“American Monsters” by Derek Landy

I think my favourite thing about NetGalley is that it’s enabled me to read all three of the Demon Road books by Derek Landy (a) for free and (b) before they were released. Also, hats off to Mr Landy himself for getting a whole trilogy out within a year of the first book’s publication. That’s bloody impressive, I have to say. You can see my reviews of book one and book two on this blog.

american monsters

I don’t think the Demon Road trilogy will ever hold quite the same place in my heart as Skulduggery Pleasant, which is inevitable, but there are some things it does wonderfully.I like how gay Amber is. I like how angry she gets about misogyny. I like that even though she can be scary and violent she also has feelings and is allowed to experience them even when it’s messy. I like that she isn’t pretty and that she’s beginning to accept and love herself as she is after years of insecurity. Actual thing Amber says:

“I’m like a red, sexy pope with horns”

I am a big fan of Amber, basically. The narrative allows her to be a feminist badass and isn’t afraid to be blatant about challenging sexist ideas on the page, although occasionally it could be a little more subtle. (It can feel a bit… not exactly preachy, because it’s often humourous, but just sort of obvious? Idk.)

On the emotions front, some parts of this book greatly amused me. One part did the opposite. I mean, kudos to Derek Landy for actually following through with a character death and not writing a cop-out resurrection of some sort, but at the same time… dude, really? Did you have to? I sped through this pretty fast, and the wonky formatting of the e-ARC occasionally encouraged me to skim some of the more action-heavy scenes, but these slower emotional moments and the funny bits helped to balance that out.

“So do you have plans?”
“For world domination?” Clarissa responded with a mouth full of cheesburger.
Amber smiled — genuinely, this time. “Or just in general.”

One thing I liked was that we get a glimpse into the past and the fate of Amber’s siblings, who have been mentioned in the past. At first they seem like dreams, but we gradually get to realise they’re more like memories, and it was intriguing to see them dealing with the same revelations and drama that Amber dealt with in book one, each in a different way. As a bonus, these lead up to the introduction of a new player on the supernatural stage of this world, perhaps a little late in the story to have as much of an impact as they could have done, but still an interesting glimpse into what’s going on outside of Amber’s immediate perspective.

And then there’s the plot. Most of it pretty solid. A few fun twists where you’re not sure who’s being double-crossed, only that someone is. I have to admit, I still feel that Amber’s fangirling over In The Dark Places is underused and underdeveloped, especially with the emphasis on forums — who uses forums in 2016?

That said, there’s an odd subplot where they end of encountering a ghost living in the internet who is killing fan fiction writers for shipping her notp, and Amber has to convince her of the benefits of character development even when it isn’t canon. So. I’m not 100% sure what point Derek Landy is trying to make about fanfic here, but you know, it was… interesting. That section was interesting, and it amused me, but like Amber’s other engagement in fandom, I didn’t feel it contributed as much to the overall plot as it could have done.

“We think she travels through the internet.”
“Scary, isn’t it?”
“I’ll say.”
“Think of everything she’s seen. The GIFs. The cat pictures. The porn.”

But Kelly appears again, which was fun, and a certain talkative and sometimes annoying character becomes a little more like his old self, and there are journeys into Hell and discussions about mythical creatures as parallels for gay people which cracked me up because wow that’s some shade that Landy is throwing.

“I’m serious, Amber. And, as a vampire, I feel I now understand what it’s like to be persecuted for who I am.”
“Is that right?””I’m, like, a metaphor for gays.”
“You’re not, though.”
“I could be.”

I won’t lie — I don’t think these books are perfect, but it’s hard to imagine they could be better when all three were released within a year of each other. I can say this, he’s not a writer to keep you waiting. However, though in places I found the action hard to follow and I couldn’t remember all the names of characters from previous books and sometimes failed to recognise them when they appeared (always happens), I felt this was an enjoyable book and a worthy end to the trilogy. The ending in particular — open enough for follow-ups or fanfic, but satisfying at the same time.

Now I’ll just sit back and wait for Skulduggery Pleasant #10, as recently announced.

Rating: ****

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