficult, we later get to know why) and more of a novel about a town that hides many secrets and is much darker than it might appear at first sight. Amber is still trying to grow up and get to grips with the fact that she’s a demon through no fault of her own, and she still has her parents trying to find her (and now, instead of eating her they want to take her back to the Shining Demon). We still see things from her point of view. But there are many changes.
The story is not only different in the setting, but also in the way it is told. There are other character’s points of view that come into play. I particularly like Virgil, and elderly man who used to star in a TV programme in the seventies (where he was the hero, an avenger type with mask and all), who is later joined by Javier, the actor who used to play his old archenemy. Their interaction is funny, but also poignant and touching at times. There are also a group of fairly young people (and a dog) who hunt demons and evil in its many forms. They jokingly refer at times to Scooby-Doo, and with the dog (Two) and their van there is a certain similarity, although not in the details. We also see the story from their perspective at times and we get the sense that there are many stories (that like Kelly’s tattoos might deserve more screen, or page, time) behind them and ahead of them. The Demon Road throws interesting people together, for sure.
Amber becomes stronger, more determined, and comes up with daring plans and decisions that don’t always bring the expected results (hardly ever). But she’s still vulnerable and her self-esteem when she’s in human form is poor. It is refreshing to see that at least one person she meets thinks she is cooler in human form and does not find her attractive as a demon. Her relationship with Kelly hints at the possibility of a romance but as we well know the path of true love is never a smooth one.
I thought the alternative points of views helped show Amber under a different perspective, more ambiguous, and helped ground the story. On the other hand, I missed the road trip part of it. There are plenty of interesting characters, some from the town and some outsiders, and there is plenty of action. To be truthful, when the festival arrives (I won’t explain what it consists of but yes, I’m happy I’ve never been to one) the action speeds up to such a level that sometimes I found it difficult to keep up. More than a page turner it becomes a hurricane.
The novel ends in a big twist that seems to throw the action in a completely different direction and makes us question once again what kind of person/demon Amber will turn out to be in the end. I definitely want to know.
I would advise anybody considering reading this book to start by reading Demon Road. Although the action might be understood if read alone, and there are clues along the way, some of the nuances and the backstory greatly enhance the overall effect (and some props, like the key used at times are a legacy from previous adventures).
There are things I like better in this book, and things I like better in the first, but I get the sense that the series has been conceived as a whole and it will all fit in together nicely (or nastily, considering the genre) by the end. We shall see. I’ll be waiting for the third one (and it seems it’s only a few months to go).