Demon Road

Author: Derek Landy
Published: HarperCollins, fiction

“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.”

Young adult fiction author Derek Landy is back with a brand new series, and fans of his Skulduggery Pleasant series can expect the same sly humour, this time liberally sprinkled with gore.

Lamont is a lonely 16-year-old. With beautiful, aloof parents, and a dismal social life, sallow-skinned, chubby Amber’s only friends are the ones she’s met online.

Things change, but not for the better, when a violent encounter unleashes something in Amber that she never knew she had. On its heels comes a terrifying and life-changing truth: Amber is a demon, and her parents, along with their circle of close friends, are also demons. What’s worse is that in order to become stronger, they plan to eat Amber and consume her power.

To escape her imminent death, Amber makes a deal with the Shining Demon (who is, incidentally, also the demon her parent’s received their demonic power from), and goes on the run with Milo – a man with a secret past and a Dodge Charger that has a will of its own – and awkward Glen, marked for an untimely death by supernatural means. Together the three travel the Demon Road, covering the darkest corners of America and meeting scary and colourful characters along the way.

Anyone who’s heard me talk about Derek Landy knows that I’m a fan – a big one. So, obviously, my expectations were sky high when I started on Demon Road. And I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed at all.

str2_sulodemonR_ma_coverWhat I enjoyed the most about the book – which is the first in a new trilogy (yay!) – is that, yes, it’s about flesh-eating demons wanting to eat their own child, which is pretty scary, but also that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It can be awkward, sad, scary and weird but all that comes with a wry undertone and the trademark Landy tongue-in-cheek humour.

Despite the lengthy 508 pages, the plot moves quickly, with interesting moments, witty dialogue and great dynamics between the main characters. For example, Glen and Amber’s first meeting is probably one of the best moments in the book, with Amber self-consciously trying out her demonic powers (and interestingly enough, she’s more beautiful in her demonic form), and Glen developing a crush on her.

The central characters are also totally relatable, despite their supernatural roots. Amber, the protagonist is 16 and filled with teenage angst. And on top of all that, she has to deal with the fact that she’s a demon, and that her parents are trying to kill her. Despite being angry and upset about it, she resolves to do something. She accepts the fact that she’s overweight and unattractive, but she refuses to let her outsides define her insides. Sure, she’s not perfect, and every time she turns into a demon, she loses a bit of her humanity, but there’s something very vulnerable yet strong about her.

Enigmatic Milo has secrets of his own. But somehow, in the course of protecting Amber, he becomes not just her bodyguard but also her friend, and the occasional cracks slip through to the man underneath, giving the reader an idea that his background will be explored in the next couple of books.

Glen is weird. He’s annoying, distracting, constantly moaning about how the other two don’t include him, and most of the time you understand why. But here’s the thing: Glen is necessary. He’s basically their heart, because he’s so very human. It makes for an interesting dynamic among the three, but it’s only one part of what is a truly fun read. And if I know Landy, it will just get better.

Demon Road has everything one could want from a horror/dramedy. And I for one can’t wait to read book two.