LAST GREAT READS FOR MARCH, 2017.
The Demon Road Trilogy, by Derek Landy Young Adults
After reading a glowing NYT review of Irish author Derek Landy’s ‘Demon Road’, the first book in his trilogy, I thought it was about time I made his acquaintance – and how happy I am to meet him!
Today’s Teen fiction writers tend to concentrate mainly on dystopian themes (Suzanne Collins’s great ‘The Hunger Games’), not to mention the Vampire as thrilling and eternal love interest (Stephenie Meyer’s fabulous ‘Twilight’ series), but I have to say that Mr Landy beats everyone hands down in the fantasy genre with more monsters – of every variety except Zombies, so far - per page than any other aspiring horror writer in the business. And he’s funny, too, which is very necessary to relieve all the tension built up by his characters’ copious blood-letting: oh, it’s all happening here – murder, mayhem and as an added attraction a spot of cannibalism thrown in every now and then. For anyone with a delicate tum I suggest not eating while they read this. Their appetite will never be the same again.
Overweight, unattractive 16 year-old Amber Lamont is an unhappy teen – not for the usual teenage reasons, but because her rich parents Bill and Betty are not the slightest bit interested in her. They prefer to socialise with their equally glamorous friends and regard her as a nuisance, a responsibility – until she has an encounter with two boys one night who threaten her with harm: all of a sudden she finds herself changing into a tall, powerful creature with horns and red skin. She is so strong that she badly injures both boys before reverting to her terrified self, but worse is to come when she reaches home and tells her parents what happened: they are uncharacteristically overjoyed that she has now ‘come of age’, for it means that she has reached demon maturity. They can now kill her and eat her (oh, gross!), thus keeping and enhancing their own demonic powers. Bill and Betty inform her – as though discussing the weather – that she is not their first child; they have already consumed two siblings born before her, but don’t worry about it – it’s nothing personal!
Amber does not take kindly to the idea of being killed and eaten, especially when all the glamorous friends turn up to partake in the feast. After a series of lucky escapes (aided by Imelda, the only friend who (miraculously) doesn’t want to eat her), Amber goes on the run with Milo Sebastian, a mysterious, handsome and tall older Dude hired by Imelda to protect her and take her out of harm’s way. Milo says about three words a day but he drives the ultimate Muscle Car, a 1970 Dodge Charger (I Googled it. What a beast!) which seems to have a life of its own; if Milo gets injured (and in the course of his travels with Amber, whose parents are deeply offended by the escape of their prospective banquet and are in hot pursuit, he is forced to sustain all kinds of messy wounds), all he has to do is spend some time in the Charger and eventually emerge after a time – unscathed. Is that Magic or what!
Amber meets a lot of nasties too, for she and Milo are travelling on the Demon Roads, a network of Dark Places that criss-cross America and no matter how they far they go, Bill and Betty thanks to their demonic contacts, are never far behind. Poor old Amber is not equipped for all the violence used against her until she learns how to harness her new powers – sprouting horns, height and muscles and red skin gives her a definite edge over her opponents. And they are many; she has to learn to change in the blink of an eye, and she has to put up with all the pain of her injuries when she reverts to her puny self: life has become very complicated.
Mr Landy gives us great minor characters to enjoy; a hapless Irish hitch-hiker named Glen who tags innocently along, until they make the terrible mistake of staying in a town controlled by vampires: Glen, poor silly enormously likeable Glen, is caught and turned; as Book One ends Amber must say goodbye to him as she and Milo are pursued by a new threat: the Hounds of Hell.
Desolation. Book Two.
And the only way to escape them is to drive to Alaska (Alaska? Seriously?) Yep, for a small town called Desolation Falls is the only place that the Hounds can’t penetrate as an invisible shield surrounds the town, thanks to a deal done with a very Senior Demon, who is now held captive by the town’s Mayor – okay, okay, I freely admit that the plot veers off track more than once: keep calm and pay attention!
This is ostensibly a safe haven for Amber and Milo, until they are told that they can only stay in the town until Hell Night, a town festival that may only be celebrated by the townsfolk. No outsiders allowed.
Amber and Milo are in between the Devil (literally!) and the Deep Blue Sea: if they leave the town boundaries the Hounds of Hell will get them. If they stay they will be in mortal danger from the inhabitants. Not to mention Bill and Betty who have tracked them down like a couple of bloodhounds. What will happen next?
Well, read the books and find out. I have to confess that I was totally monstered out at the end of Book Two, but after my stomach settles I’m still looking forward to reading Book Three, ‘American Monsters’. Amber and Milo (and poor old Glen) are unforgettable – not to mention the Charger! And it’s time those parents from Hell, Bill and Betty, get their just desserts. I hope.
Derek Landy effortlessly transports us all on a thrilling, mad and bloody romp across the Dark and Demon highways of America, combining the perfect mix of horror and humour for us in his mighty teen trilogy. What a ride! FIVE STARS.