“Desolation” by Derek Landy

Apologies that there was no review on Friday. I’m a bit behind, because I was ill for ages, and then I broke my nose and British Summer Time happened and basically real life took one look at my reading speed and said, “Nope,” so that even when I’ve been reading, I haven’t been managing to write full reviews.

Just to top it off, I’m about to disappear to Canada for two weeks to visit my brother who moved out there last year, so I don’t know how consistent my next few reviews are going to be either. I’m a useless book blogger. I’m sorry.

BUT, not entirely useless, because HarperCollins approved me for Desolation (the second Demon Road book) on NetGalley. I reviewed the first book last year; it was one of my earliest NetGalley reads. I wasn’t sure they’d give me the second one as well but clearly some sort of Reviewing God was smiling upon me and I nabbed it. Between the headaches and nose pain of the last few days, I managed to give it a read.

desolation

Publication date: 7th April 2016

On the whole, I enjoyed the book, but I definitely didn’t think it was perfect. It lacked a certain something, perhaps the effortless banter I’ve come to expect from Landy, which was a shame. That isn’t to say it was completely devoid of humour, because it wasn’t. It had some very funny moments, acting as a perfect counterpoint to some of the emotional ones and as a relief from the violence.

(It’s also a continuation of the seatbelt propaganda that is the Skulduggery Pleasant series. I don’t know if you’ve noticed how Skulduggery always tells Valkyrie to put her seatbelt on, but it happens a lot, and there’s a scene here where a character doesn’t wear their seatbelt and SUFFERS THE CONSEQUENCES. Which is a bruised head or something, but you know. I’m beginning to think he’s trying to make a point — a good point, true, but nonetheless a point.)

While you could argue that these books feel a little bit unpolished, and the pacing is off in places, I’m not at all surprised when you consider the speed Landy is writing these. Book one came out when, August? September? And book three is due to come out in August this year. I’ve got questions, namely what sort of demon deal he made to get that kind of speed both in terms of writing and in terms of the engine that is publishing.

Yet despite the speed I couldn’t remember what happened in book one beyond a few vague details, so it took me a while to get into this as I struggled to recall the context. I’m still not sure I’ve got it all straight in my head — I probably should have reread the first one before tackling this, and it definitely suggests that if someone picked these books up in the wrong order, they’d struggle to make any sense of it.

That said, despite the speed I couldn’t remember what had happened in book one beyond a few vague details, so it took me a while to get into it as I struggled to recall the context. I’m still not sure I’ve remembered all of it correctly — I probably should have reread the first one before tackling this, but it made it clear that if someone picked these books up in the wrong order, they’d definitely struggle.

One thing I really liked: this book features queer characters. Or rather, the main character (Amber) gets to explore her romantic/sexual orientation in this book, through the introduction of a lesbian character, but it isn’t the main plot at all. I liked it a lot: the way it was treated with humour that laughed WITH the characters rather than AT them. It could have been more developed, but actually I’m sort of glad it wasn’t, because I like that the books don’t have a romantic focus and it only ever exists as a subplot.

Basically, it’s got a good ratio of queerness to adventure. I like that a heroine gets to be queer in passing. Her main storyline can be about fighting demons and travelling with an amnesiac serial killer in a carnivorous car or whatever, but also she happens to be into girls. It’s refreshing. It’s not a story about being LGBTQ, but it is an LGBTQ story.

“You know,” said Warrick, “you can talk to me about all this stuff if you want. And it doesn’t just have to be the fun stuff. Like the lesbian stuff. It can be about feelings, as well.”

“The feelings are lesbian, too, Warrick.”

No spoilers, but I will tell you that it belongs to my new “unbury your queers” shelf on Goodreads — a shelf which subverts the ‘bury your gays’ trope of every queer relationship ending in death. Some of the books on this shelf end happily and some don’t, but when they end badly it isn’t because one of the characters is dead. You’d be amazed how rare it is. Anyway. It’s on the “unbury your queers” shelf. Yay.

Oh wow, this review is long. I thought I’d barely said anything, but I’ve said a lot.

There’s a lot of violence here, and some of it is downright unpleasant. That, plus the general tone, means the series feels like it’s definitely aimed at an older audience than the Skulduggery Pleasant books — neither a good nor a bad thing in and of itself, but something to be aware of as a reader.

So yeah, it was an enjoyable read with some fun moments, but it wasn’t quite up to the usual humour standards I expect from Landy (with a few exceptional moments). I’d give it 3.5 stars but I don’t do half stars on the blog so I’ll give it 4 because I feel like being nice, and I’ll leave you with a bit of dialogue that had me snort-laughing:

“Right,” said Virgil. “Well, in my defence—”

“Your defence can go to hell.”

“In my defence,” Virgil persisted, “and taking all things into account, with the benefit of hindsight and whatnot, I don’t know … maybe you shouldn’t have molested that goat.”

Javier hung up.

(Virgil and Javier were gr9 characters, to be honest. If this review hadn’t already been a thousand words long I’d have talked about them more, but there we go.)

Rating: ****

Find ‘Desolation’ on Amazon (UK)

Advertisements

5 thoughts on ““Desolation” by Derek Landy

  1. Hey Ashers! says:

    I’m so sorry you’ve been ill and broken-nosed and generally overwhelmed–it all sounds miserable, and I hope you recover from it all ASAP–but your first paragraph seriously made me snort soda up my nose.

    “Basically, it’s got a good ratio of queerness to adventure. I like that a heroine gets to be queer in passing. Her main storyline can be about fighting demons and travelling with an amnesiac serial killer in a carnivorous car or whatever, but also she happens to be into girls. It’s refreshing. It’s not a story about being LGBTQ, but it is an LGBTQ story.”

    I’m endlessly frustrated by how rare this is. Looks like something to add to my TBR mountain (despite the 3.5-star rating). And off I go to inspect your Unbury Your Queers shelf, because yes please.

    Safe travels!

    • Miriam Joy says:

      I wish it wasn’t something remarkable enough to go in a review, but such is life. I will probably blog on that subject soon, or rather, on LGBTQ adventure stories, particularly those that are suitable for children. (Because princess should be able to rescue other princesses from dragons.) In the meantime I will continue seeking out review copies of all of the LGBTQ books I can find so that I can tell people whether or not the queer characters die. Yay.

      • Hey Ashers! says:

        I’ll be eagerly awaiting your LGBTQ posts!

        Speaking of princesses and dragons: have you heard of the Lindworm fairy tale? I hadn’t, until a comic version of it popped up on my Tumblr dash. It involves a queen giving birth to a (female) monster, who eventually (through the bravery and determination of a young woman) is transformed into a human prince. (Because obviously a female monster would turn into a male human, because heteronormativity whatever whatever.) The comic, thankfully, shakes its lesbian fist at the original fairy tale.

        The comic’s here, if you’re interested:

        =)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s